The Department of Social Development has gazetted changes to the regulations governing the payout of the R350 social relief distress (SRD) grant in South Africa, allowing more people to qualify.

The change increases the income threshold for the means test from R350 to the food poverty line of R624 per month.

Previously, any person who received or earned more than R350 a month would have been disqualified from receiving the grant. With the new adjustment, this barrier has been moved to R624, and more people would qualify.

The amendment also makes changes to the frequency of the means testing by removing the requirement for applicants to indicate if they require the grant after every three months.

The value of the grant itself remains R350 per person per month for the period 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

When the changes were first proposed in July, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu highlighted concerns around the vast number of applications that were being rejected due to the low threshold.

“Out of 11.4 million applicants for the month of June, only 5.2 million beneficiaries were approved. This represents less than 50% of the applications.”

Beyond the grant

While more people will now qualify for the R350 grant, the department is also looking for ways to assist recipients in getting employment.

Zulu said last week that it is working with other government departments to try and find work opportunities for those people who are still on or no longer qualify for the grant.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A, social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said that her department has been allocated a budget that can accommodate approximately 10.5 million SRD beneficiaries in the 2022/23 financial year.

However, this is fewer people than the grant could support previously, with some MPs pointing to a shortfall of 500,000 people.

Zulu said that National Treasury has made an additional budget allocation to various government departments to create much-needed job opportunities, which her department and Sassa are looking to leverage, to assist recipients.

“Currently, Sassa is in the process of establishing a data-sharing relationship with the Departments of Public Works and Infrastructure and Employment and Labour with the goal of assisting Covid-19 SRD recipients to gain access to employment opportunities.

“Furthermore, the department has finalised a framework on linking social protection beneficiaries to sustainable livelihoods initiatives, with the view to provide skills targeting the unemployed and those on the SRD database to enhance chances of employment,” she said.

Through this programme, the department and its entities and working development agencies will provide skill development that has the potential to generate income and create employment opportunities.

“These measures are intended to provide for those who cannot be accommodated through the social grants or the Special Covid-19 SRD Grant and to channel them into more sustainable jobs and other economic activities,” she said.

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