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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
24 August 2004
OLDER PERSONS BILL: DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO NEGOTIATING MANDATES
Chairperson: Ms J Masilo (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Department response to proposed amendments from the provinces
North West Province negotiating mandate on Older Persons Bill [document awaited]
Eastern Cape negotiating mandate on Older Persons Bill
Cornerstone Economic Research: Scoping the Fiscal and Budgetary implications of the Older Person’s Bill
KwaZulu-Natal letter suggesting postponement of finalisation of Older Person’s Bill
Older Persons Bill (B68-2003)
Eastern Cape and North West Province presented their negotiating mandates. The Department gave a response to the concerns and amendments proposed by the seven provinces that had presented their negotiating mandates at the Committee meeting of 17 August.
Full costing of the Bill would be completed at best by the end of October. Hence it would not be possible to present the costing to Parliament on the suggested date of 14 September.
The Department noted that all the provinces had wanted an explanation for the absence of the Ombudsperson from the Bill. They undertook to advise the Human Rights Commission to provide this facility.
The Committee decided that convicted abusers of older persons should be ‘condemned for life’ and banned from working with older persons.
The Department felt that the differentiated old age status between that of men and women was fair. Women tended to be poorer than men. By and large they were primary care givers to their communities. The cost of balancing the differential would be extremely high, and too unrealistic for the Department to consider at this time
The Department promised to look further into the Bill addressing older persons in rural areas and disadvantaged communities.
The next meeting on the Bill will be 14 September.
The Department delegation consisted of Ms T Mahlangu, Director of Older Persons: Department of Social Development, Adv G Hoon, State Law Advisor, Adv P Du Preez, Legal Advisor to the Department, Ms L Peterson, Parliamentary Liaison Officer and Ms B Makani, Parliamentary Research Unit.
The Department presented a summary of the amendments proposed in the negotiating mandates that included the Department’s responses, where available. On many issues the Department was still deliberating or the Legal Team had not yet reached a conclusion.
Mr M Sulliman (ANC) asked if the Department was ready to present the Bill to Parliament.
Adv Du Preez indicated the futility of a clause-by-clause deliberation on the Bill in the absence of detailed cost implications. Only by the end of October would costing be finalised. To have the Bill ready by the 14 September, as requested by the Committee, was not possible. He asked for more time so that he could deal thoroughly with all the concerns raised in the negotiating mandates.
The Chairperson agreed that it would not be possible to have the Bill finalised by 14 September.
Mr L Govender, (KZN) suggested that the Committee would have to postpone finalisation until further notice, in order to carry out procedural requirements of Rule 188 of the Introduction of Bills to Parliament.
Mr Sulliman asked where the public register of abusers of older persons would be kept.
Adv Du Preez replied that this would be disclosed in the regulations. It was agreed that "condemnation for life" should apply to offenders.
Response by Department of Social Development to Negotiating Mandates on Older Persons Bill
Ms Mahlangu and Adv Du Preez announced the Department’s responses (see attached document). Four provinces are omitted from this report due to overlapping amendments with other provinces.
Response to Northern Cape
- The Bill contained substantive elements to cater for developmental care and programmes in residential facilities.
- Tax breaks for older persons were not within the mandate of the Bill. An indigent policy provided for certain discounts to older persons but not for tax breaks.
Response to Mpumalanga
The Department felt that the Bill did address older persons in rural areas. Ms Mahlangu referred to Clause 2 (1d) of the Bill. Contrary to Mpumalanga, they had believed too much emphasis had been placed on rural and not urban areas. She acknowledged that perhaps more streamlining of rural programmes was needed. Members were invited to make relevant suggestions.
Mr Sulliman proffered that there was a shortage of facilities in rural areas to implement programmes of the Bill. Perhaps by increasing facilities, the concern of Mpumalanga would be met.
Mr M Thetjeng (ANC Limpopo) noted that while the Bill provided for previously disadvantaged older persons, perhaps it needed to enforce a greater degree of deference to these groups.
Response to KwaZulu Natal
Adv Du Preez responded that in Clause 5 (1a), ‘facility’ excluded private homes and luncheon clubs. He said he would look closely at the definition recommended by KZN for ‘facility,’ as well as for ‘luncheon club’ and ‘abuse.’ He was not yet convinced for a solution to Point 2 (see document).
The Chairperson asked whether the ‘facility’ recently opened at Klipgat, North West Province, was defined as such by the Older Persons Bill. Ms Mahlangu replied that the Klipgat facility was a community-based care service available not specifically to Older Persons but to various members of the community.
The Department advised that to omit ‘may’ and insert ‘must’ in Clause 2(1a) was not realistic. It would impose an unwanted compulsory obligation on the Minister.
The Department agreed to clear up Clause 4(3) to make the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act compatible with it.
Ms Mahlangu said that syntax in the Bill was poor in places. This resulted in clauses being misunderstood. Clause 2(2b) aimed to grant older persons opportunity to participate in decisions that affected them. The wording would be clarified as requested. She agreed with Mr Thetjeng that in terms of economic opportunities, older persons would not fare in the open labour market but rather in informal markets.
Response to Western Cape
The Department was busy installing regulations for the right to carry out inspections and monitoring in old age homes.
Ms Lamoela (DA; Western Cape) replied that there was concern in her provincial department for older persons living on farms, who did not appear to be included in the Bill.
Ms Mahlangu said that theoretically the Bill incorporated all older persons in its programmes. There was no reason why farm residents should not have access to services. Perhaps by extending its coverage of rural areas, the Bill might do better service to farms.
Adv Du Preez noted that Cabinet had rejected the Ombudsperson from the first draft on the basis of exorbitant financial costs, and since then it had not appeared in the Bill. The original draft had suggested a national Ombudsperson supported by a deputy, and nine provincial Ombudspersons. Perhaps by drafting in only one Ombudsperson, the Department could get Cabinet approval.
Mr Sulliman asked why the Committee should labour to introduce something new to the near-final draft. He suggested that the role of Ombudsperson should be referred to the SA Human Rights Commission.
Adv Du Preez replied that each province had raised the issue one way or another, and he was certain civil society would do likewise. Therefore the matter should be seriously debated.
Mr Thetjeng felt that a channel for reporting abuse had not been adequately provided to older persons. The Committee should feel compelled to solving this.
The Chairperson asked whether the Public Protector was able to carry out the duties of an Ombudsperson.
Adv Du Preez replied that the Public Protector was ‘overburdened’ and would not be able to take on the role. The Department promised it would consult the Human Rights Commission on the matter.
Mr Govender remarked that if the Bill drafted an Ombudsperson, other Departments would do the same, for example to report abuse of women or children. The cost implications would be unmanageable for Government.
Ms Mahlangu raised the issue of the differentiated old age status for men and women, saying that the Department felt that this was fair. Statistically, women were poorer than men, and they contributed to their communities in ways that men did not. The cost of correcting the disparity was too high for the Department to consider.
Adv Hoon said that the situation should be looked at ‘holistically’. The impact of this legislation would balance out or be offset against the improved quality to life for female older persons.
Response to North West Province
Adv Du Preez explained that the Minister was only able to delegate duties to the MEC with the approval of the Premier.
The Chairperson said that the Indigent Policy covered all aspects of Point 3 (see document) in so far as it applied to all persons.
In response to Point 6 (see document), the Department was investigating the roles of social workers and their salaries based on the premise that these aspects were presently vague.
The meeting was adjourned, with a resolution to meet again on 14 September.
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