Appeals tribunal assists thousands to challenge social grant rejection

The Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals hears social assistance appeals against the decisions of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).

In 2010, SASSA received nearly 4.7 million applications for social grants. Of these, about 290,000 had been rejected, leading to some 65,000 appeals. The tribunal aims to handle an appeal within a maximum of 90 days.

Among the rejections, 246,864 (85.2%) were for disability grants, while 20,183 (6.96%) were for old age grants. More than half of the 290,000 appeals originated from KwaZulu-Natal. This was ascribed in part to lawyers taking advantage of the situation.

The current economic situation had also driven desperate people, usually unemployed or chronically ill, to seek disability grants for which they were not qualified. The tribunal’s operational plan had this year called for the creation of a provincial “footprint”, with the initial appointment of six provincial co-ordinators. Closer links would be forged with SASSA to improve communication with all stakeholders, allowing for an improved outreach to rural communities.

Community newspapers, local radio and traditional leaders would also be used to communicate information about the role of the Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals. The tribunal is currently addressing its response time to appeals and litigious appeal matters. This is hindered by the lack of an operational business information system, including telephone lines and computerisation. There is a need for paperwork to be replaced with electronic record keeping.

The tribunal allows for SASSA decisions to be challenged so that the government’s constitutional obligation to provide access to social security is carried out. The tribunal’s constituted in terms of Section 18(2)(b) of the Social Assistance Act of 2004. The tribunal began operations when the initial members were appointed on 15 May 2008.

The independent tribunal considers a SASSA decision and the reasons for SASSA to turn down the application and the appellant’s grounds of appeal. It then confirms or sets aside the SASSA decision or makes any other just decision. The Department of Social Development has said that grant applications are often “turned down when applicants do not meet the set requirements”.

“In most instances, applications turned down are for disability grants when the nature or severity of the alleged disability does not satisfy the requirements, or when medical reports by the attending medical officers indicate that the applicants do not have a disability,” said the department. “Disgruntled applicants are advised to lodge an appeal in writing with the Minister of Social Development within 90 days of gaining knowledge that their applications were turned down.”

Members of the tribunal consist of legal practitioners, medical doctors and representatives of civil society. It acts independently from the Department of Social Development.

Where do you apply for a grant?
Any South African citizen can apply for a social grant at their nearest South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) office. If you are too old or sick to travel to the office to apply for a grant, a family member or friend can apply on your behalf. An application form will be completed in the presence of an officer from Sassa. When your application is completed you will be given a receipt. Keep this receipt as it is your only proof of application. You do not have to pay any money to apply for a social grant. If your application is not approved by Sassa, you will be informed in writing as to why your application was unsuccessful.

You have the right to request that Sassa reconsider its decision if you are unsatisfied with this decision. If the reconsidered decision is still unfavourable, you have the right to appeal for assistance from the minister of social development. The request for Sassa to reconsider its decision must be made within 90 days of you being informed of the outcome of your application. If your grant is approved, you will be paid from the date on which you applied. You can receive your grant via cash payments at designated pay points; banks including Postbank or other Sassa-affiliated institutions. If you are unable to collect the grant, you may nominate a procurator to collect it on your behalf.

Contact details for SASSA offices countrywide

Sassa head office
Physical address:
Sassa House
501 Prondisa Building cnr Beatrix and Pretorius streets
Postal Address:
Private Bag X55662,
Tel: 012 400 2000 (switchboard)

Eastern Cape
Physical address:
1st Floor
Waverly Office Park
3-33 Phillip Frame Road
Postal Address:
Private Bag X9001
East London
Tel: 043 707 6300
Fax: 043 707 6487

Free State
Physical address:
African Life Building
75 St Andrews Street
Postal Address:
Private Bag X20553
Tel: 051 410 8304/5
Fax: 051 409 0862

Physical address:
28 Harrison Street
Postal Address:
Private Bag X120
Tel: 011 241 8300
Fax: 011 241 8305

Physical address:
1 Bank Street
Postal Address:
Private Bag X 9146
Tel: 033 846 3300
Fax: 033 846 9595

Physical address:
43 Landros Mare
Postal Address:
Private Bag X9677
Tel: 015 291 7400
Fax: 015 291 7996

Physical address:
18 Ferreira Street
Postal Address:
Private Bag x11230
Tel: 013 754 9380
Fax: 013 754 9501

North West
Physical address:
Master Centre
Postal Address:
Private Bag X44
Tel: 018 388 0060
Fax: 086 611 9740

Northern Cape
Physical address:
2 Cecil Sussman
Postal Address:
Private Bag X6011
Tel: 053 802 4900
Fax: 053 832 5225

Western Cape
Physical address:
Golden Acre
Adderley Street
Cape Town
Postal Address:
Private Bag 9189
Cape Town
Tel: 021 469 0200
Fax: 021 469 0260

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as a sponsored feature

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