Spouse Earns But Won’t Support You?

The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) provides various social grants to support vulnerable groups. However, these grants are means-tested, meaning eligibility depends partly on your household income. This can pose challenges when a spouse earns an income but does not financially provide for their partner’s needs. If you are denied a SASSA grant due to your spouse’s income, here are some steps you can potentially take.

Understanding SASSA’s Means Test for Grants

SASSA administers social grants like the disability, care dependency, and older persons grants. To qualify, your total household income must fall below a specified threshold. This includes income earned by a spouse or life partner, even if they do not contribute to your daily living costs.

Unfortunately, SASSA does not take personal circumstances into account. Your spouse’s income is automatically counted against eligibility for a grant, regardless of whether they use it to support you. This strict means test aims to ensure grants are targeted at households truly in need.

While frustrating, SASSA does not make exceptions for non-supportive spouses. Failing to declare a spouse’s income could constitute fraud and carry severe penalties. However, you may have options to seek assistance.

Attempting to Resolve Issues Within the Family

If your spouse or partner earns an income but does not contribute to household expenses or support your needs, the first step could be attempting to resolve this directly within your family.

Some suggestions include:

  • Speaking openly and honestly about your financial and care needs. Provide specific examples of how their lack of support affects you.
  • Holding a family meeting with elders such as parents or aunts and uncles. They may be able to encourage your spouse or partner to do their duty.
  • Involving trusted friends, religious leaders, or community elders as mediators to facilitate discussions and propose solutions.

Seeking External Help for Marital Problems

If efforts within the family fail to resolve a non-supportive spouse issue, seeking help from trained professionals may be the next step. Organizations like FAMSA (Families South Africa) provide relevant services, including:

  • Marriage counseling to identify issues in the relationship and how to move forward positively.
  • Mediation involving a neutral third party to negotiate a workable solution.
  • Support groups connecting people facing similar marital difficulties for mutual advice and encouragement.
  • Referrals to social workers, legal advisors, or women’s shelters if required.

There are 28 registered FAMSA offices across South Africa that assist families of all cultures and faiths. Fees are charged on an income-based sliding scale.

Additionally, many religious leaders like pastors, rabbis, and imams provide counseling to couples within their communities. Seeking their guidance could also help resolve domestic issues affecting your wellbeing and access to financial support.

Exploring Alternate Sources of Income and Aid

If your spouse still refuses to provide for you adequately despite interventions, looking into other potential income sources or aid may become necessary. Some options to discuss with a social worker or financial advisor include:

  • Applying for community-based assistance like food parcels or clothing donations.
  • Claiming UIF if you previously worked and paid contributions.
  • Seeing if you qualify for any Covid-19 relief funds that SASSA may be administering.
  • Asking extended family members for financial help.

Though not always easy to secure, exploring every potential income stream could help supplement what you lack from an unsupportive spouse. As a last resort, legal separation may also be an option.


Being denied a SASSA grant due to a spouse’s non-contributory income can negatively impact quality of life. However, options exist to potentially resolve the situation through family mediation, counseling, income supplementation, or legal separation. Seeking expert assistance can help protect your wellbeing and financial security.

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