Means test for R350 grant could be revised, says social development department

  • The Department of Social Development shocked the public last week when it imposed a means test of R350 on the Distress Social Relief Grant.
  • The ministry says the means test is to ensure it stays within budget.
  • It will revise the level according to the number of people who apply.

The Department of Social Development says it is open to revising the R350 means test for eligibility for the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, depending on how many people apply.

The department has come under fire from civil society activists after it released a surprise change to subsidy regulations that limits eligibility to people with incomes below R350 per month. Under the previous regulations, which were made under the state of disaster, the income threshold was set at the food poverty line of R625.

Around 10.5 million people have regularly received the Special Covid SRD and Caregiver Grant (which has now collapsed into the SRD grant) since its inception in April 2020. Campaigners and pro-grant lobby groups say this will mean that fewer people will be eligible. weather. All applicants must reapply for grants under the new regulations and reapply every three months to confirm that their circumstances have not changed.

But the ministry said that according to its calculations it expected more than 10.5 million people to apply, and so to stay within its budget allocation it had lowered the income threshold to reduce the figures.

LILY | Under the new rules, fewer people will be eligible for the R350 grant

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, the department’s acting chief executive Brenda Sibeko, said she wanted to explain what happened.

“I know that the resource test has made a lot of people unhappy. We want to explain that we are facing the challenge of (only) so many resources and unlimited needs. So, according to our data, there are 18 million of people whose income is below the food poverty line. But the allocation we have is only for 10.5 million people. So we’re looking to make sure that we prioritize those most in need.

Says Sibeko:

We try to manage within the budget, but we will also observe as we go along what the application rate is and how many people receive the grant, so that if we need to make any adjustments (to the means test) , We will do it.

Asked if there had been public consultation on the new income threshold, Sibeko said the draft regulations were released in February for public comment but did not include the R350 number. This was added later, but there was consultation within government and agreement between all relevant departments, she said.

The setback of the subsidy will strain attempts to reach a social pact with workers and businesses. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he wants the new pact to be in place within 100 days of his State of the Nation address on February 10. Cosatu issued a fiery statement earlier this week calling the decision “unilateral and callous”. The union federation said it expected around 30% of former grant recipients to no longer be eligible.

“It is disappointing that this has not been tabled at Nedlac by the government, although the social partners have spent a lot of time engaging and working with the government on the new regulations… It is difficult to imagine how a social pact will be negotiated with a devious government that chooses to undermine and circumvent Nedlac on such an important issue,” the statement read.

The department also angered people for taking so long to reopen applications. While the previous grant ended at the end of March, it was not until April 23 that it implemented the new application system. Sibeko said the government was “a bit concerned” that only 7 million people had applied so far and urged people to do so urgently. She said the system could process 5 million a day in the remaining three days of April.

Joel C. Hicks