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Welfare system fails rural orphans

While it takes 30 working days for a foster care grant to be processed, checked and either approved or refused, the system has failed four orphan children from rural Tzaneen for well over a year.

Tiny Ramodike took the orphans into her care after their mother (who is her sister) died in 2016. But despite now being their legal foster mother, she has not received her grant from the Department of Social Development (DSD) despite qualifying for the financial help.

The death of Ramdike’s sister in 2016, the unemployed single mother of three has been left struggling to feed her own three children and her sister’s four orphans. Living hand-to-mouth, the family has survived on child grants and handouts from their local community.

“Since my sister passed away it has been a disaster. The child grant money is not enough to support the whole family. I have to buy clothes, school uniforms, stationery, food and pay for school trips. Also the house is dilapidated. We don’t have a proper house to sleep in,” said Ramodike.

Reluctant to assist

According to Ramodike, the Social Development Department appears reluctant to assist. She applied for assistance in February last year, and despite more than a year having passed she is yet to be visited by a social worker.

“I have applied for a foster care grant in February 2017. A social worker at Lesedi Thusong Centre promised to visit my home for an assessment, but until today no one came. I don’t know what is going on. The children are suffering. In January I struggled to buy school uniforms and stationery, now winter is coming I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said.

South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) spokesperson Norman Gutama said the agency is only able to process her grant once all the required documents have been made available to them by the DSD.

According to Ramodike, the Social Development Department appears reluctant to assist. She applied for assistance in February last year, and despite more than a year having passed she is yet to be visited by a social worker.

“If the necessary documentation and a court order that declares that the children are indeed orphans and qualify for foster care grant are submitted, then that grant will be captured by SASSA and the money will be paid out as from the day that court order was granted. Our systems are automated. If a document is missing, a letter approving or declining the application will be provided immediately,” explained Gutama.

“In this instance, what needs to be investigated is whether or not the social worker submitted the court order to SASSA, because we cannot process the grant application without a court order. Obviously, it means someone at Social Development is not doing their job,” he said.

Department of Social Development spokesperson Joel Seabi sympathised with the family and said his department would immediately look into the matter and assist the family.

“We obviously do not accept our colleagues dragging their feet. Issues like this need to be prioritised. I mean, having to wait since February 2017 is unnecessarily long. We understand the plight of the family, and that their situation requires assistance and our intervention. We will push the district to appoint an official to intervene in this situation,” said Seabi.

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