Are we using the right process to access government to bring about changes to the disability grant – both in the inadequate levels of support available to seriously disabled people, and in the thinking surrounding this dispensation?
Clearly, what we are doing now is not achieving the right result. The official movement structures and the conventional channels are not working. As QASA, we have been supplementing those efforts in campaigning for two years without real success. In the most recent budget (which overall was a great one and we compliment Trevor for it), the disability grant was changed from R820 to R870 a month. That’s a paltry increase of R50 or 6% a month.
We have submitted “Tips to Trevor”, we have lobbied, and we have made presentations. Most importantly, we have been offering realistic solutions – and still no real success!
We claim that the whole principle of dispensing the funds out of the disability grant uniformly – everyone gets the same – is intrinsically wrong. Let us break that statement up into its components:
Real and ongoing costs
A severely disabled quadriplegic will now qualify for R870 a month, just the same as a mildly disabled person who is not mobility impaired, and has no costs directly related to the fact of the particular disability. This “cost of the disability” is the heart of the matter. We have done research, laid out models, and we know that our constituency, be they quads or paras, need a grant of nothing less than R1800 per month – just to sustain the things that surround the disability (the costs of chairs, cushions, bags, catheters, aids of all kinds, etc) are real and ongoing. After they have been taken care of, the seriously mobility-impaired person starts looking at ordinary household costs such as food, electricity, rent, etc.
We recommend a means test to classify all people with disabilities into different levels of impairment, which attract different grant amounts.
This classification can be based on the model used in global paralympic competitions to establish levels of disability for fair competition.
An added dimension can be an overlay of environment. Does the grant applicant live in a rural or an urban environment? There are infrastructures in towns and cities to help disabled people move around, which just don’t exist in the country.
Businesses and enterprises
Finally, government should bring businesses and enterprises servicing the disability sector into the picture to make it all work. A mechanism would put into the hands of the disabled person an “undertaking” certificate (much along the lines of those being used by the RAF).
The disabled person presents the certificate to a supplier (of wheelchairs, etc) who is contracted to the government). The supplier would accept the certificate, supply the wheelchair to the disabled person, and be paid for the equipment directly by government, not by the individual. This could add another level of evaluation of the real need, right at the point of purpose.
Recently the Department of Social Development centred the benefits given to HIV & AIDS victims on a blood count mechanism. If the patient could show a CD4 blood count (the measurement of the body’s immunity) in the danger levels of below 200, the person would qualify both for a disability grant payout, as well as free antiretroviral treatment. Correctly, this prompted a tripling of the number HIV & AIDS beneficiaries overnight.
Surely, there are ways that our proposal can be faulted, and we would like to hear them! I know the HIV & AIDS programme has its problems, where people deliberately come off the antiretroviral medication just before they have to be re-tested after six months to continue qualifying for the blood count payout.
Somehow, somewhere, we have to find a way around the present problem. As it is structured now, the uniform disability grant is not the proper solution on it’s own for our constituency to survive.