Programme Director and Acting DG for Social Development, Mr Linton Mchunu;
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu;
CEO of SASSA, Ms Totsie Memela-Khambula;
CEO of NDA, Ms Thamo Mzobe;
Members of the media,
As you are aware, all of South Africa is under level 4 of the Risk-Adjusted Strategy for 14 days due to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections from the virus over the past few weeks. What is now clear is that we need to do more together as a nation to bring the new and more transmissible Delta variant under control while Government is rolling out the mass vaccination programme across the country. Now more than ever, we must pull together and resist the temptation to let our guard down.
As a Portfolio, our most immediate response is to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic and to prevent people’s situation from getting worse by intervening earlier and providing appropriate and timely services. In this regard, we have again activated our alert level response measures to deal effectively with the anticipated increased demand for our services, as previously experienced under the same alert level last year. We welcome the restrictions on alcohol sales under the adjusted level 4, given its contribution to the rise in trauma cases and additional burden it places on our hospitals in the midst of the pandemic.
When the country was at Level 4 and 5 respectively, saw a drastic decrease in Gender Based Violence and Femicide cases across the country. This can be attributed to the limited or non-sale of alcohol, which is the most widely used psycho-active substance in the country, especially amongst our young people.
About 58% of deaths on our roads are attributed to alcohol. The per capita consumption of alcohol in our country is about 90% and this ranks in the top 20 per capita alcohol consumption worldwide. These statistics should shock us as a country – as it clearly indicates that we have a problem with alcohol abuse and there is a direct correlation between this and the rising numbers of GBVF – which the President Ramaphosa labelled as a second pandemic after COVID-19.
We therefore call upon South Africans to be more responsible in the manner in which we consume alcohol given its serious consequences. We also encourage citizens to report GBVF incidents to our 24/7 Gender Based Violence Command Centre on 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV). Citizens may alternatively, request a social worker from the command centre by dialing *120* 7867# for free from any cellphone or sending an SMS to 31531. We will soon issue directions in terms of Section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002; which details measures to contain the spread of the virus from a social service perspective under adjusted alert level 4.
COMMUNITY NUTRITION AND DEVELOPMENT CENTRES (CNDCS);
One area that is likely to experience increased demand is food for vulnerable households. All of our 250 Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs) across the country will remain open to provide the much-needed relief, but this will be under strict COVID-19 regulations compliance and will be limited to take-away meals only.
We have also adapted our operations to new and innovative ways that include knock-and-drop approach of cooked meals to minimise the health risks of those aged 60+. Our CNDCs assist with food storage and distribution to poor households, and are also part of community driven Food and Nutrition Security Programmes, which increase access to food security to vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, especially at this time of need. All CNDCs have amended their operations to ensure precautions that prioritise the health and safety of recipients and staff who are at the frontlines of our efforts. It is important to stress that these measures are no substitute to other COVID-19 protocols as beneficiaries have equal responsibility by continuing to follow the guidelines which include; the - regular sanitising and washing of hands, wearing of a mask that covers both mouth and face, and maintaining a distance from others at all times.
On a related matter, we will continue utilising a hybrid model of providing food parcels, that is cash, food parcels and vouchers throughout the 9 provinces and through SASSA’s Social Relief of Distress (SRD) programme for eligible households in distress. Once again, we express our gratitude to individuals, organisations, including the faith-based sector and the private sector that continue to make food donation to our centres ensuring that individuals and families do not go to bed hungry. We are mindful that the economy is taking serious strain at this time and families may be distressed and we urge all citizens to continue supporting those most in need. Let us not tire in doing good.
REGISTRATION OF NON-PROFIT ORGANISATIONS (NPOs)
All in-person NPO services are suspended and we are encouraging citizens to make use of the DSD online platform: www.npo.gov.za for NPO registrations and submission of annual reports. We reiterate our call for NPOs to ensure that they remain compliant with the NPO Act to avoid being de-registered. We further would like to assure all NPO applicants that their temporary certificates will be issued to them via email whilst the original certificates will be provided at a later stage.
TRANSFER PAYMENTS TO NPOs
Our provincial departments are making progress with the transfer of funds to NPOs whose efforts are more important than ever during this pandemic. However, we are mindful that some provinces are experiencing delays attributed to system changes, delays in finalisation of Service Level Agreements and human resource shortages, amongst others. I have directed all Provincial Departments to ensure that they move with greater speed in processing these subsidies. We take this opportunity to call upon the NPO sector to comply with all accountability requirements, including timely submission of progress reports as required by law.
In the face of the easily transmissible variants of the virus, we need to remain alert to ensure we protect those most at risk. Visits to residential facilities for older persons, care facilities and other ‘congregant settings’ are therefore prohibited during the current alert level. Recognising the psychological and emotional toll this might have on our senior citizens, their families and friends, we appeal for understanding and urge families and friends to continuously keep in touch through telephone and video calls as well as make use of new ways of connecting with our loved ones via virtual platforms.
We are taking these extra steps to support the health and safety of our senior citizens and staff at our facilities. We are pleased that most older persons in our residential facilities are now vaccinated. As at 23 June, 3,5 million older persons have registered for vaccination since the beginning of Phase 2 of the Mass Vaccination Programme.
We are working jointly with the Department of Health, the Medical Research Council, community and faith-based organisations, community health workers and community care givers to maintain the momentum to ensure older persons, particularly the most vulnerable among them, have access to COVID-19 vaccination. We do this by providing information, address vaccine hesitancy and assist with the registration process and transportation to vaccine sites, amongst others.
We are pleased that some provinces are operating drop-in vaccination sites wherein older persons can get vaccinated without an appointment. To support these measures, we have deployed our social service professionals – social workers and community development practitioners, across the country who stand ready to assist to ensure no one is left behind. They will be strategically deployed to target and register older persons for vaccination at places such as shopping mall, post office and pension pay-out points when they collect their social grants payments at retail stores, service points and access points. On this note, I want to make a direct personal appeal to all our senior citizens who have not yet been vaccinated: NOW IS THE TIME TO GET VACCINATED! THE VACCINES ARE SAFE AND A BETTER WAY TO PROTECT YOURSELF!!
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT CENTRES (ECDs)
Under the current alert level, all ECDs remain open and in full operation in compliance with all COVID-19 protocols and guidelines as previously provided to the sector. Our Provincial Departments will also continue to pay full subsidy to ECD programmes. We are aware that we did not complete payment through the stimulus package to all qualifying applicants at the end of March 2021. To this end, all Provincial Departments have applied for the rollover of funds as per the budget process. Let me take this opportunity to assure all qualifying ECD services that they will definitely receive their payments. Provincial Treasuries are seized with this matter and we expect payment to be made within the next few weeks upon receipt of the confirmation letters from Provincial Treasuries
We have given a second chance to enable those ECD services that captured their details incorrectly during the first leg to make corrections. In this regard, we are pleased to announce that we have opened the system again for all ECD services and practitioners who have received text messages to correct their information and we appeal to them to do so as urgently as possible as this will not be open for a long period. This will assist in fast tracking all the outstanding applications and verification process to be run and payments accordingly done. This can be done through accessing the website www.ecd.gov.za.
Still on this matter, I would like to inform the sector and members of the public that the Presidential proclamation on the transfer of ECD function from the Department of Social Development to Basic Education was published yesterday, 1 July 2021. Our joint teams are hard at work to iron out all outstanding matters to ensure a smooth transition.
Ladies and Gentlemen, with the roll out of Phase 2 of the Mass Vaccination Programme now fully underway, we are at an advanced stage in negotiations with the Department of Health to ensure the inclusion of the social sector’s frontline workers in the priority groups for vaccination. These include men and women who continue to provide services to vulnerable groups and serve our nation as social service professionals, ECD practitioners and SASSA employees in the frontline. Further announcements will be made in the coming days in this regard.
NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY;
The NDA remains committed to providing services to the Civil Society Organisations and this will be done in line with adjusted alert Level 4 regulations, which protect both staff and stakeholders. All physical training for CSOs will be suspended for the next 14 days, however, all NDA offices can be accessed on both the national and provincial telephone numbers and on the website: www.nda.org.za, alternatively call the national office number on 011 018-5500.
Given that social grants are a lifeline for many vulnerable individuals and households, particularly during these difficult times, our aim is to ensure that there are no disruptions in services that SASSA renders. Throughout the COVID-19 response we showed our ability to respond quickly and effectively to new levels of demand. We have introduced a number of significant innovations that we now have an opportunity to build on as we strive to improve client experience and meet current demand.
In this regard, we will continue with the staggered payments of grants, with the first payment date reserved for older persons, followed by disability grants and the payment of all child grants. This month, payments of social grants will start on Tuesday 6 July. Once again, we appeal to all grant recipients that they do not need to collect their grants on the day it becomes available, but can collect their grants on any day as their monies will remain in their accounts and will not be taken away from them.
While all SASSA offices will remain open, they will operate with a reduced staff complement as per the DPSA Circular. Applications for social grants at all Local offices will be staggered according to grant type, for instance Mondays will be for older persons, Tuesdays for disability grants, Wednesdays and Thursdays for child grant applications, and Fridays for appointments and spill over from the week.
Some of the changes were made during our response to COVID-19 and enable us to fast-track digitisation of our services. These include the online booking system for disability grants, which has significantly cut down on the amount of time and costs for both SASSA and grants applicants. We take great pride with the significant progress we have registered since the launch of the online booking system in April this year. We therefore would like to encourage disability grant applicants to make use of the SASSA online booking system which can be accessed through the agency’s website on www.sassa.gov.za. This will allow applicants to book assessment dates for the disability assessments. Our staff at SASSA offices can also assist clients with this system to ensure that they avoid repeated visits to local offices.
Fellow South Africans, the days and weeks ahead will be the hardest as some scientists predict that the third wave will reach peak in October. And that is why it is important for every one of us to observe the protocols and that we exercise the greatest possible personal responsibility. As I conclude, I would therefore like to join President Ramaphosa in calling for the observance of all the health and safety protocols. We must always wear a mask in public. We must regularly wash or sanitise our hands. We must always keep a safe distance from others. Unless it is necessary, please stay at home and stay safe.
I thank you.