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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 February 2004
PROGRESS ON PREVENTION AND MANAGEMENT OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT, AND CHILDREN’S BILL: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr E Salojee (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Second Briefing Report on Progress Made With Regard to the Prevention and Management of Child Abuse and Neglect
The Department presented a summary of their progress on the prevention and management of child abuse and neglect. The Committee expressed that there was insufficient time to give the Children’s Bill enough attention before the election. No decision was made however, and the Chair undertook to consult and inform the Committee before a final decision.
The Chair welcomed Dr Ashley Theron, Dr Maria Mabetoa and Mrs Musa Ngcobo-Mbere. He congratulated Dr Theron on his appointment to UNICEF and thanked him for his hard work and dedication.
Dr Theron summarised the status of the Children’s Bill and draft family policy. No hearings for the Children’s Bill could be set until parliamentary procedures were in place. The entire Bill would be costed and training would take place at the end of 2004. Only provinces had been consulted on draft family policy. There was a need to consult with communities about the moral regeneration movement.
Dr E Jassat (ANC) asked whether the necessary legislation for the Child Protection Register was in place and whether it would list convicted paedophiles. He asked whether the Department had taken steps to ‘poach’ foreign social workers.
Ms N Tsheole (ANC) said that constituency work had revealed loopholes in policy. For example, the child support grant was not always being used for its intended purpose, especially in the case of HIV-positive children. Her experience was that the problem was encountered most often with younger mothers in rural areas. She asked whether rationalisation in the Department had impacted on training.
Mr A van Jaarsveld (NNP) asked which province had not undergone training on the child protection register (CPR). With regard to attracting and retaining social workers, he said that many students would like to enter the field but lacked funding. Social workers practising in their own communities were most valuable. He hoped that the Department would make use of the pool of volunteers, especially through existing structures such as Ward Committees.
Dr Theron said that the Children’s Bill made provision for the registration of offenders. The question of whether registration of offenders and victims should be managed by the Department of Justice or his Department was an open debate. There would be two registers and people could not be registered in two places. The Department employed some foreign social workers. The Council for South African Social Work Professionals looked at their qualifications. The Department could be more vigorous in pursuing them but those familiar with the local context were more useful. The Department needed to provide incentives for social workers not to leave the rural areas until three or four years after training.
He was aware of the problem of misuse of the child support grant by mothers who were themselves children and the Department would find a mechanism to prevent it. Better linkages between policy and legislation were needed. To this end, the protocols mentioned in the report had been accepted by provincial governments, but had not yet been submitted to the national department and ministers. Training was being conducted in all provinces, but at the time the report was compiled, the training of eight had been completed. He thanked Mr Van Jaarsveld for suggesting the use of ward Committees, which was a good idea.
Dr Mabetoa added that the Department was developing a convention with other countries to regulate the poaching of social workers.
The Chair said that social workers’ salaries was a problem, considering their excellent training. Bank and insurance companies often employed social work graduates to work in customer relations where the pay was better. Also, the NGO sector paid better than the Department.
Dr Mabetoa said that the
Rationalisation within the Department should impact on social science training at higher education institutions (HEIs). There was also a high rate of attrition because many students of other disciplines only took a first year social work course. Many social science students dropped out after field work in second year because they did not like the working conditions and when they became aware of the salaries. The Department was working on this problem with the HEIs and the social workers’ professional board. Community workers would be trained as parasocial workers.
Ms G Borman (DA) was surprised to hear the issue of abuse of the child support grant and young mothers raised so frequently. She had been under the impression that it did not happen very often. She asked whether social workers could be placed in schools to identify problems earlier. Did the Department have the capacity to implement policy, especially that enshrined in recent bills? Did the Taylor Committee report have any influence on the Department’s work?
Mr Saloojee asked how much the Department valued the services of NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) because there were many complaints about the inadequacy of Department funding. Regarding the child protection strategy, he asked whether there had been advances.
Ms Borman asked whether the policy on the family had been before the Committee prior to this meeting.
Dr Mabetoa said that the Department was currently costing the Children’s Bill. This exercise would be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2004, and if it was found that the Department did not have capacity to implement it, they would approach the Treasury. Human resource problems had arisen because policy was not costed in the past.
The Taylor Committee report had influenced the Department to separate its functions into social security services (which could be quantified), and welfare services (which could not). She hoped that this separation would lead to increased funding for welfare services.
The Department valued NGOs and CBOs very highly because the Department was otherwise sometimes invisible in communities. She hoped that Treasury would allocate more money to the Department so that their funding could be increased. Mr Theron added that administration of social security grants had moved from provincial departments to agencies, which provided opportunities for the Department to gain from the equity share formula. The White Paper on Welfare should be reviewed by the Department. While the Department valued the work of NGOs very highly overall, there were some that served only certain race groups. Therefore the Department should insist that they transform as well as fund them.
Dr Mabetoa announced a conference before the end of March, on moving from social assistance to development. She suggested the Department brief the Committee on family policy.
Mr Saloojee asked how child abuse was being dealt with within the family policy strategy.
Mrs Musa Ngcobo-Mbere said that the strategy emphasised wide consultation about integration with the departments of Health, Justice, Education, NGOs and the provinces. Dr Theron said that the child protection strategy should not be to gather statistics only, but to follow up with the nurse and doctor involvement etc.
Ms Tsheole asked whether the upcoming budget made provision for the policies to be implemented in October.
Ms Borman asked again about social workers in schools and about the increase in the incidence of child rape.
Dr Mabetoa said that, with respect to policies and budgeting, every year the Department submitted a zero-based budget to Treasury and every year got less than requested. In 2003 for instance, community-based care had been allocated less than 1% of the amount requested. The reason was that a quantified model had not been submitted along with the budget. This would always be done in future.
The Department had developed a child care manual with the aid of external funding. The expanded public works programme was carried out by the departments of Education and Health, the Department and early childhood development (ECD) practitioners and home visitors. Volunteers would be trained for a year and provided with a stipend. After a year, it was hoped that they would find other opportunities and more home visitors could be trained. This programme would be implemented from 1 April.
The placement of social workers in schools would be the responsibility of the Department of Education but Dr Mabetoa acknowledged that discussions had not been undertaken thus far.
Ms Borman commented that she feared intersectoral interventions would result in ‘passing the buck’.
Mr Theron said that there was good co-operation between departments, although children did sometimes ‘fall between two stools’. Teachers were now compelled to report cases.
Ms Borman asked whether the Department would investigate the increase in child rape. Dr Mabetoa said that family policy would raise awareness at community level, through neighbourhood watches etc. The Department worked on this problem with the Department of Justice and the police so that their services could be integrated. Dr Ngcobo-Mbere said that the expanded public works programme was comprehensive; and ECD workers would prevent children being left alone. Mr Theron was not sure whether there was an increase in child rape or an increase in reporting it. The value of the CPR would be influenced by under-reporting and there was still a need to break the silence around the issue. The media tended to report incidents more now, although they had also occurred in the past.
The Department capacity had been increased by the fact that there were now two chief directors, instead of one, and eight sub-directorates.
Members expressed concern that this Bill should not be passed without their being able to devote their full attention to it. They were constrained by the need to do constituency work before the elections. After the elections, a new Committee would be in place. The Bill was complicated because it had been split into section 75 and section 76, and there was a need to check that nothing had been left out from the original Bill. A further complication was that the Bill was intersectoral. Such an important Bill required that there be public hearings, which should be announced well in advance. The Chair shared these concerns and said he would consult with Parliamentary Officers, Deputy Speakers, Chief Whips and others on the question of the Committee being unable to pass the Bill before the elections. After this consultation, he would notify the Committee, and if there were agreement that the Committee would not deal with the Bill, a press release would be prepared.
The meeting was adjourned.
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