Social Development: Minister's Budget Speech
13 Apr 2011
Speech by the Minister of Social Development, Ma Bathabile Dlamini for budget vote 19
14 Apr 2011
Honourable Deputy Minister of Social Development, uMama Maria Ntuli,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
MECs for Social Development,
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the beginning of 2008, we were warned of dark clouds gathering as the world lurched into an unprecedented crisis. Many commentators viewed the crisis as a financial and economic one. The severe impact was felt by people in countries the world over, by individuals, families and communities. Breadwinners lost their jobs and it impacted on their spouses, their children, their extended families: both young and old. The South African economy shed over 1 million jobs.
In the midst of this crisis, this ANC government continued to pursue its social policies of creating a caring society by:
- Expanding the social safety net by raising the means test thresholds, increasing the value of the various grant types and equalising the age of eligibility for the old age pension;
- Allocating an additional half a billion rand to provide temporary relief to those in distress;
- Leveraging on the social sector initiatives to increase job opportunities; and
- Expanding the reach of welfare services, including taking care services to children, people with disabilities, older persons and those afflicted by HIV and AIDS.
All these measures reinforce the correctness of a view expressed by a renowned scholar and philosopher, Albert Schweitzer, that “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings.”
As the world gradually recovers from the global economic and financial crises, South Africa’s social security interventions stand out above all measures, globally, as having been the most successful. The positive impact of the social security interventions, especially on the lives of poor children and their families, is underscored by studies undertaken by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The thrust of their findings is that human solidarity, expressed through our provision of social grants, stands out as the hallmark of our interventions. Undoubtedly, this has been the bulwark that staved off total impoverishment, destitution and the consequent social instability.
Honourable Speaker, we are convinced that all our seeds to create a humane society have fallen on fertile ground. I say so because these seeds are beginning to bear fruits. Our efforts are deeply inspired by the aspirations embodied in the Freedom Charter and articulated in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
Amongst the first to cultivate the fertile ground is former Minister, Dr. Zola Skweyiya, a pathfinder and revered senior citizen who, today celebrates his 69th birthday! I send him best wishes of good health in old age.
During the course of the last financial year, this House appropriated over 95 billion rand to Social Development. That budget, we can say without equivocation, was an investment in human development. It enabled us to provide social grants to the poor, and to continue to develop policies aimed at the provision of care and protection services, as well as the pursuance of sustainable livelihood initiatives. Today, we seek the support of this House for the 2011/12 budget. The new budget will continue to embolden our efforts at addressing our social development challenges as we build a more caring and inclusive society. The acid test of our commitment to social solidarity is measured primarily on the extent to which we achieve social integration of those at the dawn of their lives – the children; those who are in the shadow of life – people with disabilities; and those in the twilight of their lives – the older persons.
In order to achieve this, the 2011 budget grows to 104,7 billion rand, and up to 122 billion Rand in the 3rd year of this MTEF period. The social grants expenditure accounts for 93% of this year’s budget. Our budget priorities include:
- 244 million Rand for social work scholarships
- 161 million Rand for the NDA to support our development initiatives
- 6,1 billion Rand for SASSA management, administration and payment of social grants
- Over 600 million Rand to support the department’s policy, implementation support and oversight responsibilities and
- 97 billion Rand for transfers, in the form of social grants, to households.
For purposes of this budget debate, I will focus on comprehensive social security and some of the welfare services programmes. The Deputy Minister will provide detail on the Integrated Community Development Programme.
Ladies and gentlemen, our unflinching commitment to human solidarity is primarily predicated on our desire to build a brighter future for all South Africans, especially our children, who are the bedrock of that future. In pursuance of this commitment, as can be seen from our social protection enrolment figures, we have gradually extended the age of eligibility for the child support grant to the 18th birthday. This has seen the total number of children receiving the child support grant increasing to over 10,3 million by March this year, which accounts for over 30 billion Rand of the social grants budget.
The reach of the child support grant is significant with an excellent take up rate of children from ages 3 to 14. The low take up rate of children from birth up to the third birthday is of concern to my Department because such children are most vulnerable at that stage of development. It is estimated that over 1 million children within this age category still do not access the child support grant. SASSA, in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs, will to go to every nook and cranny to register these children.
Giving children the best start in life requires of us to provide them with good quality health care, proper nutrition, early learning as well as safe and intellectually stimulating surroundings. Research findings confirm that investment in children in the form of social grants has continued to increase their access to health care, balanced nutrition and early learning stimulation, thereby improving their overall wellbeing.
As part of our social protection programme, our policies provide for the foster child grant which is aimed at children who are in need of care. At the end of the last financial year, we provided foster care benefits to over five hundred and twelve thousand children.
Early Childhood Development (ECD)
As a link in the chain towards achieving these social outcomes, we can report, today, a noteworthy increase in the number of registered Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, which now stands at nearly nineteen thousand. The number of children in ECD centres has also increased to almost seven hundred and ninety thousand, with subsidies provided to more than seven hundred and twenty thousand by March 2011. To further improve access for children to ECD’s, we will, in May, launch the national ECD Campaign in Mpumalanga during the Child Protection Week. The Campaign will be aimed at raising awareness about ECD services and the commitment to increase accessibility.
We are currently experiencing delays in the processing of foster child grant applications and the extension of court orders authorising the foster care arrangement. These delays, caused by the shortage of social workers, the limited capacity of our courts to deal with the volumes of foster care cases, and legislative challenges are resulting in the hardship of thousands of vulnerable. Together with the National Treasury and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development we have agreed on a three-phased intervention plan.
In the first instance, no foster child grants will be lapsed where the requisite extension orders are awaited from the court. We are approaching the court to seek a declaratory order with a view to obtaining a desirable interpretation of the Children’s Act and Social Assistance Act that upholds the best interests of the child. Dedicated task teams of SASSA, the Department of Justice and Social Development will work unceasingly, with courts sitting after hours and over weekends to deal with the backlog cases. Thirdly, a review of the policy provisions and relevant legislation will be undertaken in collaboration with UNICEF. The review is expected to provide options for alternative care such as a kinship care and adoption and associated benefits. In the final analysis, the administrative processes will have to be streamlined to ensure that access to social security, as a human right, is not subjected to onerous bureaucracy.
As we pursue our common commitment to social solidarity, in respect of children, in particular those in especially difficult circumstances we will make every effort to extend the reach of our statutory services to them. In this regard, we will scale up the recruitment and training of Child and Youth Care Workers in order to have a specific focus on children in targeted households, using the Isibindi model. As we expand our recruitment drive, we will train ten thousand child and youth care workers, and thereby consciously respond to the President’s call to create jobs.
People with disabilities
People with disabilities constitute a very vulnerable group. During last year we aligned our policies and programmes with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in order to improve upon and ensure the delivery of special services to people with disabilities. While more than one point two million people access the disability grant, we will also ensure that we continue to render services aimed at enabling people with disabilities to overcome their limitations and impediments to enter the mainstream economy.
As a reflection of our commitment to social solidarity in order to ensure the wellbeing of older persons, we continued to provide the old age grant. More than two point seven million older persons receive the old age grants at a cost of over thirty three billion Rand. It is in the enduring spirit of human solidarity that Mrs Ivy Mzansi, those joining her in the gallery and millions of our older people are able to enjoy their twilight years of their lives, with dignity, shielded from income poverty in old age. The old age grant increases to one thousand one hundred and forty Rand.
To further improve on our commitment to address poverty amongst older persons, effective 1 April this year, the means test to the old age grant has been raised from thirty three thousand Rand per year, by a significant eleven thousand Rand, to bring it to forty four thousand Rand per year. Over the next few years, the means test will be effectively abolished, as the entire population of older persons over 60 years must benefit from a universal old age pension.
As further testimony of our commitment to the wellbeing of older persons, we plan to dedicate more time to mobilize all South Africans to respect, promote and protect the rights of older persons. To advance this ideal, we launched the Charter on the Rights of Older Persons during the Human Rights Month in March, in a joint effort with the South African Older Persons Forum. As part of the roll-out of this programme, we will launch the Charter in the Western Cape tomorrow.
Women and Grants
I am sure that this House, which has a deep interest in the well-being of women, would be interested in the statistical breakdown of the share of grants that go to women. Of the beneficiaries of the old age grant and disability grant, women constitute 67%, that is just over two point four million. In respect of the child support grant, women who are the caregivers, 98% of the grants are applied for and collected by women. Of the total number of beneficiaries, 85% are women.
South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
SASSA continues to make notable service delivery improvements in the administration and payment of social grants. During the course of the year SASSA has:
- ensured, on a monthly basis, regular payment of all benefits
- reduced the cost of distribution of benefits by about five hundred million Rand
- reduced its deficit by half and we anticipate a further reduction
- reduced irregular expenditure from sixty nine million Rand in 2009 to two comma six million Rand in 2010.
Despite SASSA’s service delivery improvement efforts, it continues to face challenges in respect of the administration of social grants. Beneficiaries are not always treated with dignity. The processing and payments of grants, especially at pay points, is still a far cry from the ideal of a humane, dignified and citizen-focused service. It is further regrettable that as a result of a lack of modernisation and inefficiencies, the Office of the Auditor General issued a disclaimer in its audit findings in respect of SASSA’s financial statements, records and other matters.
In response to these challenges, SASSA will implement a number of initiatives set out in its service delivery improvement plan.
The plan covers the following:
- A business process improvement and automation of processes to expedite and secure the reliability of the document system; and
- The introduction of a new payment system over a five year period to reduce disbursement costs whilst enhancing the experience of beneficiaries
An expression of human solidarity is meaningless if the right to administrative justice is not respected. There can be no excuse for the breakdown of our Appeals System from the period 2007 to 2009. Huge backlogs built up in all the provinces causing hardship to many. We are happy to report to this House that during 2010, the Appeals Tribunal became fully functional and considered over forty one thousand appeals. By September this year we will have dealt with the appeals backlogs.
Positive Impact of Grants
Honourable Speaker, government provides social grants to fifteen comma three million beneficiaries. This constitutes about 30% of the total population. Numerous research studies, including those by the World Bank, have praised the stance of the South African government to expand social assistance to the poor and continue to cite our programme as being exemplary. Notwithstanding the well documented positive impact of social grants, many South Africans continue to express some concern about its sustainability.
I am convinced that we are all in agreement that the best way out of poverty is through employment. However, those that argue that we must create jobs and not create dependency, must sincerely now acknowledge the absurdity of their assertion that we must create jobs for our target groups, being children, the disabled and older persons.
Our efforts to build environments that nurture and facilitate better social cohesion and development are significantly hampered by the scale of alcohol and substance abuse in South Africa. To respond to the magnitude of this problem, we held the 2nd Biennial Anti-Substance Abuse Summit, which brought together various stakeholders in search of lasting solutions to alcohol and substance abuse.
Opening this Summit, President Jacob Zuma reaffirmed that “alcohol and drug abuse as well as drug trafficking will receive renewed and more energetic attention from government”.
The family as an institution is at risk in South Africa. The devastation caused by decades of Apartheid policies, including the Land Act of 1913, the Dop System, migrant labour system and other pernicious measures have ravaged millions of families.
We will bring to Parliament this year a Green Paper for the Family. The central policy objective of the Green Paper is to enhance families’ socializing, caring, nurturing, loving and supporting capabilities so that their members are able to contribute effectively to the overall development of the country.
Increasing Social Work Capacity
The challenges confronting the present day family necessitate that we scale up our community and family services. In order to do this, we must ensure and increase the availability of social workers. In addition to the continuing commitment to providing scholarship for the training of new social workers, we will this year convene a National Consultative Workshop for Retired Social Workers to explore the ways and means of drawing on their expertise, and active participation in the work we do.
Our commitment of shared aims is one that should ensure a society where women and children are and feel safe. The attainment of such a society will require partnership between government, the private sector and NGOs. We are not oblivious of the financial constraints that NGO’s face. To this end, the National Development Agency will seek to support NGOs working in this field and liaise with other local and international donors to raise funds for the Gender Based Violence sector.
For a long time our funding policy responded to sophisticated business plans, defined by organisations in the pursuit of achieving the most resources from government, but neglecting the solid understanding of communities’ own interpretation of their programmes and their needs. In response to this, we have reviewed the Policy on Financial Awards to ensure that the funding for social welfare services is allocated to where they are mostly needed. We will pursue the transformation agenda of setting community priorities at the centre of the services of NGO’s funded by my department.
In addition to direct funding from the department, the NDA identifies and funds Civil Society Organisations engaged in the establishment and support of job creation opportunities. The NDA will make available eighty six comma eight million Rand to fund civil society organisation. Projects funded by the NDA specifically target communities which seek to establish for themselves a place within the economically active sectors. These projects take into consideration the number of job opportunities being created as well as the long-term sustainability of the project and the overall wider impact of the project within the community. Through these programmes, the NDA serves as a direct link using short-term social grants for the establishment of long term sustainable economic activities.
In addition to grants to civil society organisations, the NDA will make targeted contribution to eradication of poverty with a more specific focus on the following:
- Rural Development to achieve sustainable livelihoods;
- Granting funds and providing quality capacity building support to Civil Society Organisations to enable them to effectively contribute to poverty eradication initiatives and improve social cohesion
- Support organisations dealing with vulnerable groups and Early Childhood Development to foster social cohesion and create safe and prosperous communities
- Facilitate platforms for State, civil society and the private sector to debate and consult on development policy as it relates to poverty eradication.
In overseeing our work in various communities I had the opportunity to walk through several communities such as Hanover Park, KaNyamazane, Galeshewe and more recently Msinga. An issue of grave concern is the high number of teenage pregnancies in many communities. The key challenge is the need to inform young women and empower them more. I cannot agree more with the President’s call that we need to support such young women to go back to school. Related to this issue is the lack of responsibility of many of the fathers of the children of these teenagers. Everyone has rights, and these rights go with responsibilities.
World Social Security Forum (WSSF)
Honourable Speaker and members,
Coming back to the debate on social security matters: In November 2010, the Department hosted a spectacularly successful international conference on behalf of the International Social Security Association. It was the first time in the Associations’ 87 year history that our country hosted the event. This unique global event gathered over one thousand leaders and administrators of social security institutions, policy-makers and representatives of international organisations from more than one hundred countries, including cabinet ministers from several foreign countries.
The Forum provided an exclusive platform to analyse and debate a range of key issues facing social security today, including the impact of demographic changes on social security and strategies for the extension of social security coverage.
The conference again emphasised the significant progress that South Africa has made in moving towards a system of comprehensive social security, as well as the gaps that remain in the system.
Social Security Challenges and Reforms
Many more South Africans can save towards retirement, and for the unforeseen risk of disability and early death. For those that do save through a provident fund, a pension fund or a retirement annuity the costs are high and the replacement rates low. Government and business agree that the factors creating this situation relate to high administrative costs, including brokers’ of often dubious products. Too many South Africans cash in on savings and spend them when they change employment.
Further, the cost of running our social insurance institutions is high. They are not integrated allowing for duplication and double dipping. There is a real need to enhance regulation of provident and retirement funds as outlined in a discussion document by the National Treasury and Social Development. Never, never again should it be that greed, as occurred in the Fidentia Scandal, in which the most vulnerable, the orphans and widows, are deprived of their income that would have secured their survival. For too long, a too important element of social security has been left entirely to the free market arrangements.
Needless to say, the time has come for change! We will change! We will give fresh momentum to our march in engendering human social solidarity in social security arrangements. We will undertake a range of very fundamental social security reforms. These will be the culmination of work undertaken over the last four years by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on social security, under the leadership of the Minister of Finance.
The Social Insurance Pillar
The introduction of a mandatory retirement fund must be undertaken with speed. Government will therefore move with more speed with the creation of a new social insurance fund or a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to render basic solidarity retirement, disability and survivor benefits to South Africans in employment. This will therefore require that we South Africans in employment contribute a percentage of income to the NSSF. This will guarantee a minimum benefits to all in the event of retirement or disability, and income support for dependents in the event of the death of the breadwinner.
Regarding access to social security for non-citizens, we have already covered extensive ground in researching how countries deal with the matter and the international law to ensure that our proposals are feasible.
The IMC led by the Minister of Finance will soon publish a part of the Consolidated Government Document to initiate countrywide consultation with all stakeholders. Given the considerable implications of these reforms, government remains committed to a process of extensive consultation. After the consultation process the IMC will oversee the drafting of new Social Security Legislation.
In this budget vote we make many commitments, because we are committed to making this society a better place for this generation and for generations to come. These initiatives require that we make trade-offs and again seek efficiency gains and improve our financial management. These commitments we must meet within a six hundred and twenty million Rand. We will also fill the remaining vacancies, which are at a low of 8%, in the department to ensure we use our resources optimally.
In conclusion, I wish to express my gratitude to the Deputy Minister, uMama Ntuli, for her continued support and counsel.
I must also thank the MECs for Social Development, Members of the Portfolio Committee, the Director-General and the Social Development staff for their unwavering commitment to our guiding principles and hard work.
My expression of appreciation also goes to the CEO of the National Development Agency and its Board and staff and to the Acting CEO of SASSA and the staff for their relentless efforts.
Let me conclude by quoting W H Auden who said: “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don't know.”
I submit Budget Vote 19 to this House for support to enable us to continue to pursue our agenda of building human solidarity.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
14 Apr 2011
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