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Minister Lindiwe Zulu unpacks Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown implications on social development

25 Mar 2020

Statement by the Minister of the Department of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, MP during the JCPS cluster media briefing

The JCPS cluster is a supporting structure to Social Development. The Decisions they make have a direct impact to the Department which includes amongst others, courts and all the structures that support the courts, police services and all the structures that support COVID – 19 as well as Defence and all the deployments. The suspension of the different rights in line with the Disaster Act as previously declared by Justice, the regulations as prescribed in terms of COVID-19.

1. Social grant payments through bank ATMs and retail outlets

Confirmation was received from Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) that banks are ready for the payment cycle. ATMs will be restocked in time for the payment cycle which starts on 30 March.

Banks will also carry messaging reminding customers of priority for older persons and persons with disability.

Retail outlets have confirmed readiness. List of high volume stores just received and will be shared with NATJOC to assist SANDF and SAPS with support planning. Retailers confirmed their own containment measures:

  • Sanitizers on entry to the store
  • Limit access to specific numbers, with queues being kept outside (This is where SANDF and SAPO assistance is needed, to help with crown control and queue management)
  • Markers on floors to assist customers maintaining social distance
  • Messaging in store to assist with flow of customers

2. Social grant payments at cash pay points

  • Payment schedules provided to NATJOC, for planning by SANDF and SAPS
  • SASSA will deploy at least one manager to each pay point to assist with queue management and to attend to enquiries – staff will have protective gear (masks and gloves) and carry hand sanitizer
  • SAPO has committed to having hand sanitizer for all clients – will be sanitized just prior to joining short queue for payment
  • Access to pay points will be limited to control social distancing
  • SAPO staff to be equipped with masks and gloves
  • Security staff will be equipped with masks and gloves
  • Additional cash dispensers deployed to high volume points
  • PostBank call centre (available 24/7) on 0800 53 54 55 to deal with concerns and complaints related to SASSA/SAPO cards – card replacement, PIN resets and non-payment

3. Call Centre

  • SASSA call centre (0800 60 10 11) will be available, although there may be reduced capacity.
  • Call centre available working hours only
  • Plans being made to provide staff with tools of trade (computers with links to Socpen; 3G cards and airtime) to be able to work from home and still deal with calls
  • Manager’s cell phones also to be linked to pick up on overflow calls
  • Link to Postbank call centre for SASSA/SAPO card related enquiries
  • Call centres in regions will be manned by 2 staff at manager level – able to respond even if this is done by staff working from home

4. Social relief of distress

  • SASSA working on step-by-step process to assist individuals and shelters / institutions who may require SRD support during lockdown
  •  DSD to assist with amending regulations to allow for application process not necessarily to require face-to-face contact (currently required in terms of Regulation 14 to Social Assistance Act)
  • Service providers who are able to provide food parcels to be confirmed per province by tomorrow, 26 March
  •  Regions will engage the service providers to be on standby
  •  Coordination (especially for shelters and institutions done through ProvJocs
  •  Close cooperation with DSD in the provinces to coordinate interventions

5. Transport for beneficiaries

This should not be a SASSA responsibility. Matter to be discussed at ProvJocs and Department of Transport also to come in with solutions. Lack of public transport may severely affect beneficiaries’ ability to get to points to access their grants.

6. Repetitive communication

The following matters bear repeating, so that all citizens may heed the call:

  • Grants will be paid. There is no need to withdraw all the cash at once, or to go to points where large numbers of people congregate. Once the grant money is in the account, it will remain there, regardless of when it is accessed.
  • Older persons and persons with disabilities should be given preference. Their grants will be available on 30 and 31 March. All others can access their grants from 1 April
  • Grant amounts have increased as from 1 April :
  1. Grants for older persons and disability grants increase to R1 860
  2. Grants for war veterans and older persons older than 75 years increase to R1 880
  3. Foster child grants increase to R1 040 per child
  4. Care dependency grants increase to R1 860
  5. Child support grants increase to R440 per child
  • Cash pay points will be serviced according to the set schedule which was communicated during the March payment cycle
  • The Children’s court, sexual offences court, family advocacy- if these courts will be functioning during lockdown period it will require social development to put in place mechanisms to keep social development cases in roll.
      • Court preparations for victims
      • The removal of children in need of care and support (we request that the process be shortened and the cluster allows social workers to remove children to a place of safety as their case will be addressed after lockdown.
      • Our services are up and running to respond to the decisions of the courts including children in conflict with the law.
      • Access to protection orders- Justice Cluster need to ensure that victims of GBV are able to access their services in terms of protection orders.
      • The support on the suspension of the custody and visitation rights, we request that children remain with the primary custody holder and should only be moved with exception circumstances (no children should be moved for the duration of the lockdown)
  • The GBV Command Centre is available to support the Justice Cluster and victims in terms of the above. (SKYPE: HELPMEGBV, toll free on 0800 428 428 and to get a call back simply dial *120*7867#.)
  • We will be increasing Social Services Professionals to ensure that the above are in order
  • All the relevant shelters and supporting services will be operational 24 hours
  • The suspension of adoption services package for the duration of the lockdown
  • We are requesting the Security cluster to constantly update part A and B of the registers to minimise exposure (Social ills and deployment of offenders) in terms of suitable and qualified to work with our vulnerable people

The JCPS deployment strategy should take into consideration Social Development compliance protocols.