Clive Cook has Ankylosing Spondylitis, a rare, genetic auto immune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. He has been forced to give up work and earlier this year he went to apply for a disability pension. Hopefully his experiences will help you when you need to apply or re-apply at SASSA.

"I went to Kempton Park to collect the application forms. Apparently there are two disability parking spaces - I couldn't find them!! You show your ID book at the entrance to the building and I told them I was there to collect application forms. They put me on a list and I joined a queue for reception. The offices open at 7h00, I got there at 6h30 and was ninth in the queue! By 9h00 I was third and then they all went for tea! I decided to look for the forms but was told to return to my bench and wait. Frustrated - I left.

Andy Scott offered to help and a Mrs Kruger, from SASSA, called me. She asked why I hadn't just asked for the papers at the entrance - I had! Mrs Kruger then said how understaffed they were.

Back I went to get the forms from the entrance and make an appointment for my medical review. There are no facilities at SASSA to photocopy documents - you have to take copies of everything with you. In order to collect application forms I took along: a certified copy of my barcoded ID book, proof of residential address, a letter from the doctor and bank statements.

I took the forms home and, once I had completed them, I had to get them certified at a police station or bank and attach: an affidavit of earnings, affidavit of assets, stamped letter from the bank allowing the pension to be paid into my account, and the doctor's medical assessment form. You also need marriage/divorce/death certificates of your spouse and on the affidavit of earnings you have to include your spouse's earnings.

So, back I went to SASSA and joined the queue to hand in my forms and documents. Everybody gets there early as the doctor/review panel only sits once a week, and all appointments are for 07h30!!I got there at 6am and was 2nd in the queue, but I only finished at 4pm. There is no food or water so take your picnic basket!! I didn't see any wheelchair friendly toilets either.

If you've done your paperwork right - you immediately proceed to the review panel queue.

Review panel staff check all your forms and then you see the doctor. He asks you about your disease and diagnosis and then signs off on your disability.

You join a queue again and you complete more forms. This goes to a data capturer and you join another queue to receive your letter stating that you have been assessed as having a disability. (If you are assessed as having a temporarydisability you have to go back every 6 months, for permanent disability they need to see you every 12 months.

The application is a long-winded and thankless process. I'm amazed that SASSA have not come up with a more disabled-friendly way of doing it, like sending people out to disability communities to do new applications and renewals. They could provide work for the many unemployed and ease the burden on the social grant system and people with disabilities. During the elections and census staff visited us in our homes. Why can they only do that for elections and the census?"

According to SASSA's booklet, You and Your Grants 2011/12, if you are too old or sick to travel to the office to apply for a grant, then a family member or friend can apply on your behalf. Applicants:

  • must be a South Africancitizen / permanent resident or refugee;
  • must be resident in SouthAfrica;
  • must be 18 to 59 years ofage;
  • must submit a medical /assessment report confirming disability;
  • Medical assessment must notbe older than 3 months at date of application.
  • and spouse meet therequirements of the means test;
  • must not be maintained orcared for in a State Institution;