The pandemic has shaken the economy, leaving many destitute. But people with disabilities are perhaps more fortunate as Rustim Ariefdine points out
We are living through trying times. Unemployment has hit record levels of 34,4 percent or 44,4 percent for the expanded unemployment rate. Most alarming is the rate of unemployment among the youth in South Africa: an astronomical 64,4 percent!
To stave off poverty, the government has introduced the Social Relief of Distress Grant, which is R350 per month, which received huge traction. By early September 2021, roughly 12 million people had applied. This number represents 20 percent of our population.
How lucky are those of us who receive a disability grant – the current value of which is R1 890, over 500 percent higher than the R350 grant. In addition, the Social Relief of Distress Grant will only be available till early next year.
Furthermore, there are additional benefits to the disability grant. It entitles a person with a disability to get:
- Free healthcare, including assistive devices;
- Free education at state institutions;
- Hugely subsidised transport such as Dial-A-Ride;
- Subsidised housing with universal design;
- Subsidised entertainment such as movies; and
- Subsidised purchases from certain retail stores.
The list above is by no means exhaustive. A recipient of a disability grant still has the opportunity to receive an income as long as it is below a certain threshold. There is a sliding scale where your grant is reduced from a certain level and will fall away once the threshold has been reached.
Even though unemployment is high, there are opportunities for people with disabilities to find earning opportunities. One of these is learnerships.
Employers need to continue implementing the learnership strategies, which are critical for their BBBEE Scorecards, and to engage the disability community, providing even more points. The tax allowance for placing a person with a disability is 50 percent higher than a learner without a disability.
The value of a learner stipend starts at R3 000. This is in addition to the disability grant received. Thus, if a person with a disability receives both, they can earn in the excess of
R4 890 per month.
The minimum wage in South Africa is currently about R3 760 per month. If one compares the potential earnings of a person with a disability, it is more than R1 000 over minimum wage. On top of this, if one factors in all the financial benefits listed above, then the situation for persons with disabilities is better than their peers without disabilities.
Very often a person with a disability feels that the world has dealt them a devastating blow in life. This can lead to depression. However, the world that we live in today is showing that there are opportunities for people with disabilities.
Already many with disabilities find themselves as breadwinners in the homes. How valuable are they to our society in helping us sustain livelihoods? People with disabilities need to be respected for the contribution that they make to our communities. They should not be abused and exploited.
Rustim Ariefdien is a disability expert extraordinaire who assists businesses to “let the Ability of disAbility enAble their profitAbility” through BBBEE, skills development, employment equity and socio-economic development. His purpose is the economic empowerment of persons with disability in Africa. As a person with a disability himself, he has extensive experience in the development and empowerment of persons with disability.