What to do If your Grant payment is Delayed, Know How To Fix It

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development recently held a virtual meeting with the Department of Social Development (DSD) and associated entities, including SASSA and Postbank, to discuss delays in grant payments to beneficiaries relying on South Africa’s social assistance programs.

DSD provided a status update on the challenges with grant disbursements that emerged in September 2023. The Department acknowledged that many recipients had struggled to access essential approved funds due to technical issues arising from systems changes implemented by SASSA’s contracted payment service provider, Postbank.

DSD assured that solutions have now been implemented and all outstanding grant amounts successfully paid into beneficiaries’ designated bank accounts or available via alternate collection methods. Additionally, DSD pledged to urgently increase communication campaigns nationwide to ensure citizens understand the payment issues have been fully resolved across all channels. DSD welcomed the public to promptly report any isolated cases where grants for approved beneficiaries may still be outstanding.

Postbank, which facilitates the payment of SASSA’s social grants on behalf of the government, expressed regret for the extensive delays that prevented beneficiaries from receiving their entitled grants on time. Postbank outlined that the root causes stemmed from the organization’s ongoing systems upgrades to achieve compliance with new reserve bank regulatory requirements. The resulting temporary technical glitches that emerged on 5 September 2023 caused some beneficiaries to incorrectly appear in Postbank’s systems as having already accessed their funds when they actually had not yet received them.

Extensive manual reversals and rectifications had to be completed to identify impacted cases and pay out the correct amounts. While Postbank acknowledged some grant queries remain from citizens, they confirmed that all known cases with issues specifically tied to the 5 September systems incident have since been successfully resolved. Ongoing collaborative efforts with partners like SASSA aim to increase Postbank’s capacity and prevent any further grant payment run issues going forward.

SASSA issued an apology for the hardship and uncertainty faced by grant beneficiaries during the payment delays. They pledged to improve coordination and communication with all involved stakeholders, including leveraging community radio stations to expand public outreach efforts on grant services. DSD proposed organizing a joint press briefing or conference with SASSA, Postbank and other social assistance stakeholders to directly address public questions and provide transparent progress updates on the current status of grant payments and related services.

Overview of DSD’s First Quarter Performance

During the virtual meeting, DSD also presented a summary of its performance and service delivery outcomes for the first quarter of the 2023/2024 fiscal period. DSD reported meeting 84% of its planned targets for quarter one, which denotes a slight improvement from achieving 80% of targets in the comparable period last year.

The Department highlighted its commitment to proactively learning from past challenges and sector trends to continuously address any performance shortcomings. This focuses on ensuring successful achievement of DSD’s comprehensive annual targets across its diverse portfolio, which spans poverty alleviation, social welfare, food security, disability support, child services, and other forms of assistance to vulnerable South Africans.

DSD provided overviews of progress made during the first quarter across its five core programs:

Administration – This focuses on entity oversight, stakeholder engagement, monitoring and evaluation, legislation processing, and IT systems support for the department. Highlights included sector collaboration sessions, financial auditing, and case management system upgrades.

Social Assistance – This encompasses the provision of social grants, with R63 billion already having been disbursed in grants between April to June 2023. The monthly totals were R20.9 billion for April, R21 billion in May, and R21 billion again in June.

Social Security Policy – This develops policies and legislation to reduce poverty, inequality, vulnerability, and social ills. Highlights included processing the Older Persons Amendment Bill and public consultations on disability support services.

Welfare Services – This area aims to deliver professional welfare services and protection to vulnerable groups. Key achievements included training 15% of the workforce on the Children’s Act and rolling out parenting guidelines.

Social Policy – This focuses on enabling integrated social service delivery and community empowerment. Progress included commencing data collection for updating South Africa’s “State of the People” report and drafting community development policies.

Examining Committee Member Questions on Social Assistance

Following DSD’s first quarter performance overview, Members of Parliament had the opportunity to raise questions and concerns. Queries included:

  • Reasons for the delays in June social grant payments and how backlogs will be prevented.
  • Requesting details on the 15% higher budget allocation for employee compensation during the first quarter.
  • Asking about the effectiveness of DSD’s anti-gang strategy and associated youth programs.
  • Progress updates on the Victims Support Bill working through Cabinet approvals.
  • Seeking insights on monitoring of NPO registration compliance.
  • Asking whether DSD programs specifically target child-headed households.
  • Highlighting the need for youth substance abuse rehabilitation services.
  • Emphasizing the importance of support programs for people with disabilities.

DSD addressed each area of questioning and provided details on existing efforts, challenges, and future plans to enhance service delivery. The discussion enabled the Department to clarify certain issues and give visibility into initiatives that aim to uplift South Africa’s most vulnerable citizens.

Enhancing Communication on Social Assistance Programming

In closing the engagement, DSD acknowledged the need to urgently improve public communication around social grant services and payment updates, especially when engaging rural communities with limited connectivity.

By leveraging localized radio platforms and collaborating closely with partners such as SASSA and Postbank, DSD can ensure citizens stay informed about any issues impacting essential grant funding disbursements. Ongoing transparent communication remains vital to maintain public confidence and ensure those most in need can access South Africa’s crucial social assistance support.

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