Children’s Bill: Presidency and Department briefings

Social Development

07 September 2004
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
8 September 2004
CHILDREN’S BILL: Presidency AND DEPARTMENT BRIEFINGS

Acting Chairperson: Mr M Masutha (ANC)

Documents handed out
Office on the Rights of the Child in the Presidency presentation on the National Framework for C/R delivery
Department arguments for and against the inclusion of a National Policy Framework in the Children’s Bill
Directorate for Children’s Rights Advocacy: Report on Children’s Homes in South Africa, March 2003
Draft national policy and framework on child abuse, neglect and exploitation
Adoptions and inter-country adoptions
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (offsite link)

Summary
The Office on the Rights of the Child in the Presidency (ORC) presented their national framework for the advancement and co-ordination of children’s rights delivery in South Africa. It had become evident that there were a number of gaps in the old approach of the ORC and these were addressed in the revised framework. Inter-sectoral co-operation was essential in the interests of children.

The Department of Social Development presented the arguments for and against the inclusion of a National Policy Framework in the Children’s Bill. Inter-sectoral collaboration was again emphasised and information was given on current programmes reflecting inter-sectoral co-operation. Details were given on some of the social development services currently offered to children. The Committee expressed concern at the lack of social workers and the further burden the Bill would place on this resource. The issue of children in custody was raised again and there was agreement on the need for consultation on the issue.
 
MINUTES
Mr Masutha reminded the Committee that these would be the last two briefings on the Bill. The Department of Housing had been invited to present, but was unable to attend. The Committee would look at other ways to address the issue following on the Grootboom judgement. He welcomed the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Education, Professor S Mayatula.

Office on the Rights of the Child in the Presidency briefing
Ms M Rantlha (Director: Office on the Rights of the Child) said that there had been no children’s rights programme before 1994. Since then, international instruments, norms and standards had been adopted and adapted, and new imperatives had been formulated within the Constitutional mandate in 1996. The child rights framework was now under evaluation as part of the ten-year governance review. The Office on the Rights of the Child (ORC) had been established in 1998 after the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1995.

Structural tension between the ORC and National Plan of Action Steering Committee (NPASC) had been noted. The ORC drew its mandate from international instruments rather than the Constitution and this was limiting. At present, neither the NPASC nor ORC was able to provide substantive leadership in terms of child rights. There were three pillars of the current child rights framework: Government, Parliament and civil society. The ORC was the lead agency within Government with the NPASC. Within Parliament, work was done with the Joint Monitoring Committee and the Cabinet, while in civil society, there was only the National Children’s Rights Committee. Performance gaps had been identified, including the emphasis on welfare and protection owing to the limitation of children’s rights work to the social security, justice and crime prevention clusters. There was also limited civil society participation.

The basic principles guiding the restructuring process included the need for a high level system to drive children’s rights, the need for component parts to have clear boundaries and responsibilities, implementation of national priorities, the provision of substantive leadership and communication with Government. The Presidency was the highest office in terms of delivery and accountability, and there were ORCs in Premiers’ Offices or Provincial Departments of Social Development. Children’s rights needed to be focal points in local government as well. Within the parliamentary pillar, the ORC had to work very closely with parliamentary committees and the Joint Monitoring Committee. In civil society, the National Children’s Rights Committee was vital, and use would have to be made of other NGOs, for example in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme. Faith based programmes, academics and professional associations would also have to be taken on board.

The fourth pillar of the revised framework would be independent bodies such as the Constitutional Court, which was perceived as critical to children’s rights delivery, together with the other courts. The Public Service Commission, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Public Prosecutor were other bodies vital to the framework.

The key functions of the ORC were policy work, mainstreaming of children’s rights, advocacy in Government structures, delivery monitoring and evaluation, capacity building, policy work and performance co-ordination. The ORC was seen as central to the framework. Where information was needed, ORC should be in a position to give the full picture. Beneficiaries of the revised framework would be children, families, communities, all spheres of Government and all bodies involved in children’s rights. The children’s rights policy framework was progressing and should be completed by the end of 2004, concurrently with the children’s rights policy framework on delivery.

Discussion
Mr Masutha asked whether there was a clear distinction between the role of co-ordinating or performing monitoring and evaluation as opposed to co-ordinating the actual implementation of policy.  Was the ORC responsible for both roles, he asked? He understood that the Department of Social Development was the lead Department responsible for the implementation of the Child Care Act and the new Act was also centrally driven by the Department. It had been apparent from the public hearings that policy was fragmented and children were falling through the cracks. He felt that the Children’s Bill should pull this together. It was of concern that no policy framework was contained in the Bill. He asked whether the Committee should consider providing for the role of the ORC in legislation and asked on whom the statutory burden should be placed.

Ms Ranthla replied that the role of the ORC was mainstreaming, co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation. Delivery was the responsibility of the various Departments. The ORC would monitor the gaps around implementation.

Mr Masutha commented that there had been debate on whether to reinstate rights into the Bill. He asked whether more expression should be given to rights. Was the purpose of the Bill to establish a new set of rights or did children have rights that needed expression. In other words, was the purpose to recreate rights or to give effect to existing rights, he asked?

Ms Ranthla replied that the Constitutional mandate should be a priority. Those rights already capture the sentiments of the ORC. She suggested a policy framework for children’s rights should make it possible to reinforce delivery on the Constitutional mandate, especially in terms of Section 28.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked about the management and key functions of the ORC. She asked how they monitored delivery and evaluated capacity building.

Ms Chalmers referred to the UN CRC and asked whether South Africa had submitted a second report and whether this was a function of the ORC.

Mr Masutha pointed out that South Africa had certain obligations with regard to the implementation of the CRC and asked who performed the evaluations, how they were co-ordinated, and how South Africa was doing.

Ms Ranthla replied that the CRC had been ratified in 1995. The first report had been submitted in 1999 and was due again this year. The process was nearing completion. The ORC was co-ordinating information gathering for the report and Departments were very active in providing delivery information. The ORC would take the report to the National Forum, then through the structures in the Presidency and Cabinet before submitting it to the United Nations.

Ms Chalmers pointed out that it would be valuable for the Committee to have more interaction with the ORC.

Ms Ranthla agreed and said that this had been identified as a gap. There was a better chance of delivery if parties acted in synergy.

Ms Chalmers asked how the policy framework fitted in with current legislation. Had there been interaction between the ORC and civil society and NGOs on the policy framework, she asked?

Ms Ranthla replied that the task team had not yet gone to the broader civil society or to MPs and their constituencies. ORC acknowledged the value and leadership from civil society on various development issues.

Mr Masutha said that one issue raised by NGOs had been that the lack of provision for the NPF would result in an inability to compel inter-sectoral co-operation. Parliament was assisting with a holistic approach to children, and roles could be defined to created legal and statutory obligations. He asked whether the ORC was ready to be cited in legislation as a specific role player.

Ms Ranthla replied that the ORC believed that the policy framework should create what the country needed to locate all children’s rights delivery initiatives. ORC was probably not ready to have it included in the Bill as it was not yet a complete tool.

Mr Masutha commented that the Bill was split at present. He wondered whether Departments would be ready when the Section 76 Bill was considered.

Mr M Waters (DA) asked what capacity the ORC had. He was concerned that it would not have sufficient capacity at national and provincial level. He had not seen oversight from the Office. He used the example of the sexual offences courts and said that they did not comply with provisions and there had been no intervention by the ORC. He asked for practical examples of what the ORC was doing.

Ms Ranthla replied that this was true. Like many institutions working in the development field, the ORC had struggled to find its way. The governance review had led to a new framework and functions had been clarified. She believed that a different picture would emerge in the second decade of democracy. The ORC did not need to be a huge structure, but systems needed to be in place, and these were in progress. The ORC had a Director, Deputy Director and three administrative support staff but worked very closely with other units in the Presidency.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) asked where the ORC fitted in with local government and said he was not aware of its role.

Ms Ranthla replied that not much had been achieved in terms of children’s rights as a focal point in local government. The focal points were currently at national and provincial level. ORC was pushing for focal points in local government.

Mr Masutha said that he did not get a sense of a comprehensive framework of data. He asked whether the ORC had data on, for example, the number of foster care placements, the number of children receiving services, and how many had been missed. He asked how the monitoring was done and whether there was any interaction with Statistics SA to collect data.

Ms Ranthla replied that preliminary discussions had been held with Statistics SA to benchmark data. Such a database was not currently available, and she acknowledged that this was a weakness.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC) said that he hoped the ORC was “not just waking up now”. He would like to be assured of timeframes and deadlines since everything seemed to be in the future. He asked whether the framework was setting standards in terms of service delivery especially as gaps had been acknowledged.

Mr Dikgacwi asked whether timeframes could be built in with all the shortcomings and when this would be done and by whom. There were major problems at local government level. It was crucial to have interaction with local government committees.

Ms Ranthla said that the ORC had set the end of November 2004 as the time by which the two processes should be complete. She agreed that work needed to be accelerated and that there were shortcomings at local government level.

Ms Chalmers said that the SALRC had set out a huge range of guidelines to the NPF in the original document for the Bill. She asked whether there were any major points of difference between the NPF and the ORC policy framework.

Ms W Direko (ANC) commented that she was shocked to hear that the ORC had existed for ten years and was only now waking up. She said it was a wake-up call for the Committee to call the ORC more regularly. She asked where the ORC got information if they were not interacting with civil society and other structures.

Ms Ranthla said that this was not an accurate impression. The presentation had focused on the broader national policy and institutions. In looking at the way forward, they had seen that the kind of work they had been doing had slowed them down.

Ms C Theron (Deputy Director: ORC) said that the NPASC had been discussing issues related to children since 1996. There were Children’s Desks in five of the Premiers’ Offices. The ORC co-ordinated all national Children’s Weeks, and held up to thirty workshops per province to make children aware of their rights.

Mr Masutha asked what was done with the information collated at workshops.

Mr Dikgacwi asked which provinces had ORCs.

Ms Theron replied that there were Children’s Desks in the Premiers’ Offices in the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The ORC also served on various national committees, attended and presented reports on children to the UNCRC, was part of the development of strategies for children, produced the biannual State of the Nation children’s report, had a data collection task team, had negotiated the Child Rights Media Code agreement with journalists and was regularly called to the Joint Monitoring Committee to report on progress. She agreed that the local government plan of action had not been as successful as had been hoped.

Prof S Mayatula (ANC) asked whether there was anything that MPs could do when they went back to their constituencies to meet with traditional leaders and ministers.

Mr M Ngema (IFP) expressed concern that the ORC had mentioned Contralesa but that this was just a part of the National Coalition of Traditional Leaders. Some traditional leaders would be omitted if only Contralesa was targeted.

Ms Ranthla agreed that there needed to be a broader base than Contralesa. Traditional leaders were a good place to start with training on children’s rights and were duty bearers at local level.

Mr Masutha said that Departments should be warned that unless they engaged at strategic level, they would have no excuse if they were given an enforceable statutory obligation. He was concerned at the unevenness of the presentations. The Committee was planning provincial visits so they would be able to see what was actually happening.

Ms Chalmers asked for a document setting out the ORC programmes.

Mr Masutha asked for guidelines on the way forward.

Mr Dikgacwi said that more detailed information was needed so that the Committee could check it on their provincial visits. He also served on the Portfolio Committee on Sports and Recreation and they had discovered an instance of a stadium that did not exist, although it had been paid for.

Mr Masutha said that it would be nice to have the latest reports from the ORC.

Prof Mayatula reminded the Committee that the ORC were guests at the Committee and that they tabled their reports at the Joint Monitoring Committee.

Department briefing
Dr M Mabetoa (Chief Director: Children) said that the statistics given were not up to date, as there was currently a Departmental audit taking place. The draft Children’s Bill prepared by the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) had provided for a National Policy Framework (NPF). The NPF had been removed from the Bill and there had been many requests for the Committee to re-insert the NPF.

The NPF had been removed for a number of reasons. It set a legislative precedent and provision had already been made in the Public Finance Management Act for Departments to have a strategic plan that, in the case of the Department of Social Development and a number of other Departments, included services to children. Section 85(2)(b) of the Constitution placed an obligation on members to development and implement national policies in any case. It was also felt that the consultative process required for the NPF would retard the finalisation and implementation of the Bill, and review of the framework would imply continuous amendments to the Act once the Bill had been approved. There was a serious concern that service delivery to children would be retarded.

A variety of arguments had been put forward for the reinsertion of the NPF. If provision had been made in the Bill, the NPF could be implemented progressively. The Children’s Bill was a comprehensive and complex piece of legislation involving many structures and cohesion was required to implement the full provisions of the legislation. The Constitutional imperative did not include NGOs and others providing the bulk of services to children in the field of social development. Relationships between role players had to be formalised to safeguard children. It was argued that the NPF would enhance a development approach to the care and protection of children rather than promoting a residual welfare approach. Duplication of services and resource provision would be avoided with scarce resources more profitably directed. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child had also expressed concern about the lack of inter-ministerial co-ordination.

Existing inter-sectoral collaborative strategies include the Framework for the National Programme of Action for Children in South Africa, the draft national policy and framework on child abuse, neglect and exploitation, the draft integrated strategy on ECD currently awaiting Cabinet approval, and the National Integrated Plan for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS as approved in 2000.

The draft national policy and framework on child abuse, neglect and exploitation was currently in its initial implementation phase. It would enable government and civil society to work together in protecting children against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation through the development of an accessible, integrated, co-ordinated multidisciplinary and inter-sectoral approach. Its objectives included a common vision and framework for all role-players inside and outside of Government, with a view to ensuring an effective and holistic service delivery system.

There was a general consensus on the urgent need for a mechanism for inter-sectoral collaboration. Gaps in respect of integrated service delivery impacted negatively on children and these needed to be pulled together under one mechanism. The NPF was imperative whether legislated or not. The Department recommended that the Committee consider the arguments for and against the inclusion of the NPF in the Bill and suggested that the existing policy framework on child abuse and neglect be broadened to include integrated strategies on securing provision of prevention and early intervention services, children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, child and youth care centres, children in especially difficult circumstances and an integrated strategy on ECD. Monitoring responsibilities should remain with the NPASC and the ORC.

Existing services delivered by the Department include services to abused and neglected children, the establishment of the Child Protection Register in 2003, administration of national and inter-country adoption services, international social services, programmes to protect and promote the well being of children especially those in difficult circumstances, alternative care, early childhood education, the promotion of children’s rights, capacity building and monitoring and evaluation. Details were given on foster care placements and grants, and the backlog was ascribed to the shortage of social workers and magistrates. The Department had asked the provinces to do an audit of children awaiting foster care. Comparative tables of adoptions according to provinces and organisations from 2000 to 2003 were given, with inter-country adoption placements per province and organisation as well. Details were also given of the existing international social services load, and the numbers of drop-in centres per province, although this list did not include those founded by NGOs. The norm for social workers in South Africa was 1:5 000, which was higher than international norms, and the posts still fell short of this. Details of registered children’s homes per province also reflected provincial inequity. Budgets and spending on ECD per province were also shown.

The Department was waiting for the initial rapid appraisal report on the audit of all services by the end of October. The date of implementation of remuneration packages of social workers and a retention strategy was still to be determined. Tenders had been invited for the costing of the Children’s Bill and this should commence at the beginning of October 2004.

Discussion
Mr Masutha said that the issue of a welfare service model was very important. This would also be discussed at the strategic planning weekend.

Ms Direko said that the Department had identified discrepancies that had caused concern. She warned that funding needed to be commensurate with the good that provinces were doing. Poor provinces should not be expected to come up with money that they did not have. The funding problems around the child support grant were a case in point.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the service delivery model was being developed with the provinces. Treasury would also ensure that a higher percentage of funds were allocated to the provinces rather than nationally. Allocation of funds should be made by the next financial year.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) expressed concern about adoptions. She asked what the national waiting lists were for adoptions and the requests for inter-country adoptions. Who was given priority, she asked?

Ms C Dudley (ADCP) asked why adoption numbers had dropped since 2000 and asked if the foster care grant was a contributing factor. What could MPs do about the situation, she asked?

Dr Mabetoa replied that little work had been done to attract families at national level. In the next month, the Department would employ a Deputy Director specifically for adoptions to ensure that placement was sought within the country before children left the country. Some people confused foster care and adoption and it was hoped that this would change. There would be more control in inter-country adoptions. At present, the Department only received information at the end of the adoption process.

Ms Rajbally felt that 5 000 persons per social worker was too high and asked how it was possible.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the 1:5 000 ratio was a reality in South Africa at present. A campaign was needed to attract young people to the profession. This was addressed by the retention strategy and paid internships. The Department had started training young people at a community level to become child and youth care workers, and these people were paraprofessionals, receiving a stipend. These workers might help to close the gap. A social worker might be used to deal with broader issues while the community workers dealt with implementation. The Department was also encouraging community-based approaches.

Ms Rajbally asked why there were not more children’s homes in the under-serviced provinces.

Dr Mabetoa agreed that there were fewer homes in the rural provinces.

Mr Masutha asked why there were fewer services generally in the rural provinces.

Dr Mabetoa cited the country’s political history. In the past, the homelands had not been serviced at all, and there had been no NGOs operational there. It had taken a lot of work just to get the fragmented services together. The financing policy should help. The report did not recognise smaller community services either.

Ms Rajbally asked whether the Department was now giving priority to those areas.

Ms H Webber (DA) asked for a more expanded view on what the Department of Public Works was doing on ECD.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the Departments of Social Development, Education and Health were responsible for the social sector elements of the Expanded Public Works Programme. The Department wanted to ensure a higher number of people in ECD and community based care. Conditional grants would be issued if necessary. This was a Presidential initiative giving people incentives and skills. The Department was a custodian.

Ms F Batyi (ID) said she had seen a newspaper report on prisons that were overcrowded with children. This was a violation of their rights. What was the Department doing about the problem, she asked?

Dr Mabetoa said that the Department was concerned about the problem and was meeting with the Department of Justice to remove the gaps. Provincial structures were not working as they should and a rigorous process was needed to ensure that children were not sitting in prison. The Child Justice Bill was still with the Portfolio Committee on Justice.

Mr Masutha interjected that the Committees needed to confer on the Child Justice Bill.

Dr Mabetoa pointed out that probation officers were often not aware that children were in prison. This needed to be a special project.

Ms S Chikunga (ANC) referred to the argument that the NPF had been removed because the consultative process would retard the Bill and said she felt a lot of the work had already been done. She agreed that the practical implications had to be thought out but disagreed that this would take a long time. It should be a priority to work it through and have a finalised Bill.

Mr Waters asked who the Department envisaged as being responsible for implementing the Bill. He pointed out that the ORC did not have the capacity. Existing policies for children were not being implemented. Whoever was in charge of the NPF had to have teeth, he argued.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the Department was the lead Department in the Bill and would be responsible. If the NPF was reinstated in the Bill, the Department would take responsibility for it.

Mr Waters said that there was over 70% understaffing of social workers and minimal improvement had been forecast. The Children’s Bill and the Child Justice Bill relied heavily on social workers and he asked what policies were in place to attract more people to the profession.

Mr Masutha said that data capturing was still not comprehensive. He asked whether the Department was involved in a process with Statistics SA and what timeframes were envisaged.

Dr Mabetoa replied that the Department had an information management directorate but was still developing a system with the provinces. This was a time consuming process but should be operational within the next few months. The Department was also part of the steering committee in the ORC and was working with them in respect of data collection and statistics.

Mr Masutha asked whether the Department was doing enough to promote adoption and whether it should be subsidised. He accepted that the idea was to discourage all financial incentives.

Ms Direko said it was her experience that police officers picked up juveniles and they were then forgotten in the system. Serious consideration should be given to working with the Departments of Correctional Services and Safety and Security on this issue. Children needed expert assistance.

Ms Direko said that she was in favour of community involvement and teaching the youth responsibility but was concerned about volunteers outnumbering social workers. She expressed support for incentives like improved salaries and bursaries. Salaries were of great concern as social workers’ take-home pay was negligible.

Mr Masutha said that the Committee would have to focus on HR capacity at some time in terms of volunteers, training and uncosted services. This would drive the level at which the Treasury would fund welfare services.

Mr Ngema referred to children in conflict with the law and said that in the Eastern Cape, children in reform schools were not being educated. He agreed that it was important to develop assistants to complement the work of social workers but said it was also necessary to have social development officers who could relieve social workers of some of the administrative burden.

Dr Mabetoa noted all of the comments, especially the need for co-operation between Departments regarding children in custody. The Department would also consider the need to balance social workers and the paraprofessionals. She was surprised at the comment on the reform schools in the Eastern Cape as these were the responsibility of the Department of Education. The Department of Social Development was only involved when there was a need for counselling and re-integration or rehabilitation. The Department of Correctional Services had a draft memorandum of agreement on the management of these services.

Mr Masutha said that some gaps had become clear and a number of issues had arisen. There were also a number of legal and policy issues that might require further consideration and feedback from both the State Law Advisor and the SALRC. The Committee would work on a draft communique.

The meeting was adjourned.


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