Social Assistance

In Ireland, it seems, the Government pays out all sorts of social benefits: a pension, telephone allowance, disability allowance, single parent allowance, an allowance if you need a care-giver, an allowance if you are deserted by your husband, an allowance if you are looking for a job, an allowance even if you are not looking for a job, an allowance if you live on a farm, a petrol/fuel allowance, maternity benefits, allowances per child in the family, meals at school, free travel – and, to top it all, a Christmas bonus.1 In the United Kingdom, you get most of all the above, plus a housing allowance, a cold weather payment, winter heating allowances – and a bereavement payment.2

As they say, it is tough in Africa. At least, it is in South Africa, where we have only: a child support grant, a care dependency grant, a foster child grant, a disability grant, an older person’s grant, a war-veteran’s grant, and a grant-in-aid.

The problems come in with administering the social assistance programmes established by the Social Assistance Act 2004. The media has been busy in recent years with reports and commentary on the nigh-debacle regarding the payment of grants; but as we do, we will get it right. The purpose of the Social Assistance Act is to make available the social grants already referred to, and it provides the mechanisms for this, and for incidental matters. As with most statutes which endow rights on people, there are also obligations.

A. Falsehoods and fraud

  1. It is a criminal offence to give false or misleading information in an application for social assistance, whether for yourself or on behalf of someone else.3

  2. In fact, if you furnish South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) or any member of the Inspectorate for Social Assistance with false or misleading information, it is an offence.4

  3. If information in an application which you have submitted changes, then you must inform SASSA of the new particulars, and commit a crime if you fail to do so.5

  4. If you accept a social assistance payment knowing that you are not entitled to it, you commit an offence.6

  5. It is also a crime to accept an amount which is more than you know you are entitled to get.7

B. The inspectorate and SASSA

  1. The Inspectorate for Social Assistance was established by the Act and has a variety of functions, including to conduct investigations to maintain the integrity of the social assistance systems, to investigate fraud, execute internal audits, and the like. It is a crime in any way to interfere with, hinder or obstruct any member of the Inspectorate in the execution of duties.8

  2. Those members will be given a certificate authorizing the performance of his functions. It can be recalled by the Inspectorate, and if it is not returned the person in question commits an offence.9

  3. Any person who discloses information about the operations of the Inspectorate, which he should know will prejudicially affect those operations, is guilty of an offence.10

  4. If any member of the Inspectorate (or SASSA) sets a requirement for you or makes a request of you in the performance of his duties, it is a criminal offence not to comply therewith.11

  5. It is a crime to hinder or obstruct any member or employee of the Department of Social Development or of SASSA in the performance of his duties.12

  6. Both SASSA and the Inspectorate can investigate and inquire into any matter concerning the grant of social assistance. They can subpoena people to appear for questioning and to produce documents, etc. It is an offence, once you have been subpoenaed:

    • to fail to appear at the specified time and place;
    • to remain in attendance until excused;
    • to take the oath or make an affirmation about the evidence you will give.13
  1. See

  2. See

  3. Section 21(1). 

  4. 30(c). 

  5. Section 21(3) read with section 14(5). 

  6. Section 21(2). 

  7. Ibid

  8. Section 25(2). 

  9. Section 26(8). 

  10. Section 26(9). 

  11. Section 30(b). 

  12. Section 30(a). 

  13. Section 30(d).