SASSA has only 11 doctors in Western Cape to assess 8 990 temporary disability grants

Issued by Alexandra Abrahams MP – Deputy Shadow Minister for Social Development
18 Apr 2023 in News

Despite a backlog of 1 693 people and a further 7 297 beneficiaries of temporary disability grants that need to be assessed, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) only has 11 assessment doctors in the Western Cape.

This was revealed by the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, in an answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA.

The Western Cape has the biggest backlog (60% of 2 818), yet the number of doctors contracted by SASSA and the Department to ensure that disability grant recipients are assessed in a reasonably time, remain inadequate. The Western Cape Provincial Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, has scheduled a meeting with SASSA later this week to get feedback on the Agency’s progress in dealing with on-going challenges since their last meeting in February.

All of the provinces also face a substantial number of people who still need to be assessed to determine their eligibility for temporary disability grants. Given that 232 505 of these grants lapsed between April 2022 and February 2023 (30 955 in February) it is high time that SASSA made work of the 34 428 assessments that need to be completed.

While SASSA’s strategies to eradicate the backlog seems to be bearing some fruit, it will be of little comfort to the thousands of disabled people across the country that haven’t received their grants.

SASSA grants are a lifeline to millions of vulnerable and poverty stricken South Africans. Ongoing backlogs essentially mean those beneficiaries whose temporary disability grant will be extended after the medical assessment, are for an extended period of time without any financial means to pay rent, buy food in order to take their medication, or have transport money to visit the assessment points and pay their bills or other expenses.

During the height of the Covid-19 lockdown in June 2020, SASSA in the Western Cape was granted authority to deviate from normal tender processes to appoint more doctors in the Eden District, along with the deviations to procure the services of all doctors listed on the HPCSA database, as well as an interim internal solution where provinces are able to ask for services of doctors from neighbouring provinces.

Given the escalating number of lapsed temporary disability grants in relation to only 11 doctors in the Western Cape, SASSA must consider all possible avenues to ensure vulnerable South Africans do not suffer as a result of SASSA’s administrative shortcomings.

The DA will submit further parliamentary questions to determine the successful recruitment of assessment doctors in the Western Cape.