Durban – The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is confident the nearly 20 000 disability grant assessment backlogs will be cleared before the end of the 2020 financial year.
This follows a call for more doctors to be made available by a member of Parliament, Alexandra Abrahams, who is part of the Social Development Portfolio Committee.
The total number of doctors contracted directly by Sassa is 475 nationally. KwaZulu-Natal has 134 doctors, which is the highest allocation compared with other provinces.
According to a response to questions from Abrahams, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said that nearly 20 000 new and renewed Sassa disability grant beneficiaries were on waiting lists to see an assessment doctor.
According to Zulu, the Western Cape had the highest number of people on the waiting list – 4 945. The Eastern Cape had 835, Free State 309, Gauteng 2 553, KZN 1 632, Limpopo 1 664, Mpumalanga 1 165, Northern Cape 359 and the North West 4 574.
Abrahams said the backlogs in assessments of disability grant cases was a historic issue within the social grants system, primarily brought on by the shortage of doctors who were contracted by Sassa to do these assessments.
She said that according to the ministry, these numbers worsened as a result of the lockdown and closure of Sassa local offices under level 5, as well as the limited resources at local offices during levels 4 and 3.
Another concern, said Abrahams, was that assessments were only valid for three months to allow for Sassa to process the application.
“It’s been reported that as a result of Sassa offices being closed during level 5 and 4 of national lockdown, many of these assessment reports have lapsed adding to the overburdened system,” said Abrahams.
She said the solution was for the department to assist doctors who were interested in assisting with Sassa’s medical assessments to be speedily registered as required on government’s central supplier database.
“To many people with disabilities, these grants are vital to their very survival. It’s their means to procure food for themselves and their families,” said Abrahams.
National Sassa spokesperson, Kgomoco Diseko, said access to health facilities remained a challenge.
“The availability of health professionals, especially in remote areas, coupled with the need to abide by the lockdown directions, also impacted on Sassa’s ability to clear the backlog.
“We are, however, confident that the backlog will be cleared before the end of the financial year,” said Diseko.