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Everything you need to know about social grants

Gabrielle Kelly and GroundUp Staff
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This is an overview of South Africa's social grant system and how to apply for social assistance. GroundUp updates this article regularly.

For a developing country, South Africa has a well-established social welfare system and a large proportion of social spending goes towards social grants. Over 16 million South Africans receive social grants.

Social Grants are in place to improve standards of living and redistribute wealth to create a more equitable society. Sections 24 through 29 of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution recognise the socio-economic rights of citizens, including the right to social security. The government is obligated to progressively realise these rights, meaning that "the state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of the right."

Social grants are administered by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). SASSA is mandated by the South African Social Security Agency Act of 2004 to “ensure the provision of comprehensive social security services against vulnerability and poverty within the constitutional legislative framework”.

The Social Assistance Act of 2004 and regulations to the act provide the legal framework for the administration of seven social grants. Grants are targeted at categories of people who are vulnerable to poverty and in need of state support. These are older people, people with disabilities and children. Also, the Social Relief of Distress award provides immediate temporary assistance to people in dire need of financial support and is given to people in the form of vouchers, food parcels or money for a three month period.

Grants available include:

  • Child Support Grant
  • Older Person's Grant
  • Disability Grant
  • Grant-in-Aid
  • Care Dependency Grant
  • War Veteran's Grant
  • Foster Child Grant

Applicants for social grants must be South African citizens, permanent resident or refugees and currently living in South Africa.

Except for the Foster Child Grant and the Grant in Aid, social grants in South Africa are currently "means tested". The means test is the process of assessing the value of your assets and income. You will only be eligible for a grant if your income and assets fall below a certain threshold. This threshold is different for all the grants and will depend on whether or not you are married. The amount you receive for your Old Age Grant and the Disability Grant is also determined by the means test and you may not necessarily receive the maximum amount offered by SASSA.

If you do some work or have another source of income but still really need social assistance you can still apply for a grant. You must declare all your income and assets to SASSA. If you receive the disability grant, old-age grant or war veterans grant your monthly money will be reduced according to how much money your earn.

Child Support Grant

The value of the Child Support Grant is R330 per month

To receive this grant you must be the primary care giver of a child who also lives with you in South Africa. If you are not the biological parent of the child, you must provide proof of your primary caregiver status. This can be an affidavit from a police official, a social worker’s report, an affidavit from the biological parent of the child, or a letter from the school principal of the child.

Children must be under the age of 18. Children must not be cared for in a state institution. You cannot apply for more than six non-biological or legally adopted children.

In order to qualify for the grant you need to meet the requirements of the means test. If you are single you must not earn more than R39,600 per annum (R3,300 per month) and if you are married, your combined income must not be more than R79,200.

Care Dependency Grant

The value of the Care Dependency Grant is R1,410 per month

The Care Dependency Grant is given to the caregivers of children with disabilities. The child must be found permanently and severely medically disabled by a medical officer and must be under the age of 18. The child cannot be cared for in a state institution.

In order to qualify for the grant you need to meet the requirements of the means test. If you are single, you must not earn more than R169,200 per year (R14,100 per month) and if you are married your household cannot earn more than R338,400 per year (R28,200).

Foster Child Grant

The value of the Foster Child Grant is R860 per month

To meet the requirements for this grant both you and the child you care for must live in South Africa. The child must be under the age of 18 years old and there must be a court order indicating that you have been designated the foster carer for the child.

There is no means test for foster parents. The child must remain in the care of the foster parent.

Disability Grant

The maximum value of the Disability Grant is R1,410 per month

In order to qualify for this grant you must be between the age of 18 and 59 years. You must be found medically unfit for work by a medical officer because of a mental or physical disability. The grant is available on a permanent or temporary basis for between six and twelve months. When your temporary grant expires and you have not recovered sufficiently to return to work you will need to apply for the grant again. Your permanent grant can be reviewed in order to assess whether you are in fact still disabled. See Frequently asked questions about social grants for more details on eligibility for the disability grant.

You cannot be the recipient of other grants, and must not be cared for in a state institution.

In order to qualify for the grant you need to meet the requirements of the means test. If you are single your income cannot be more than R64,680 per year (R5,390 per month) and your assets cannot be worth more than R930,600. If you are married your combined income cannot exceed R129,360 (R10,780 per month) and combined assets can be no more than R1,861,200.

Grant in Aid

The value of Grant in Aid is R330

If you are living on a social grant but can’t look after yourself you can get an additional grant to pay the person who takes full-time care of you

The Grant in Aid is an extra grant for people receiving disability, older persons or war veteran's grants who, because of their mental or physical disabilities, are unable to look after themselves and need to pay a full-time caregiver. In order to receive this grant, you will need to be assessed by a medical officer. You cannot receive this grant if you are being cared for in a state institution.

Older Person’s Grant

The maximum value of the Older Person's Grant is R1,410 per month. If you are over the age of 75 you will receive an additional R20 per month.

You can apply to this grant if you are 60 years or older. You cannot be a recipient of other grants, and you must not be under the care of a state institution.

In order to qualify for the grant you need to meet the requirements of the means test. If you are single your income cannot be more than R64,680 per year (R5,390 per month) and your assets cannot be worth more than R930,600. If you are married your combined income cannot exceed R129,360 (R10,780 per month) and combined assets can be no more than R1,861,200.

War veterans grant

The maximum value of the grant is R1,430 per month

To qualify for this grant you must have fought in World War I, World War II or the Korean War. You must also be over the age of 60 or disabled. You cannot be a recipient of other grants and must not be cared for in a state institution.

In order to qualify for the grant you need to meet the requirements of the means test. If you are single your income cannot be more than R64,680 per year (R5,390 per month) and your assets cannot be worth more than R930,600. If you are married your combined income cannot exceed R129,360 (R10,780 per month) and combined assets can be no more than R1,861,200.

Social relief of distress

Social relief of distress is temporary assistance for people in the following situations:

  • You need help while you wait for your children’s grants to be processed
  • A crisis or disaster has occurred (e.g. your house has burnt down)
  • You do not qualify for a grant, and you are in a desperate situation
  • You are disabled for a period of less than six months and therefore not eligible for a disability grant
  • You are unable to get maintenance from the other parent of your child or children
  • The breadwinner in the family has died
  • The breadwinner has been sent to prison for a short time (less than six months)
  • You have been affected by a disaster, but the area or community in which you live has not been declared a disaster area.

Social Relief of Distress is issued monthly for a maximum period of three months. An extension of a further three months may be granted in exceptional cases. You cannot apply for this grant if you are already the recipient of a different grant.

How to apply

You should apply at the SASSA office nearest to where you live. If you are too old or too sick to apply for the grant at the office you may have a friend or family member apply on your behalf. You can also arrange for a home visit, although you may wait a while for this.

The application forms must be completed in the presence of a SASSA officer. When you hand in your application you will be given a receipt as proof of application. The application is free. You will receive written notification if your application is denied. You have the right to ask for reconsideration and you can also lodge an appeal within 90 days.

Applicants must provide proof of identity. If you do not have a 13-digit bar coded Identity Book or birth certificate for children, you may provide alternative documentation as proof of identity. Contact your nearest SASSA office to find out which alternative documents are accepted.

Other documents required for application: If married, provide ID of your spouse and proof of spousal relationship (marriage certificate, divorce order, a sworn statement, or spouse’s death certificate). Sworn statement or affidavit stating the income and assets of yourself and your spouse. Supporting documents to prove your income and assets. You must also provide proof of the income of dependent children.

The application process takes up to 90 days and your first payment will include back-pay for the time you wait to receive the grant. This is calculated from the first day of application.

Note: When affidavits are required, SASSA will provide the affidavits to be completed.

Your SASSA card

If your grant application is successful you will receive a SASSA card and a bank account where your money will be deposited each month. This card is associated with MasterCard and can be used as a debit card and you can either use it to make purchases, check your balance or withdraw cash at till points wherever MasterCard is accepted without incurring any transaction costs. You can also withdraw money with your card at ATMs, but you will be charged transaction charges. You and other people can also deposit money into this account.

SASSA Hotline 0800 601 011

SASSA offices Western Cape

Email address: GrantsEnquiriesWC [at] sassa.gov.za

Regional Office
Physical Address: Golden Acre Adderly Street, Cape Town
Postal Address: Private Bag, X9189, Cape Town, 8000
Telephone: (021) 469 0200

Caledon
Physical Address: Melofin Building C/O Birfwood Street and Klipfontein, Athlone, 7760
Postal Address: 10 Plein Street, Caledon, 7234
Telephone: (028) 214 3000

Cape Town
Physical Address: 48 Queen Victoria Street, 8000
Postal Address: P.O. Box 131, Cape Town, 8000
Telephone: (021) 481 9700

Eerste River
Physical Address: 42 Main Road, Eerste River, 7100
Postal Address: Private Bag X1
Telephone: (021) 904 1021

George
Physical Address: Rentzburghof, 42 Courtney Street, George, 7100
Postal Address: Private Bag, X6508
Telephone: (044) 801 4300

Gugulethu
Physical Address: C/O Bishops Court and Fezeka, Gugulethu, 7760
Postal Address: Private Bag, X11, Athlone, 7760
Telephone: (021) 638 5151/2/3/4

Khayelitsha
Physical Address: Julius Tsolo Street, Khayelitsha (near station)
Postal Address: Private Bag, X001
Telephone: (021) 364 1330

Mitchell’s Plain
Physical Address: 45 Alpha Street, Wespoort Park, Mitchell Plain
Postal Address: Private Bag, X10
Telephone: (021) 370 4800

For other information regarding social grants visit the SASSA website:
http://www.sassa.gov.za

Also see the social benefits section on the government services website:
http://www.services.gov.za/services/content/Home/ServicesForPeople/Socia...

To find SASSA offices outside of the Western Cape, look at this page or call the SASSA hotline:
http://www.sassa.gov.za/OFFICES/SASSA-SERVICE-CENTRES-657.aspx

Also see Frequently Asked Questions about social grants.

This page was originally published on 6 March 2013. It was last updated on 30 May 2015.