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Social Relief of Distress Programme Under the Spotlight

October 20, 2020

Department of Social Development

Automation of the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) programme going forward.

This is one of the recommendations put forward by the social development department during a briefing in parliament on measures put in place to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other recommendations include that payments through e-vouchers, cell phones and EFT to be introduced as a matter of urgency for the programme; co-ordination of the SRD and/or Food Security across the sector to be strengthened and exploring and piloting of the Food Distribution hybrid model to include food parcels, vouchers and/or a grant.

In terms of servicing of social grants applicants, the department recommended that the application uptake be extended to online channels to give an opportunity to clients who have access to technological means to apply in the comfort of their homes.

However, the SOCPEN system should be tightened to close the gap for fraud.

The department also holds the view that the interface and data sharing agreements between systems for other entities should be renegotiated to ensure that, post Covid-19, the arrangements are sustained and maintained.

Other recommendations include that a zero rated number as an entry to department services may be required to facilitate access to service from those who do not have airtime or data; a single number to access department services could be ideal instead of the multiple numbers which frustrate members of the public; mobilizing additional resources to ensure that shelters are established in the outstanding 8 districts; a zero rated website and digital platform to be considered to ensure ease of administrative processes and improve compliance and strengthening social behavioural change programmes and interventions.

Proposed interventions to reduce alcohol abuse outlined during the briefing include reducing selling days to three days per week; all sales and deliveries should be subject to presentation of ID for age verification; industry to develop a system to track alcohol products back to source of sale/manufacture to prevent selling by unlicensed outlets and sale of counterfeit or illicit products; raise drinking and purchase age for alcohol to 19 or even 21 years of age; diminish drink-driving by enforcing a maximum BAC levels for drivers of 0.02 g alcohol/100 ml of blood (or breath equivalent); mandatory testing for blood alcohol after serious motor vehicle collisions; limit container sizes of beer and cider allowed for sale to no more than 500ml and wine and spirits to no more than 750ml; rationalise the excise tax treatment of all alcohol products to ensure more equal taxation in terms of alcohol content and raise excise tax rates to bring them more in line with those of the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, in response to the briefing, the portfolio committee on social development asked the department to “conduct a scientific post-Covid-19 analysis and look at the picture it displays”.

The committee also encouraged the department to collaborate with others to find ways of curbing alcohol abuse.