New law equalising age for pensions passed

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Minister of Social Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya has announced that the legislation which lowers the age of eligibility for a state pension for men has been signed in to law.
Men aged 63 and 64 will now be able to apply for a state pension through the amended Social Assistance Act.


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Minister of Social Development, Dr Zola Skweyiya has announced that the legislation which lowers the age of eligibility for a state pension for men has been signed in to law.
Men aged 63 and 64 will now be able to apply for a state pension through the amended Social Assistance Act.
"This is certainly welcome news as it will bring much needed relief to over 125 000 senior citizens. It is especially good news in the context of rising food, petrol and others basic commodities', said Mr Skweyiya.
Poverty and unemployment have caused many families to rely on social pensions for their survival especially where a social grant is the only source of income in a household.
Older persons are instrumental in caring for the needs of their children, grandchildren and orphans as a result of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
The legislation is aimed at acknowledging this role played by older persons in society, according to the department.
Around 450 000 men will benefit from the passing of this legislation, with approximately 121 000 coming on board this year alone.
Men who turn 61 and 62 this year will be able to apply for the pension as from April 2009 and by 2010 the eligibility age will be equal between men and women.
The value of the old age pension is now R940, said Mr Skweyiya, adding that government has set aside R800 million to extend the pensions to elderly citizens.
Earlier this year the minister reported that during the many izimbizo he had attended, people had asked him why men only being eligible for the old age grant from the age of 65, while women received the grant from 60 years, if the Constitution stipulates equality between men and women.
This led to the minister introducing the Social Assistance Amendment Bill in Parliament in March this year.
"In terms of the implementation, it is all systems go and I encourage those who qualify to visit their nearest South African Social Security Agency?s (SASSA) offices,' said the minister.
The second objective of the legislation is focused on ensuring that access to grants occurs in a fair and equitable manner.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is responsible for the processing of grant applications and the department has no say in this process and is therefore unable to review the rejection of grants.
However, the new legislation allows the minister to appoint an independent tribunal that will consider all appeals against the decisions of SASSA.
A centralised model of a tribunal has been set up at the national office and being piloted in KwaZulu-Natal.
The independent tribunal consisted of two sections including appeals officers to develop policies, while the adjudication was done by enlisted panel members.
There were two phases of adjudication. At the pre-adjudication phase a matter would be investigated by medical practitioners and attorneys.
Civil society would then usher in specific contexts like poor socio-economic conditions.
The Independent Tribunal will serve as a mechanism that will allow the poor the opportunity to appeal the rejection of their applications without undertaking a costly legal process.
Social security has expanded from a coverage rate of 2.5 million in 1994 to over 12.7 million in 2008.
- BuaNews

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