SASSA adds online feature to disability grants process

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The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) yesterday introduced an online system for disability-related grants. This, as it ramps up the use of digital technology to improve service delivery to social grant beneficiaries.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu last December pointed to the imminent launch of the system, saying it will “enable applicants to apply online without leaving the comfort of their own homes”.

Zulu yesterday launched the pilot phase of the online booking system for medical assessments of disability grants − an effort to reduce the need for beneficiaries to make multiple visits to SASSA offices.

The disability grant, according to the minister, is the third largest social assistance grant after the child support and old age grants, reaching 997 752 persons on a monthly basis.

The application for disability grant currently takes, on average, three visits by the applicant to the local SASSA office, and the booking system process includes booking for medical assessment, medical assessment by a SASSA doctor and completion of an application.

“The online booking system will significantly reduce the number of visits to the SASSA contact points, excluding visit to medical assessment site or health facility, from three to one,” says Zulu. “Once the client has registered a medical assessment appointment on the system, the applicant has the right to choose their preferred clinic or hospital on the appointment date for the medical assessment.

“Depending on the availability of the documentation required, the application may be completed at the first visit, saving both SASSA and clients’ time and money in the process.

“I have no doubt that the system will simplify the assessment process for persons with disabilities, reducing the need to submit information multiple times and the number of face-to-face assessments.”

To develop the online booking system, SASSA collaborated with GovChat.

Over the past year, government’s official citizen engagement platform, GovChat, has been working with SASSA, stepping in to assist the agency with the COVID-19 Social Relief in Distress (SRD) grants.

GovChat reveals its partnership with SASSA has, thus far, assisted over 4.9 million people who have applied for SRD grants without standing in queues, using digital technologies.

In terms of the online booking system, it integrates with SASSA’s current Electronic Medical Assessment Statistics Template system.

In turn, it enables local offices to create an electronic schedule – at a frequency predetermined by the offices, as long as there are always dates for clients to select from.

Clients can access the system and make a booking for medical assessment while in their homes, with the booking linked to the available doctor’s schedule at the selected closest facility chosen by the client.

In addition, clients are able to download the medical referral form and SASSA affidavits to complete for medical assessment and application processing online. They also receive an SMS confirmation of their final medical assessment booking date and time, including the facility at which their assessment would take place.

They can also enquire on their booking and screening outcome information which documents to bring for application processing, and can cancel the appointment made in instances where unforeseen circumstance occur, preventing them from honouring their appointments, and re-book for an alternate date.

According to GovChat, the technology innovation will significantly reduce the need for clients to make multiple visits to SASSA offices and therefore effectively reduce the long queues and overcrowding.

CEO Eldrid Jordaan says: “The mission which we as GovChat and our phenomenal partners at SASSA are on, is to jointly tackle the most critical challenges that vulnerable people and SASSA clients experience.

“What we have seen over the past year is the important role that fit-for-purpose technology can play in assisting the most vulnerable in getting quality service from government, the same way we expect from the private sector from a convenience and efficiency point of view.”

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