Black Sash Engages Athlone Residents in SASSA Grants Dialogue. In partnership with the Athlone District Advice Office, Black Sash hosted a community dialogue on Monday, October 30th, to discuss the outcomes of their community-based monitoring (CBM) initiative. This dialogue aimed to address various aspects related to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants, payment processes, and services within the Athlone and Gatesville areas.
Monitoring Progress and Stakeholder Engagement
Thandi Henkeman, the regional manager of Black Sash, revealed that the monitoring began in March and was scheduled to conclude in November, with an extension due to recent issues. This session was a crucial step to report the findings at the community level, as the results also inform national-level discussions with Sassa, focusing on evidence-based solutions.
Involvement of Athlone Advice Office
Brian Alcock, the project director of Athlone Advice Office, highlighted their role in monitoring and reporting findings to Black Sash, which facilitated a path forward. The monitoring process encompassed grant payments, dignity, safety, waiting times, transportation, application procedures, and access to services.
Key Concerns and Findings
The dialogue revealed several areas of concern, including the expenses incurred by 9.5% of beneficiaries traveling to collect their grants, and 85.7% not receiving their full grants at post office pay points. Accessibility to dignity services, such as toilets and shelter, also raised concerns. The presence of private security and payout efficiency were discussed, as well as varying queue times at post office pay points, with some residents waiting for over six hours.
Residents’ Concerns and Engagement
During the dialogue, residents had the opportunity to voice their concerns. Sassa officials, Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams, and provincial legislature member Faiez Jacobs were present. Concerns included the conduct of security staff, the early morning travel to Sassa offices, lengthy waiting times, frequent reapplications for disability grants, and issues related to doctor compliance with grant application documentation. Another point of discussion was the adequacy of the pension amount, which stands at R1,900.
Ongoing Advocacy and Projects
Black Sash continues to monitor the cost of living near the poverty line and strives to address issues like the pension amount. Additionally, they are advocating for the permanence of the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant, recognizing the challenges posed by high unemployment rates.
The Road Ahead
Despite facing challenges, Black Sash remains committed to promoting access to grants and social assistance. They emphasize that this responsibility is not unique to South Africa but is a universal principle where governments are expected to support their citizens. The Sassa Act affirms the entitlement of all eligible individuals to receive grants.
Constitutional Training and Community Engagement
Following the dialogue, a constitutional training session was conducted on Tuesday, October 31st, involving organizations, schools, and stakeholders. This initiative demonstrates Black Sash’s dedication to creating informed and engaged communities. The dialogue, which took place at the Calvyn Protestant Church in Kewtown, seeks to empower individuals and organizations to advocate for social justice and improved social security services.
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