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Small relief for grant beneficiaries

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By KUTLWANO OLIFANT

Johannesburg - Old-age pensioners and orphans have something to smile about. This year the means test for old-age pensioners is being phased out, so all the elderly can get state pensions.

“All citizens over a designated age will be eligible for the grant, which will simplify its administration and address the disincentive to save that arises from the present means test,” said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The age was not specified.

The Budget documents say this is also to prevent the exclusion of vulnerable people.

The Social Development Department must also “explore ways to improve income support for orphaned children who live with their relatives”.

Social grants go up by between 4 and 5 percent.

The number of people getting grants goes up from 16.1 million in 2012/13 to 17.2m in 2015/16 - a huge increase from the 2.5m beneficiaries in 1998, which Gordhan attributed to the extension of the child-support grant to the age of 18. Child-support grant beneficiaries had risen from 5.7 million in 2004/05 to 11.4 million.

For Agnes Makamo, the increase is a pittance. Makamo, 72, has two children and three grandchildren who are dependent on her pension grant for their survival. Both her children are unemployed and her three grandchildren are at school. Only one child receives a monthly child-support grant, which goes towards school fees.

With her monthly pension grant of R1 200, Makamo buys electricity for R800 and R100 on prepaid water, which lasts three weeks.

“If we don’t use water wisely, we are likely to buy water towards month end for R20. But how do we survive? We bath, cook, drink and clean with water,” she said.

Apart from this, Makamo pays R120 towards her monthly burial society. What’s left, R180, is spent on food.

“The cost of living is very high,” she said.

Makamo and her neighbours have started a vege-table garden and collect recycling materials to make extra cash.

“At least we can eat vegetables. With the little money we get from recycling, we can provide at home.”

Makamo was not surprised by the R60 increase.

“This is the amount they’ve always added towards our grant money every year, but it’s better than nothing.

 

Gordhan announced that the old-age grant and disability grants will increase from R1 200 to R1 260 in April, while the child-support grant will increase by R10 to R290.

The foster-care grant will increase from R770 to R800 a month. - The Star

kutlwano.olifant@inl.co.za

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