Children’s Bill: public hearings

Social Development

12 August 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

Social Development Portfolio Committee
13 August 2004
Children’s Bill: PUBLIC HEARINGS

Chairperson:
Ms J Tshivase (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Johannesburg Child Welfare Society

South Africa AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Media Monitoring Project
Molo Songololo
SACED and ELRU submission
Qhamani Educare submission
Commission on Gender Equality submission
Valley Development Project submission
Nonceba Meyiwa submission
Disabled Childrens Action Group submission
Disabled Children’s Action Group - Executive Summary
National Alliance for Street Children submission
National Association of Child Care Workers submission

Summary
Submissions were heard from a number of organisations. There was a consistent emphasis on the need for interdepartmental co-operation and repeated requests for the re-introduction of the National Policy Framework. It was also suggested that the Bill did not go far enough in addressing the specific needs of street children.

In the afternoon session, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society spoke of the reinstatement of foster care and kinship care provisions. Molo Songololo were concerned at the Bill’s provisions for child trafficking. Media Monitoring Project was keen for tighter media control guidelines. South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative was concerned at HIV research guidelines with respect to children. A member of the public spoke of the difficulties that surround surrogacy. The discussion clarified her position on the issues of child trafficking, surrogacy and the rights of the father.

 MINUTES
National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) submission

Mr D Nghonyama (Managing Director Tlangelani Community Projects Development Agency) commended the Department on much of the contents of Chapters 12 and 14. He particularly welcomed the requirement for all residential facilities to offer therapeutic programmes. He expressed concern over the excision of the provision for free state services to children in statutory care.

He commented on the definitional provision contained in Chapter 14 and recommended that the role of residential facilities be included in the provision. He expressed concern that funding for child and youth care centres was not fully articulated (s 193(1). The NACCW rejected the notion of subsidies and suggested they be replaced by a purchase of services approach.

He welcomed the provision for the establishment of centres by accredited organisations in section 196(1) but suggested that such an organisation be defined. He expressed concern over the non-definition of staff in section 208(1) and the fact that the Bill does not refer to the youth care worker category and does not define this category of social service professional in Chapter 1.

In relation to Chapter 15, he stated that it was inappropriate to admit other children to street children projects. The NACCW suggested that the Department be responsible for ensuring sufficient shelters drop-in centres and other services within each Province.

The clause dealing with reunification of street children with their families (238) had been removed from the August 12 version of the Bill and it needed to be re-inserted as a matter of urgency. He was concerned that the provisions for free health care and education for street children had been removed.

Discussion
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) said that child and youth care workers were now recognised and that a statutory regulatory body was to be put in place. She expressed concern over the academic training of social workers and suggested that it was not necessarily appropriate. Workers were sitting in offices and not working in the field. She asked how early interventions could be ensured.

Mr Nghonyama said that all residential facilities get training to equip their staff. Programmes were running that focused on early intervention and prevention but there was little financial assistance from the Department. He felt that both residential and non-residential facilities needed recognition. The training offered was an applied training, over six to twelve months. Social workers and nurses had attended some of these training programmes as well.

Ms H Weber (DA) asked how the NACCW saw the distinction between street children and other children in need of care.

Mr Nghonyama replied that facilities for street children should not be indicated in the Bill as facilities that would accommodate a different category of child.

South African Congress for Early Childhood Development (SACECD) and Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU) submission
Mr D Ntombela (CEO of SACECD) and Ms M Newman (Representative of ELRU) discussed the sections relevant to Early Childhood Development (ECD) in the section 75 Bill. They recommended that the National Policy Framework be reintroduced into the Bill. They suggested that the Child Rights Chapter (Chapter 3) be retained and that it should include provisions for all children to have the right to access ECD services.

They were concerned that the section defining the ambit of ECD excludes a vulnerable group of children requiring ECD services and all children aged seven and older.

Section 92 calls for a departmental strategy to secure a properly resourced, co-ordinated and managed ECD system. They recommended that this strategy be changed to an interdepartmental strategy to fall under the umbrella of the National Policy Framework.

Discussion
Mr B Solo commented that there was a gap in respect of childcare and that it was not properly organised. He asked if the ECD would like this in a more structured form in the Bill.

Mr Ntombela replied that they believed the Bill should be both enabling and developmental but that this was currently lacking. At present, facilities had to register with both the Department of Social Development and the Department of Education which was both time consuming and expensive. He felt that there was a need to cater for the realities of the areas concerned. He further suggested that the Bill should include a developmental grant for crèches.

Ms H Weber (DA) asked ELRU how they would like to see developmental institutions being supplied to them.

Mr Ntombela said that the problems in ECD are due to a lack of interdepartmental co-operation. The critical challenge arose after registration as a structure was needed so that issues were not divided. At present there was a division of responsibility. He further suggested that the registration fee be removed.

Ms Weber said that she had seen many church buildings and others not optimally used. She asked whether there should be a proposal to use such buildings.

Ms Newman agreed and said strategies were needed to turn all places into child friendly localities. Childhood development should not just be parcelled out to institutions. There was an excellent network of ECD NGOs but training was often overlooked and NGOs collapsed when funding was erratic. She suggested that audits be done on resources for children in any area. Programmes to strengthen families were also essential. She suggested that section 106(a) be reintroduced.

Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) submission
Ms S Williams (CGE Parliamentary Officer) said that her submission focused on the constitutional perspective of the Bill, virginity testing and female genital mutilation. Virginity testing of children without informed consent is an invasion of bodily and physical integrity and an invasion of privacy. Disclosure of a girl child’s virginity status without consent is an invasion of privacy. She contested that this goes against the right to privacy contained in the Constitution. Virginity testing also disproportionately affects women and girl children. The CGE supported the provision outlawing female genital mutilation and female circumcision.

Mr M Waters (DA) commented that Clause 12 provided for virginity testing by default but does give the child the right to refuse. He asked for the CGE position on the lack of equality for unmarried fathers (Section 21).

Ms Williams replied that the legal position was that the child could be subjected to virginity testing unless she expressly refused it. She queried what informed consent a child could realistically make. She said that the CGE was not commenting on the issue of unmarried fathers in relation to this Bill.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) agreed that it was difficult for children to refuse virginity testing. She asked what the CGE would like to see in the Bill in respect of circumcision.

Ms Williams replied that the CGE supported clause 12 subsections 3 and 4 prohibiting the circumcision of girls. They supported the clauses that allowed for the circumcision of boys because there was medical support for this.

Qhamani Educare submission
Ms N Manxiwa Nqeza (Principal, Qhamani Educare) emphasised the difficulty in registration particularly with the Department of Social Services. The Department of Health has also withdrawn food funding. She said that educators struggle with funding from the Department of Education. She said that there is a lack of facilities and a need for interdepartmental co-operation.

Discussion
Mr Waters expressed empathy with Qhamani’s funding problem. He said that this shows the need for the reinstatement of the National Policy Framework.

Ms Chalmers reiterated the call for the reinstatement of the National Policy Framework.

Ms Dudley asked Qhamani if they felt that the section on ECD was inadequate in the Bill?

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked whether Qhamani was registered with the Department of Education. She asked whether there were a lot of other facilities in the area as well.

Ms Manxiwa Nqeza replied that Qhamani had not been registered before opening but that she had applied after that. She had seen the need for the facility and had then done the registration. She said that there were other crèches but they also needed to register. There were a lot of children in the area.

Mr Solo asked whether, for the purpose of working together, she would like some provision for a community-based participation forum and whether she felt it would help.

Ms Manxiwa Nqeza replied in isi-Xhosa. She said that she would appreciate it if the Committee would let her organisation know of any developments in this regard, so that they could respond appropriately.

Valley Development Project submission
Ms L Lamb (Manager of Early Childhood Development Services) introduced the Valley Development Project and discussed the role of the NGO in ECD service delivery to unreached children. She said that support from the Department of Social Services is urgently required in terms of subsidies or grants to local NGOs, subsidies or grants to cover training and stipends for workers and to cover the cost of supplies and for food vouchers for nutritional food for young children.

Ms N Meyiwa submission
Ms N Meyiwa (parent of a disabled child) presented a case study of a boy with a psychiatric illness. Her submission highlighted the lack of an integrated approach and the need for suitable facilities for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. She also discussed the violation of children’s rights in terms of access to social security, health and education and the lack of protective mechanisms for vulnerable children.

Discussion
Mr Solo commented that there seems to be a fragmentation of services and felt that this should be addressed. The institutions did exist but that there was a need for proper monitoring. He felt that an integrated approach should be included in the Bill. He said that the issue of community involvement and participation occurred constantly and schools needed to be integrated into the operations of social services.

Disabled Children’s Action Group (DICAG) submission
Mr J Nkutha (Chairperson) said that the submission from DICAG was based on the Integrated National Disability Strategy and the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. Key concerns with the Children’s Bill included the lack of a National Policy Framework and a lack of specific strategies and provisions for children in especially difficult circumstances. DICAG recommended that the Objects of the Bill include children in especially difficult circumstances. He said that there is limited coverage of children’s rights in the Bill. There is also a need for a child protection system that is accessible and appropriate to children with disabilities and chronic illness. Specific concerns were raised in relation to protective measures relating to the health of children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. There was also a need for child and youth care centres to be accessible for these children.

Discussion
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC, Chair of Joint Monitoring Committee on
Children, Youth and Person with Disability) asked whether DICAG felt that the needs of children with disabilities were covered by the training offered through the Office of the State President. She asked whether the various action plans adequately covered the needs.

Mr Nkutha acknowledged the education and conscientising role of the OSDP but said it did not do enough for children. More resources were required.

National Alliance for Street Children (NASC) submission
Mr T Nzimande, accompanied by Mr L Sanabria, commented on various sections of the Section 75 Bill. They raised particular concerns over the interpretation of primary care-giver as defined in Clause 1. There was no clarity over who could give consent for medical treatment for street children under 12 years of age and the recommended that the Principal of a Shelter be included in the definition.

They suggested that the Objects of the Act be amended to include assisting families to care for and protect their children. They expressed concern that the Bill no longer contains a comprehensive list of the rights of children. Particular concern was expressed over the removal of the National Policy Framework. They also requested the inclusion of a provision for the payment of grants.

Discussion
Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) commented that the provision for grants had been removed because that process would be part of a different grant. She asked where the age limit of 12 years had been derived. She felt that a child was a child up to the age of 18.

Mr Sanabria responded that he was aware that grants had been removed from the Bill but that the NASC was not happy about this. He pointed out that street children were not mentioned in the Act. The age of twelve had been seen from other Health Department legislation to be the age up until which the consent of a primary care-giver was needed for medical treatment.

Ms Rajbally asked how street children were helped to access and register for child support grants. She also asked how NGOs were liasing with councillors and MPs.

Mr Sanabria said that street children could not get child support because they had no identity documents. The Department of Home Affairs would not issue these and documents were required from the hospitals, which only kept the records for ten years. Shelters did not qualify for grants either because the State would only fund programmes. He said that the NACW was trying to negotiate this. He said that the NGOs tried to liase because there was a need for intersectoral co-operation. He used the example of child labour to illustrate the current situation of conflict between national and provincial strategies.

Ms Tshivhase commented that the Departments of Social Development and Home Affairs were working together harmoniously and that more children were now receiving grants.

Afternoon session:
Johannesburg Child Welfare Society submission
Ms Loffel (Advocacy Co-ordinator, Johannesburg Child Welfare Society) briefed the members on her organisation’s position on the Children’s Bill. Important improvements to the foster care and kinship care dispensation as proposed by SALRC in their draft bill had been weakened in the tabled Bill. Some significant problems were identified with regard to domestic and inter-country adoption.

Molo Songololo submission
Ms D Mobilyn headed the Molo Songololo team that briefed members on her organisation’s submission on the Bill. They were concerned at the Bill’s coverage of child trafficking. They made several recommendations for inclusion into the Bill [See Document].

South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative Submission
Mr T Smit (SAAVI Community Procedures) spoke of the SAAVI’s concern regarding the provisions in the Bill for the protection of children participating in HIV vaccine research. An issue of concern regarding the “best interests of the child” standard was highlighted. Information on health care was highlighted as a further area of concern. [See Document]

Media Monitoring Project submission
Ms B Daya commented on the Bill. The Bill’s lack of protection of children from the media was highlighted. The Bill did not state the legal implications of the publication of information relating to children’s court proceedings which reveals the identity of the child.

Oral submission by Vivian (Member of Public)
Vivian, who spoke in her private capacity, highlighted the issue of surrogacy. She expressed pleasure that articles had been produced pertaining to egg donation. Egg donation was advertised at South African universities and vulnerable young women were encouraged to donate eggs. It was a beautiful thing to help another woman to have a child. However, an invasion of the reproductive system, taking dangerous hormones to make the woman more fertile could be dangerous. Foreign research had shown that women who donated in their young life were more susceptible to cancer. Surrogacy had become big business in South Africa. The hospital jurisdiction had no power over private clinics. The grey area in South African law allowed doctors to make profitable practices. It was wonderful to see the issue of surrogacy in the Children’s Bill. She highlighted concern at the future possibility of designer babies. If controls were not put in place then human life could become a commodity. She expressed concern at multiple births resulting from surrogacy, suggesting that it may be a human rights abuse. Women were not told of the consequences and dangers of receiving a large payment for this deed. There were only a small number of women who would carry triplets without the inducement of a substantial sum of money. Eastern European women were crossing into South Africa to offer their services to fertility clinics. Members should also look into human trafficking.

Discussion
The Chairperson said that Vivian had raised important issues but asked her how she wanted the issues legislated in the Bill.

Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) asked for clarity regarding child trafficking. There was an investigation underway into what piece of legislation was needed to make it a reality. With regards to adoption guidelines there was a contradiction when lawyers were paid. There needed to be law whereby if payment was made with regards to children - no matter whether it was to a lawyer or another individual - then it must be considered trafficking. She raised the issue over the presenter’s ideas regarding rape and no consent for adoption requirement for the rapist regarding the child needed to be legislated. She wanted to know whether this would have overriding consequences on other pieces of current legislation.

Ms Loffel (Johannesburg Child Welfare Society) said that the rights of the father must not intervene with the best interests of the child. Where the mother wants to free a child for adoption, the rapist should not have the power to intervene. The crucial decision must concern the well-being of the child. The rights of the father who takes responsibility must still remain. The current legislation sends the father back to the High Court when they were discriminated with regards to child access. The predicament lay where the father could not afford to go to court to try to keep regular access.

Vivian was pleased that the new Bill targeted surrogacy. Surrogacy could be beautiful but there could be worrying psychological repercussions for the mother and child. The current situation where different private adoption agencies could handle adoption should be changed so that there was one central adoption agency. It should not be a free-for-all. Another worrying aspect was when a living foetus was subjected to stem cell research. Fertility had become big business. The cloning of human beings could one day become a reality. Legislation was recently passed in England that allowed cloning under strict guidelines for medical purposes.

The meeting was adjourned.


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