Human dignity at core of social services

The promotion and protection of human dignity, confidentiality, integrity, fairness and transparency — these are among the guiding principles of the South African Security Agency (SASSA) when it deals with social grant beneficiaries.

Bandile Maqetuka, the executive manager for grant administration at SASSA, believes that any citizen who applies for a social grant should “be treated with respect and dignity”. “They have the right to know the name of the person assisting them. They have the right to assistance to complete application forms. We must always give them information of all grant types that they are applying for. And they have the right to be helped in the language of their choice,” said Maqetuka.

His focus on service delivery at SASSA emphasised a humane approach to assisting citizens to access life-changing social grants. “There are people who are bed- ridden and frail who cannot come to our social grant pay points. We have established home visit teams. We don’t want people to die at our offices because they have to queue for long hours. It’s better if we make arrangements with a family to do home visits,” said Maqetuka.

“We give first preference to pregnant women who are at an advanced stage of pregnancy. They don’t have to queue. Elderly people who are frail and the disabled also don’t have to queue.” Maqetuka said that they have also introduced a “queue management” system to facilitate speedier service delivery.

“Every morning at any SASSA office a supervisor goes through the queues and looks for the special categories of people that we need to help first. We also make sure that people don’t queue for longer than two hours. We have people who monitor the queues to ensure that people have all the right documents and are sent to the right desks,” explained Maqetuka.

He said that staff had also been trained on customer care issues and the interpretation of social grant related legislation. Despite this, there remained some challenges that slowed down their work.

“The major problem facing us is that we work within a manual environment. We take information manually and store it manually. We are talking about millions of grants. We are working on a process to automate our business process to ensure that we have a record of each and every person who receives a social grant and that record is complete,” said Maqetuka.

An external challenge that created a bottleneck in social grant services was that citizens do not renew their grants. “If they don’t renew their grants it will be cancelled after three months. There are various reasons why some people don’t renew their grants. This includes death or change of address,” said Maqetuka.

“Each person must come forward if any circumstance has changed. They must come and change the data with us. We are also looking for innovative ways of communicating with our beneficiaries to remind them that they must renew their grants.

“In the near future we want to communicate with them via cell phone text messages. We would like to get away from sending out regular registered post when sending them a notification letter that they should renew their grants. We need to include a modernised way of communicating.”

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

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