Honourable chairperson, the democratic government continues to make great strides in improving the quality of life for all South Africans. The report Towards a 25 Year Review 1994- 2019, articulates the road traveled by our country toward the progressive realisation of a social wage. It reflects all the positive developments and progress made towards improving the quality of life of South Africa, however much still remains to be done. A huge component of the poor and vulnerable still remain outside the social safety net. Poverty and unemployment are increasing and inequalities are deepening.
The entire Social Development portfolio (Department, NDA and SASSA) remains central in our goal to eradicate poverty, promote social inclusion, and building social cohesion. The portfolio approach continues to build and strengthen strategic interventions in social welfare services, community development, and comprehensive social security. This is particularly important because of the commitment ascribed to the Portfolio that is linked to advancing social transformation, reducing poverty and advocating for the promotion of social integration, and commitment to Batho Pele principles of service delivery.
It therefore is significant that the work carried out through the portfolio approach promotes and preserves the rights and dignity of our people. It also advances a developmental social welfare approach that is able to transition our people from being dependent on the social grant system into the economy, to be skilled and employed.
In this regard we are pleased that the Department is in its final stages of formalizing a request for an extension of the R350 SRD Grant. The impact assessment conducted by the Department, which was supplemented by studies conducted by academic researchers, National Treasury, and other government departments has revealed that the SRD Grant has had a significant impact on the lives of people. The Department is also looking at ways to link the SRD Grant to the Basic Income Grant (BIG).
Honourable chairperson, the committee is concerned that the budget of the Department has no allocations for the Child Support Grant Top Up as legislated in the Social Assistance Amendment Act (No. 16 of 2020) as part of a legal solution to the challenges of backlogs in the foster care system.
We have also expressed concern on the impact of the budgetary reductions on service delivery over the medium term period. Particularly we are concerned about the impact of the budget reduction over the medium term on key programmes such as the social assistance programme which will amount to R19.5 billion in 2023/2024. This is against the increasing child malnutrition and stunting.
We welcome the initiative by the Department to conduct an assessment on the impact of the budget reduction on the funding of Non- Profit Organisations (NPOs).
Honourable members, we are deeply worried about the impact of the budget reduction on the employment of social workers. This a long standing challenge and we must find practical ways of employing social workers.
SASSA’s budget will be reduced by R641 million in this financial year, and the bulk of this reduction will impact employee compensation. This is a concern, especially noting the high vacancy rate at SASSA, as delivery of services to vulnerable grant beneficiaries will be effected.
We commend the pace SASSA has effected to complete the assessments to renew lapsed Temporary Disability Grants (TDGs).
We urge SASSA and the Department to come back to the committee and update us on their plans that will ensure that each town has a fully operational office, in- line with its turnaround strategy.
Escalating fraud and corruption in the payment of social grants, particularly activities in the SAPO/ SASSA card system has reached escalating heights. SASSA and the Department must give us a report back on the plans in place to intensify the fight against corruption and fraud.
Honourable members, we are adamant that SASSA has to put in place a plan to clean the social grant payment system of ineligible beneficiaries.
The lack of visibility of the National Development Agency remains a concern.
We recommend that the Minister should as a matter of urgency ensure that the Department finalizes a budget allocation with National Treasury for the Child Support Grant (CSG) top-up grant.
Minister, we also ask that you ensure that within the current year the Department prioritizes and conducts an impact study on the implications and impact of budget reductions over the medium term period and develop necessary interventions. Particular focus should be on ensuring that service delivery and social assistance programmes are not adversely impacted upon.
Significantly Minister, as a matter of urgency, the Department must investigate the non-payment, late payment or subsidy cuts to NPOs and NGOs who provide vital services on behalf of the State.
Furthermore, the Department must engage with relevant Departments to make sure that the 2019 Cabinet resolution on the employment of social workers is implemented.
And that within the current financial year, the inter-ministerial interventions with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies on addressing fraud and corruption in the SAPO/SASSA card system are implemented.
SASSA within the current financial year must complete investigations on government employees who received the SRD Grant and ensure that necessary disciplinary actions are taken. Minister please ensure that SASSA takes harsh disciplinary actions against its employees who were involved in fraud and corruption activities.
The Minister should also ensure that within the current financial year SASSA strengths its monitoring systems in the payment of social grants to ensure that there is a preventative mechanism that will give early warning of ineligible beneficiaries receiving grants. This includes implementation of the biometric system and efficient and speedy validation process of ID numbers from SAPO payment file.
Honourable members, this Vote is central to the reduction in levels of poverty, inequality, vulnerability and social ills. It also has mechanisms in places to empower, resilient individuals, families and sustainable communities. And also progressively ensure that is it led by a functional, efficient and integrated sector.
The social grant system continues to be a major anti-poverty programme of government, providing income support to millions of poor households. While there are budget reductions in real terms across all the social grants. SASSA is expected to pay social grants to 18.6 million beneficiaries in the current financial year.
We welcome the work that will be done to complete work on comprehensive social security reform, ranging from extending social assistance coverage to all, introducing mandatory contribution for retirement, death and disability. More importantly we commend the platforms that will be created for informal workers to participate in social security coverage.
We welcome the work going in to determine the feasibility of a Basic Income Grant, which will function as another lever to tackle poverty, and inequality, and engender a more inclusive growth path.
Honourable chairperson, out of 17.4 grant recipients, the programme intends to target 2 percent to link the beneficiaries as a means to alleviate poverty and build sustainable communities.
Over the medium term, the Department will implement the National Food and Nutrition Security plan for South Africa that seeks to ensure the implementation of food and nutrition security initiatives targeting vulnerable individuals and households. This will be accomplished through the coordination of the Departments food and nutrition interventions, which include all centre based feeding programmes providing nutritious food to the poor and vulnerable, in partnership with the Civil Society organizations, Social Partners and Agencies.
The Department will also prioritize the linking of CSG recipients below 60 years of age to sustainable livelihoods opportunities. The community development branch will continue with the development of a policy framework, guidelines and tools to enhance community development within the country.
Honourable members, all of these initiatives underpin how this vote enables a comprehensive social support system that empowers people and protects the poor and the most vulnerable.
We therefore ask this House to adopt the budget allocations for Vote 19: Social Development