Disability grants that were suspended in March have now been extended to October to cushion the beneficiaries against the crippling effects of COVID-19.
“Directions were issued to reinstate all temporary disability grants which lapsed in the period between February and June 2020. These grants will remain in payment until October 2020,” the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) said on Wednesday.
The agency has since come up with a strategy for re-instating the application process of these grants and said the applicants require health assessment from a medical doctor for starters.
“The COVID-19 epidemic led to a situation where services from the Health Department such as these assessments were suspended to redirect resources at combatting the COVID-19 epidemic,” SASSA explained.
The agency said the temporary disability grants have a lifespan of twelve months and beneficiaries have to re-apply after the prescribed period.
“In twelve months, there is a possibility that a medical condition might have improved to the extent that it does not require continuation of temporary disability grant.”
SASSA is reintroducing disability-related services as from July 2020 which was impacted by the limited access to health facilities.
"This is why the strategy developed provides for a phased-in approach.”
SASSA prioritises several matters
SASSA said it would prioritise all clients whose medical assessments were done before lockdown but have not completed the applications.
“Medical assessments for disability grants are valid for three months only and the first priority will be to complete the applications before the medicals expire. Medicals for care dependency grants do not expire, so any which were done before lockdown will result in an application.”
They will also look at all applications which were booked for assessment but could not be done before lockdown.
“Permanent disability grant beneficiaries were last paid in January 2020, because they did not complete the review process as legislatively required,” SASSA said, adding that 1 844 of these clients nationally have been affected.
SASSA said the all of these clients will be dealt with on an appointment basis only and the local offices will contact the clients to make these appointments.
Meanwhile, they will also handle urgent cases that have been referred by Departments of Health with medical assessments already having been done in the health facility.
“This could be, for example, clients who were hospitalised and discharged but are not able to be employed at all due to their disability. Other urgent cases may be referred from hospices or other avenues.”
Lastly, new applicants who need to be booked for assessments would also be catered for.
“SASSA has a total of 475 contracted medical officers who can conduct assessments. To comply with the COVID-19 protocols, the number of assessments per session has been reduced from 40 to 20.”
The agency said this would enable sanitisation of the facility and equipment between clients seen.
“Many assessments were done in health facilities before COVID-19, SASSA has had to identify spaces within SASSA offices where assessments can be undertaken as an alternative.”
SASSA said that Personal Protective Equipment is provided to the medical officers - that is gloves, masks and sanitisers - while all staff and clients have to protect themselves as well when visiting their offices.
“Local offices will set aside two days per week to attend to disability-related matters. This is possible as the numbers, particularly of older persons requiring assessments, seems to have declined slightly from the numbers that were seen when the offices were first re-opened.”
The agency vowed to attend to as many cases that require attention.
“In addition, care dependency grants which lapsed because the care-dependent child turned 18 years of age at which point they would usually be expected to apply for a disability grant in his or her own right in the period from February to October 2020 will remain in payment until October 2020.