Childcare and Protection Services: Department's briefing

Social Development

23 January 2007
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 January 2007

CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION SERVICES: DEPARTMENT'S BRIEFING
 
Chairperson:
Ms T S Tshivhase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department's Presentation on Childcare and Protection Services
Department's Presentation on Children Awaiting Trial

SUMMARY
The Department gave a presentation focussing on the policies and programmes that had been implemented in childcare services. It also outlined the progress that had been achieved, and the challenges that had been faced in the past year. It highlighted childcare legislation, a monitoring and evaluation framework, adoption programmes, a national protection register, policy on children working and living on the street, and curbs on child trafficking and abduction. Adoption policies were outlined. Members of the committee were concerned with the
shortage of social workers, and some of the members felt that some of the current social workers delivered poor service to members of the community. Members also questioned the progress made with respect to auxiliary workers, and asked the department to elaborate on the issues surrounding the various adoption programmes, and the difference between adoption and fostering. Issues of child labour, child-headed households, the Register under the current legislation, and training of social workers.

Owing to time constraints the Department was unable to give its presentation on Children Awaiting Trial. It was decided that this should be dealt with at a future meeting.

MINUTES
Childcare and Protection Services: Briefing
by the Department of Social Development (DSD)
Dr Maria Mabetoa, Chief Director: Children, Youth, Families), DSD stated that the Department had a number of existing welfare services that catered mainly for orphans and vulnerable children. These services were delivered via home and community based care, and also through HIV/AIDS programmes. Ms Mabetoa then outlined that the policies and programmes that had been put in place for children included: childcare legislation, a monitoring and evaluation framework for the legislation, adoption programmes, and a national protection register.

Ms M Mcobo-Mbere, Director, Children,DSD said that the Department had made progress in the development of childcare policies These included services for children working and living on the street, and the curbing of child trafficking and abduction.  With regard to adoptions Ms Mcobo-Mbere outlined the various international policies that were in place, and stated that the Department was in close working relationship with the various non governmental organisations (NGOs) that dealt with adoptions. She also stated that some of the challenges faced included the need for social workers at a provincial level, the allocation of adequate resources and services to children, and the appropriation of funding to NGOs due to statutory services.

Discussion
Ms H Weber (DA) asked the Department to elaborate on whether the figures given for the percentage of orphans in Mpumalanga were correct, and asked for reasons why orphans in Mpumalanga were unable to receive birth certificates.

Ms
Mcobo-Mbere said that adoptions were currently done by the NGOs who were  encouraging the provinces to get involved. The issue of adoption was a sensitive area, and could not be rushed.

Ms Weber also asked the department to elaborate on various issues surrounding the human trafficking task team, the Community Development Workers (CDW), the misuse of the Child Support Grant, children’s homes, adoption and the funding of community based care.

Ms Webber asked the Department to elaborate whether there were programmes for auxiliary workers.

Dr Mateboa explained that the task team in human trafficking was to provide victims of human trafficking with services and protection. Dr Mabetoa stated the CDWs worked with all the departments at a community level; however they didnot have the necessary skills to adequately work with children. The misuse of the child support grant could be seen as the exploitation if children, and those found guilty would be dealt with legally. The issues surrounding the children’s homes was an issue that had been dealt with before, and the department was doing an audit into all the children’s homes in the country to determine which ones were adequate. In terms of the auxiliary social workers the department did have various programmes for auxiliary social workers. Finally Dr Mabetoa stated that the funding of community based care was no longer a conditional grant, and that the provinces were no longer obliged to report to the department on how the funds are being utilised.

Ms I Mars (IFP) asked the department to elaborate on the  shortage of social workers, and to say what was being done to promote social work as a career path to prospective university students.

Dr Mabetoa stated that there was an in-depth study done on the need for social workers and the results would be available at the next briefing.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked the department to elaborate on whether there were negotiations taking place with successful children’s homes in terms of expanding and financing. Ms Dudley then asked whether there were constituency offices that explained to communities how the adoption process worked.

Ms
Mcobo-Mbere said that most of the children’s homes were in the urban areas, however many people had complained that the homes in the urban areas were unable to provide adequate services to the rural areas. Therefore the department was looking to assist communities in the rural areas to apply for funding in order to build children’s homes in the rural areas.

Ms Dudley asked the department to elaborate whether the auxiliary workers would be linked to bursaries.

Dr Mabetoa stated that the Department was working with National Treasury in order to find ways in which bursaries could be provided to the auxiliary social workers, and the information would be available shortly.

Ms Dudley commented that
the issues surrounding street children were of absolute urgency, and that something needed to be done.

Mr M Waters (DA) stated that when using statistics regarding the population register the Department should rather use the more accurate figures from the Actuarial society than those provided by the Department of Home Affairs.

Dr Mabetaa replied that it was important to look at both sets of statistics, as the Department could not disregard the official figures.

Mr Waters then asked the Department to elaborate on any steps to resolve the issues surrounding the high number of orphans, the victim empowerment programme, the funding from the European Union (EU), the drug master plan, and the funding of the Childcare Act. Finally with regard to street children, Mr Waters asked the department to elaborate on whether the police had the power to round them up and take them to a place of safety.

Dr Mabetoa explained that in terms of EU funding, negotiations were still taking place on the proposals and the considerations of the work plans. The issue of the drug master plan would be taken up with the directorate that dealt with substance abuse. She stated that the police did already pick up the children and take them to homes, but there was a problem in that the children tended to return immediately to the streets. This was a very complex issue and there was a need for programmes that addressed the serious challenges faced by the street children.

Mr Waters then argued that the street children must be taken to a place of safety irrespective of their circumstances.

Mr B Solo (ANC) stated that he was not sure of the difference between adoption and foster care.

Dr Mabetoa acknowledged that there was a lot of confusion surrounding the difference between adoption and foster care, in terms of the procedures that were followed. The department understood that there was a need for education with regard to the criteria on how foster care and adoptions worked.

Mr Solo asked the Department to elaborate on the steps that had been taken to empower the community, and then questioned how accessible the different empowerment programmes were.

Ms
Mcobo-Mbere stated that in relation to adoption, the child was, and will always remain, a part of the family, regardless of what happened to the parents. However when it came to foster care the individual was left to fend for himself\herself when he\she reached the age of 21. Therefore there had to be a mechanism where children were taught independent living skills, so when children came out of foster care, they were able to survive in the world.

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) stated that it was important to note that the CDWs in Limpopo were working well with the Department. He felt the Department had omitted a serious challenge during their presentation, being that caused as a result of the inefficiency of the Department of Home Affairs. Mr Morwamoche asked whether there were regulations that dealt with the disparities amongst the provinces.

Dr Mabetoa stated that there are norms and standards that provinces have to adhere to in order for there to be clarity amongst provinces. However the department cannot force provinces to do certain things as it would be unconstitutional.

Mr Morwamoche stated that orphans locating their father would be a serious challenge, especially in the rural areas. Mr Morwamoche then asked the Department to provide reasons why NGOs that were not accountable to communities, especially in the rural areas, received funding from the Department, while the relevant people remain unassisted.

Dr Mabetoa stated that social workers usually assisted vulnerable families to a certain point, however they would not assist when it came to locating the father of the child. The Department had sent a circular to all social workers making them aware of this issue, which clarified that to do so was unethical and would not be tolerated.  In terms of monitoring it was the responsibility of provinces to monitor the work of the NGOs. However it was important to note that before an NGO received any funding they had to have the capacity to deliver, and there had to be a follow up into the work done by the NGOs.

Mr Morwamoche then argued that the answer given by the Department regarding provincial disparities differed from the various guidelines provided by the Minister. He then stated that all frontline officials and staff belonged to the Department, and not to the provinces.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) echoed Mr K Morwamoche's sentiments, and stated that national government took priority over provincial government.

Dr Mabetoa stated that at the moment the Department acknowledged the concerns raised, and would discuss them with the provinces.

The Chairperson then questioned why the issue of child labour,especially on farms, was not listed as a challenge by the Department.

Ms
Mcobo-Mbere said that these children had to be treated as if they were children in need of care, and social workers needed to intervene.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC) believed that a study needed to be done into how the adoption issue correlated with the issue of child-headed households, so that clarity could be given as to what encouraged adoption. He then asked for clarity who held the responsibility of taking care of children who had a low IQ rating, in terms of social development. Mr Nzimande also asked the Department to give clarity on the issue of registering day care centres for disabled children. Finally Mr Nzimande asked for an explanation into how the child registration system works.

Dr Mabetoa argued that the child headed household was a burning issue that had been around for a while. However in terms of the Children’s Bill, there had to be an adult appointed to look after the children. Therefore through that legislation the Department was able to provide care and services to the child headed households. In terms of day care centres for disabled children, Ms Mabetoa stated that the Childcare Act made provision for the registration, and for programmes for the places of care. This had to be done jointly by the Department of Education and Health.

Ms S Scholtz, Assistant Director: Child Protection Register, DSD stated the there were four provinces that would be on the national register. Currently the provinces captured their own data, which would later appear and be captured on the national database.


Mr Waters then asked for an elaboration into the appointments of data capturers with regard to the Child Protection Register, and how the Department planned to address the many issues that surrounded the functioning of the Register.


Ms Scholtz said that the four data capturing provinces were the Limpopo, Free State, Northern Cape, and Gauteng. However other departments were considering whether to use social workers as data capturers or employ new people. The data to be captured would range from recordal of types of abuse to court convictions.  Child headed households were not counted in accordance with the current legislation, but would be under the new system.

Adv T Masutha (ANC) said that there was a significant overlap between the childcare register provided by the Department of Social Development and that of the Department of Justice. He then asked if this overlap would be noted when considering amendment to the Children’s legislation.

Dr Mabetoa stated that the Department had had several meetings with the Department of Justice with regard to the register. Both Registers would be run,as they had slightly different emphases, so it was the task of the officials to try and establish a commonality between the two Registers.

Ms
Mcobo-Mbere stated that DSD had come to an agreement with the departments of Education and Health, in regard to educational and healthcare support and development for young children.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) stated that it was unacceptable that there was a shortage of social workers, and noted that some of the current social workers were unhelpful and uncooperative towards members of the public.

Dr Mabetoa stated that indeed there needed to be some serious training and thought to retaining social workers. However the department was looking at providing in-service training in regard to recruiting social workers, and retraining some of the current social workers. The Department was also looking at providing social worker supervision since many people were complaining about the services provided by the social workers.

The Chairperson then said that the Department should do something about the taverns that were built next to the schools.
Ms F Batyi (ID) argued that there was not enough done to force fathers to pay maintenance, and the Department should find a way of addressing this matter.

Ms Mabetoa stated that the current legislation did not include matters of maintenance. These were already covered by the Maintenance Act, and this should be taken up with the Department of Justice.

The presentation on Children Awaiting Trial was to stand over to a further meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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