Department of Social Development Annual Report 2008/09 Briefing

NCOP Health and Social Services

16 November 2009
Chairperson: Ms R N Rasmeni (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

This meeting was a continuation of the previous week’s briefing, which was postponed since the Deputy Minister could not attend to answer policy questions, and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) had also not been present to answer questions about its operations. Once again, SASSA had not been invited, and so, although the Department of Social Development could attend to some policy issues, a number of the questions would have to stand over to be answered by SASSA directly. The Deputy Minister suggested that the Committee should engage with the agencies, and the Ministry would also attend.

A number of questions were posed by Members as a follow up. Members focused on the problems around adoption and fostering, pointing out that although in the rural communities there tended not to be formal adoption, the Department was encouraging that this happen, in order that the children could inherit, and so that there was better protection. The Children’s Act would streamline this process. The Department was interfacing with community and religious organisations on the issue. Another substantive issue was the system of payouts, with concerns being expressed over long queues at paypoints, few facilities for the frail and elderly, the fact that not all paypoints had ablution facilities or were safe or had seats. Members questioned the pressures on the Department in terms of the grants, particularly the social relief of distress grants, and the need for the Department to balance its priorities carefully. They questioned under spending and the Department explained the difference between the underspending in some areas and the savings in others, occasioned by grants no longer needing to be paid, and therefore being stopped after monitoring. The Members also questioned and were advised about the training of Assistant Probation Officers and Social Auxiliary Workers, both of which were scarce skills. The anti-poverty strategy was also explained, in consultation with Civil Society organisations and other social partners. The largest poverty alleviation measure currently was the social assistance programme, which commanded R76 billion. Community based initiatives should not be looked at in isolation from that poverty alleviation, and the Department explained that having tried to use food parcel initiatives, it had now reverted to using cash transfers and vouchers.

Other questions addressed the targets, the Social Development Information Management System, and pilot projects on disabilities, the statistics for abuse of the elderly, and the different forms of alternative care for children. Questions were also raised on the criteria for the old age grant, the Department’s plans for recruitment and retention of staff, what steps had been taken to discipline those who had not included the correct information in the documents, and how this was being addressed now, the lack of standardisation, why task teams were still being used, and clarification of the systems and the capacity of officials to do the work. Members asked what lessons could be learned from the pilot programme, conducted by the Department, in six correctional services facilities, for children awaiting trial, how far implementation of protocols and guidelines for foster care had reached, whether the expected results were obtained from the probation officer training, and when the care dependency grant implementation plan would be finalised by the Department. They also questioned if any priority programmes been identified previously by the Department for poverty eradication, the youth programmes, and the Early Childhood Development programmes, asked what challenges the Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals had, and asked for an explanation as to whether SASSA was accountable to the Department. Members also asked about the costing and implementation of the Children’s Act. Written responses would be sent to any questions not answered in the meeting.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development Annual Report 2008/09: Continuation of presentation
The Chairperson welcomed the Department of Social Development and the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini. She noted that the Committee had taken a briefing from the Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) the previous week.

The  Deputy Minister apologised to the Committee for her inability to be present at the meeting the previous week and assured the Committee that this would not happen again.

The Chairperson noted that a written apology had been received from her office. The Committee was looking forward to working with her.

Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General, Department of Social Development, explained that the Department of Social Development had two agencies associated with it, the National Development Agency and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), both of which were established in terms of Schedule 3(a) of the PFMA. Those agencies had their own accounting officers, programmes and Annual Reports, based on their own plans, over which DSD exercised oversight.

He noted that several questions posed related specifically to SASSA, which should be able to interact with the Committee on its own accord to deal with questions relating to the capacity of staff, the percentage of data verified by SASSA, the filling of critical posts, and so on.

DSD as a national Department remained responsible for policy, but the day-to-day administration remained with SASSA. Several questions posed did not relate directly to matters of policy insofar as SASSA was concerned but to the administration. DSD would be able to field questions on social security insofar as they dealt with matters of policy.

Discussion on matters arising from previous presentation
Mr M de Villiers (DA, Western Cape), asked a question about South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), whether the data was verified, in relation to the 70% of priority grants on Child Support Grant (CSG)and Old Age Grants (OAG).

Mr de Villiers also asked why the Improved Grants Application Process (IGAP) was rolled out in one region instead of four.

Mr de Villiers also asked why there was no reporting by SASSA on the implementation of a registry module or the workflow for grant administration, and development of a record management solution for bulk scanning.

The Department responded that it would be best to speak with SASSA directly in terms of the verification of data and the reasons for the rollout in only one province.

Mr T Mashamaite (ANC, Limpopo) referred to the Social Development Information Management System. It had been reported in the Annual Report that the Department, under Stakeholder Management and Donor Coordination, met with various donors such as National Treasury, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, but had deviated from the targets of impact analysis of officials and other targeted assistance by 90%. He asked the Department to explain how and why it deviated from that target.

Mr Mashamaite noted that seven provinces were implementing the Social Development Information Management system by the end of the financial year. He asked for the names of those provinces, and what information had been rolled out in the other two provinces, as also what the Department was doing to ensure that all provinces had the system in place.

The Department responded that the Social Development Information Management System (SDIMS), was rolled out in seven provinces, excluding North West and Gauteng. Provinces had the right to make the choice whether to roll this out.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked in which provinces the implementation strategy for the policy on disabilities had been piloted, and how did the Department had chosen the pilot site.

Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, DSD, responded on the implementation of minimum standards and policies on residential facilities for people with disability that was piloted in the Eastern Cape. The pilot was finalised in the Eastern Cape and evaluated, and  in this financial year full implementation was taking place in all provinces. The reasons for choosing the Eastern Cape was that it had shown willing to be the pilot, when all provinces were consulted.

Ms Rantho asked how far the Department had proceeded on compiling statistics on, or registering the abuse of elders.

Dr Mabetoa said that statistics to populate the register on elder abuse had been received from four provinces, Limpopo, Western Cape, KZN and Free State, and other provinces intended to send their statistics before the end of this month. This financial year the framework for the collection of statistics had been developed, people had been trained and statistics were flowing in. Statistics would also come from Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ) and other relevant departments.

Ms Rantho also asked how many children were benefiting from alternative care, and how was that form of care rolled out in the different provinces.

Dr Mabetoa informed her that there  were 614 931 children in alternative care, of which 537 785 were in foster care. 60 731 children were in adoption care and 13 885 children were in residential care. She added that alternative care was a statutory service provided to all children in accordance with the Child Care Act of 1993. The services were provided to children who were found to be in need of care and protection through the courts. Once a finding to this effect was made, the social worker concerned had to find alternative care for that child if the court order had so requested. 80% of children in foster care were orphans, and were being looked after by their relatives. The guidelines on foster care were drafted last year and were being finalised through consultation with the provinces. When the Children's Act came into operation in April next year the guidelines would be operational.

Mr S Plaatjie (COPE, North West) asked what were the qualifying criteria on the old age grant, as he had heard that two women of 68 and 70 years old did not qualify on the basis of their spouses' income.

The Department responded that, apart from the normal administrative documentary requirements, the criteria for a grant to be given were the age, the income and the assets of the applicant. If the income of a single person exceeded R2 400 per month, or R29 112 per annum, that person would not qualify for the benefit. In the case where the applicant was married, the income was considered to be joint income, and the income means test threshold for a couple was R58 224 per annum, or R4 852 per month. If an individual applying for the grant owned property then the value of that asset was also taken into account.

Mr Plaatjie asked what the 356 posts filled “additional to establishment” referred to. He asked if these people were contract-based employees, and at what level they were categorised.

Mr Plaatjie asked how SASSA aimed to fast track recruitment for critical posts.

Mr Plaatjie asked what SASSA planned to retain critical skills or employees.

Ms M Makgale (ANC, North West) asked when the Integrated Foster Care Management framework would be piloted, and in which areas this would take place.

Ms Makgale asked the reasons for overspending on social relief of distress.

The Department responded that government set up a task team to deal with social relief of distress when there was an escalation of food prices. At the beginning of the financial year there were already indications that, given the rising cost of basic foodstuffs, government would have to intervene. In addition to the R134 million budgeted, an additional R500 million was allocated in October. Many South Africans, who did not qualify for the basic social grants, became aware of the social relief of distress provisions, and decided to make application for this as a way of boosting their income. This led to an increase in the number of applications, so that the additional budget was not sufficient, and resulted in overspending. Given the higher levels of unemployment and poverty, if were there more moneys given for social relief of distress, they would always be depleted before each financial year end.

Ms Makgale noted that some of the requirements for the SASSA pay points had been set out, including toilets and the need to be conducive to waiting.  She asked what the monitoring mechanism was, because in Klerksdorp it was frustrating to see long queues in town, where it was questionable that people in those queues were safe, and there were no toilets.

Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) referred to Programme 4: Communication and Marketing. She asked what time frame did SASSA have in mind for developing and implementing the Stakeholder Management Strategy, and what prevented SASSA from achieving that target previously. She also asked whether anything had been developed to prevent non-delivery in the new financial year.

Ms Moshodi asked, in relation to Programme 5: Corporate Services, why SASSA failed to develop and implement a chain management strategy.

Ms Moshodi also asked why only 16.5%, instead of 40% of district and local office facilities, were produced.

Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) referred to Programme 3: Adoption. The problem of Aids orphans in the country was growing. Often older grandparents, uncles and aunts took care of the children, but when they passed on there was no one to look after those children. An alternative solution would be to look at adoption. He asked whether the Department had anything in place to make the adoption process shorter and easier, as also to make it affordable for people to adopt.

The Department responded that it was aware that children who were fostered by grandparents, were often precluded from claiming from grandparents’ estates when they died. A strategy to promote adoption in South Africa was developed and was taken to the Heads of Social Development Forum for approval before implementation. There were cultural barriers. DSD would hold community dialogue with various communities about adoption, highlighting the barriers. Under the Children’s Act the surname of an adopted child did not have to be changed, and this Act also sought to shorten the process. Currently, under the Child Care Act, the provinces were not fully involved in adoption. However, when the Children's Act was implemented they would be more involved. DSD intended to train as many social workers as possible in dealing with adoption. There was also a media drive to interface with as many organisations as possible, including churches, in popularising adoption in South Africa. Prior to embarking on that, DSD would need a database of all adoptable children, to match them with prospective adoptive parents.

Mr Vusi Madonsela added that the Children's Act made it easier for people without means to adopt, as distinct from the previous person where a prospective adoptive parent was required to demonstrate financial means. Now even poor people, and those in the rural areas, would be in a position to adopt. The call for the processes to be shortened should be counter balanced by the need to be guided always by what was in the best interests of the child. Certain processes needed to be undertaken and social workers must ensure that the court, upon granting adoption, was satisfied that it was in the best interests of that child to be placed with the new adoptive parent.

He noted that the expression “Aids Orphans” was used to describe children whose parents may have died as a result of AIDS, but that labelling was not encouraged, as children could be orphaned through any cause.

Mr Faber said when he used the term “Aids Orphans” it was not intended to be degrading, but the reality was that most children were orphaned through Aids. He however agreed that people should not be labelled.

Mr Faber said that the Auditor-General had indicated that food vouchers and aid purchases that were supposed to be distributed, were not. He asked what system the Department was putting in place to address this. He was concerned about the amount of fraud and corruption taking place, specifically regarding food vouchers and grants.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if there was any strategy to shorten the long queues. One elderly lady had died in a queue in one of the provinces. There was nowhere for people to sit while waiting at pay points and at the banks, and she wondered if the DSD could arrange seating for the elderly at these places.

The Department responded that one of the most challenging areas was the number of people living in rural areas, without access to the formal financial system. The Department was looking at a more optimal payment system. One step that could be implemented in the short term was to stagger the payments and the dates on which people were required to visit the banks. SASSA had deliberately moved people to Post Offices and banks, to try to address the queue problems at paypoints. DSD was also in discussion with the banks, through SASSA, also to make special provisions for the elderly and disabled. The more payment systems were rolled out, the more the number of beneficiaries grew.

Ms Rantho asked what had been the results of the various poverty alleviation programmes conducted in poor communities in South Africa. She asked if the Department had any plans to increase the number of beneficiaries, and, if so, how this would be done.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) supported the formalised adoption of children. If parents died, under the ubuntu system, family members would often take in those children, but there was not a culture of adopting relatives, with the result that these children would be precluded from inheritance. 

Mr Mashamaite referred to Programme 2: Comprehensive Social Security. He asked the Deputy Minister to address the point made by the Auditor-General about officials who failed to ensure that documentation critical for the application of the grants was not complete, and asked what steps were taken.

The Department noted that this comment had referred to incomplete information provided in documents. A distinction had to be made between what was meant by a system of Comprehensive Social Security and the comprehensiveness of the administration. DSD accepted that at present the administration did leave much to be desired. That was the reason why the IGAP system was rolled out by SASSA. Here, the information notation was automated. Officials would not be able to fully process a document unless all information was provided. Only one pilot project on this system had been done, but it looked promising and proved that an application could be processed within forty-five minutes. However, DSD cautioned that additional personnel capacity would be required.

The Department added that there were three pillars to the Comprehensive Social Security System. The first was that all those who were poor should receive social assistance if they were unemployed and vulnerable. The second pillar was that those who were employed should contribute to social insurance, so that if for any reason they became poor they should be able to draw on their savings. The third pillar was to encourage saving for contingencies by all people.

Mr Mashamaite said that because there were varying standards of competency of officials and systems across the provinces, distribution of relief aid was not performed in a standardised or consistent manner. He said that an official found not to be doing his or her work properly should be disciplined.

The Department responded that the Office of the Auditor General had done an intensive investigation and made several recommendations. One involved standardisation. The current lack of standardisation had arisen, in part, from the history of certain provinces always relying on food parcels or cash. A decision had now been taken not to resort to this as much. Other than creating problems of storage and inefficiency, people tended to sell their food parcels for cash. Because of the current system of payment through payment contractors, it was also costly to deliver two or three months of payments. DSD and SASSA had taken a decision to focus on vouchers for this year, but vouchers also presented problems. A study would be done into a better way of dealing with social relief of distress.

Mr Mashamaite was surprised to see that a strategic task team on the social assistance grant debtors had been formed. After fifteen years, he was not expecting to see task teams still being formed. He asked for clarification on the systems and the capacity of officials to do the work.

The Department agreed that decisions could be taken more quickly by individuals than by task teams and committees, but task teams ensured better buy in, and facilitated better implementation. Comprehensive Social Security ran across five government departments, with significant implications. Government decided on a task team to ensure coherence in the development and formulation of such policies.

Ms Mncube asked what lessons could be learnt from the pilot programme, conducted by the Department in six correctional services facilities, for children awaiting trial. She also asked when the Department intended to roll out this programme in other correctional facilities for children awaiting trial. She noted that  fourteen-year-old boys who had committed serious crimes and were in custody would be exposed to ways to commit further crime. Syndicates used children under sixteen for purposes of drugs and crime.

The Department realised that children awaiting trial in Correctional Services were not being kept occupied, and had started with the pilot project to address that. It was a good programme, that was currently being evaluated. The intention was to roll it out, but provincial departments needed to budget to implement the programme. Ideally, children should not be in Correctional Services facilities, but rather belonged in secure facilities run by DSD, or diverted to home-based supervision programmes. Those who had committed very serious offences would have to await trial. DSD was also responsible for the implementation of the Child Justice Act, that would be operational from April 2010. This dealt mainly with services to children that were awaiting trial, such as diversion programmes. DSD current focus was on strengthening of diversion programmes, finding non government organisations (NGOs) that delivered those services, and ensuring that children who were in correctional centres had access to those services.

The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister how far Programme 3:Alternative care  had gone in implementation of protocols and guidelines for foster care.

The Chairperson also asked how far the programme of training for probation officers on norms and standards, report writing and customer care had gone, and whether it was yielding the expected results.

The Deputy Minister responded that 308 Assistant Probation Officers were trained, with the intention that after training they would be registered as Social Auxiliary Workers. DSD was still trying to register them. They were mostly young people, supporting Probation Officers, who were few in number and who found their load greatly reduced to manageable caseloads with the support of Assistant Probation Officers.  Given the shortage of social workers, and the need to implement the Children’s Act next year, DSD would need as many Probation Officers and Assistant Probation Officers as possible.

The Chairperson pointed out that poverty alleviation was a critical area for government and the Department. It was imperative to protect the rights of children and other vulnerable groups as far as social security was concerned. She asked when the care dependency grant implementation plan would be finalised by the Department.

The Department responded that during the course of last year the Department undertook pilots of the new assessment tool for care dependency, so that it relied less and less on subjective opinions of medical practitioners, especially doctors. The pilot took longer than anticipated, as there were challenges with the team and the quality of the report. It had only been possible to report on the pilot, not the full implementation plan. The Department would finalise the implementation plan in this financial year, but looked to using the new application tool for care dependency during the course of next year.

The Chairperson asked if any priority programmes been identified previously by the Department for poverty eradication.

The Department said that it had realised that the DSD itself could make a serious impact in addressing poverty and hunger, but sustainability was a challenge. A more sustainable approach was to focus on assets residing in communities, to ensure that those projects established or developed by communities were sustainable, and also to link them with opportunities to market their products, ensure sustainability, and derive job opportunities.

Since the Department's approach to poverty alleviation was to ensure sustainability of interventions, it tried to ensure that the work done initially in terms of poverty alleviation projects was also used to encourage community members to take ownership of their programmes. DSD encouraged communities to form Social Development Cooperatives, to consider how assets in the community could be organised to work together to market a product and ensure sustainable livelihood. The Department was also able to link vulnerable communities with projects to produce or process agricultural products.

The Department implemented programmes such as the Masupatsela Youth Pioneer Programmes, intended to address poverty challenges facing the youth, and giving them skills capacity and employment opportunities. The programme recruited youth pioneers and trained them to address poverty challenges of the country. On exit from the programme, they were linked to further education, where they would be able to identify areas of interest to further their qualifications, or work opportunities. This also encouraged communities to take ownership of community development initiatives that would improve the quality of life. The National Youth Service programmes were intended to ensure that the youth were mobilised to provide community services to communities, whilst also receiving a stipend to support themselves.  These programmes were also intended to address lack of employment by teaching skills that would help people to be employable outside the department. Expanded Public Works Programmes fulfilled a similar function.

Mr Madonsela added that government was quite advanced in the development of its anti poverty strategy. This strategy was being finalised, in consultation with Civil Society organisations and other social partners. Various anti poverty interim interventions, such as the War on Poverty Campaign, were operating. DSD was part of government’s overall effort and would, in due course, interact with the Committee on the strategy and the role of DSD. Government's biggest poverty alleviation measure at present was the social assistance programme, which commanded R76 billion. The presentation outlined the extent of coverage of numbers of people and the different grant types. Community based initiatives should not be looked at in isolation from poverty alleviation through cash transfers to households.

Dr Connie Kganakga, Chief Director: HIV/AIDS, DSD, added that Community Based Care and the Early Childhood Development programmes also related to skills development through learnerships.  A stipend was given to caregivers at community level. Cadres also received accredited training, with the intention that on their release they would move to other levels to do Child and Youth Care work, become Community Development Workers, Community Health Workers, Auxiliary Workers or Auxiliary Social Workers. They could get  priority when Further Education and Training (FET) College learnerships in social work or nursing were offered.

Ms Boroto referred to the Independent Tribunal for social assistance appeals and asked what challenges had the Tribunal experienced in addressing appeals lodged with the Minister. She also asked what the Department or the Tribunal was doing to ensure that more appeals were considered and finalised.

The Department responded that prior to SASSA becoming operational, in 2006, social assistance funding was a provincial function, so that people who were unhappy about the outcome of their application for social assistance appealed to the MEC. When that function was shifted nationally, it meant that all applicants for social grants who were unhappy about a decision of SASSA could appeal to the Minister. There were large numbers doing so, and there was already a backlog in the provinces. When it was realised that it was not practical for the Minister to entertain the high number of appeals from dissatisfied applicants for social assistance, the Social Assistance Act was amended to allow for the establishment  of an Independent Tribunal. The backlog, when the unit started, was at about 45 000 appeals, the bulk of which related to disability grants, with people being unhappy about the doctors’ assessments or interpretation of their medical reports. Another category related to those who had appealed because they were poor and unable to provide for their dependents. This was not a criteria for social assistance.

The Independent Tribunal consisted of a panel of independent practitioners, chaired by independent legal practitioners, and eminent people from society. The budget originally started at R10 million and grew over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, but the budget allocated by Treasury for this purpose was far outstripped by the numbers of appeals. The independent practitioners would have to be paid for the work done. The biggest challenges lay with insufficient resources to deal with the cases, the backlog, and the high number of new cases. Different options were being explored and there was a working relationship between the Independent Tribunal and SASSA on how to process the cases.

There were also challenges relating to capacity, budget, and systems, as well as the way SASSA had dealt with some of the grant applications. The DSD was looking into how to improve this. One proposed system recommended that when an application for a grant was turned down, there should be an automatic review process within SASSA, as the first officer may have overlooked some aspects. This would limit the number of cases that came to the Tribunal for appeal.

A further challenge was that people who did not understand appeal processes often wrote to the Independent Tribunal to complain, without disclosing the basis of the appeal. Many appellants had to be invited to present their cases before the Tribunal, and there were budgetary constraints in trying to convene the panels close to the complainants.

Associated with those challenges were the number of people who lost their appeals or were unhappy about SASSA's decisions on their applications. They sometimes resorted to the courts, as had happened with several cases in KwaZulu Natal. DSD was ordered to set matters down for adjudication within sixty days of receiving notice of appeal from the applicant.

Mr de Villiers understood that SASSA had its own accounting officer, but pointed out that some of the questions around SASSA arose from the documents delivered by DSD. He thought SASSA should also be present at the meeting.

Mr Mashamaite asked DSD to explain whether SASSA was not accountable to DSD. He understood that SASSA received money from DSD. In terms of the Public Finance Management Act, an entity using public funds must be able to account for them. He agreed that it may be the responsibility of the Department to make policies, but the administration of entities must work in line with what was contained in the policy. SASSA was accountable to the Department. If the administration was not in order the Department must call the CEO of that entity to account.

Ms Makgale supported these comments. She said that previously, the Deputy Minister had given monitoring requirements for the Department. SASSA was an entity but was not operating entirely alone. Given that position, she enquired how the Department monitored and ensured compliance.

Mr Madonsela confirmed that the Department did have a team monitoring services at pay points, offices, and a report would be made available soon.

Mr Madonsela agreed that in future it would be useful to include SASSA and the NDA. The Department had been invited to attend this meeting on its own, but perhaps in the future it should be advised that the total portfolio of Social Development, inclusive of the agencies, would be entertained for discussion.

He noted that DSD did not allocate money to SASSA but money was appropriated by Parliament specifically for SASSA. SASSA accounted to Parliament and had its own Annual Report. The Department would interact with it on matters of social security. However, he was alerting the Committee to the fact that SASSA was better placed to answer questions around the details of the administration.  DSD would not be in a position to say what SASSA was doing to fill critical posts, but the Chief Executive Officer of SASSA would have to respond. DSD could only give a response on questions that straddled both policy and administration. He hoped the Committee had already scheduled interactions with SASSA on its own Annual Report.

The Chairperson welcomed the explanation on the questions posed by members. Plans for interaction with SASSA, NDA and other agencies linked to the Department were already on the Committee programme for next year.

The Deputy Minister then made some comments on the questions posed earlier. She said that a very emotive issue was that of queues at pension pay out points. It was regrettable that older persons continued to die in queues, although in fairness this was reducing. Although she accepted that people were standing in queues, for many older people this was one chance for social interaction.

Although people they were allowed to go to banks on different days, they tended all to attend on the same day, which made it difficult for bankers. The banks' interest was different from that of Parliament, but the DSD would try to negotiate with the banks to see what could be arranged. She urged Members to tell the older constituents that they should attend on staggered days. DSD was introducing new processes to ensure that at least 70% of people got their money from either the Post Office or other financial institutions, and 30% from the other service providers who were available in remote areas where there were no banks. They should also be advised of the correct times to call. In some offices, DSD and SASSA were sharing premises, which made it very difficult.

The Deputy Minister agreed that there was lack of ubuntu. Over the last few months, the Minister had been strongly advocating for the formal adoption of children, for reasons including the fact that foster care applied only up to the age of eighteen. The rights of the child had to be taken into consideration, and it would not be correct to fast-track processes of adoption, only to find that adopted children were, for instance, being trafficked, so there was a need for extreme care.

She disagreed that many people, in fostering, were only “after the money”. Most foster care was usually done by ordinary poor people, and the amounts received were too small to be attributed to greed on their part. Some people did not want to adopt children but were prepared to support fostering, and others could pay the family to enable them to keep the child. Members had a responsibility to talk to communities about the importance of adopting children.

The Deputy Minister noted that a report had been received from a member of the National Assembly who resided in the North West, about conditions in the North West, and the Department was following up on that.

She commented, on competency aspects, that the Department, in accordance with labour laws, was training people who were not competent to better their skills to do the job.

A Member commented that shortage of social workers was a problem. Social workers apparently did not check whether those fostering were receiving a grant, which demoralised community members. She felt that not enough was done to make people aware of probation officers.

The Department commented that the remark about probation officers was correct. The focus was more on  the arrested children, to ensure their proper placement and their supervision, but the Department was developing a social crime prevention strategy which was to be implemented by social service professionals, to divert young people through skills programmes at community level.

A Member asked how far the Department had gone in registering the community sites, as they could not even be monitored and there were poor standards and atmosphere.

The Department was surprised to hear that. The intention was to register as many sites as possible at community level, and this programme was linked to the EPWP. The drive was to register Early Childhood Development (ECD) sites so that ECD practitioners working in those sites could be trained to offer good quality programmes. DSD requested a database of the unregistered sites to facilitation registration. These sites had to be registered done on a continuous basis, not only for the children to receive subsidies, but to ensure that the sites complied with the norms and standards.

Ms Boroto was disturbed about the terminally ill who received disability grants. Some were unable to get to the pay point, or, if they did, would be on the verge of collapse and would have to be carried in by others. They also had to pay for special transport. She felt that conditions at paypoints were inadequate and these people were in need of better assistance.

The Department responded that the Social Assistance Act and Regulations made provision for a procurator to be appointed when a person could not, on a regular basis, collect the grant himself or herself. This had created serious problems in the past and there were now detailed regulations and conditions. If a person’s health condition deteriorated, and there was no procurator, the payments were held back. A  social worker could also be called upon to verify the person's condition and help the person to access the disability benefit. The Department considered that part of the whole community based care programme was to give comprehensive care and support to people living with chronic illnesses, and to offer psychosocial support. The need was recognised, and guidelines were developed so caregivers could be able to offer the psychosocial support, which would be more comprehensive than merely being responsible for caregiving in the home, and identification of orphans.

Mr Mashamaite said that most of his questions related to SASSA and would be raised with them. However, he was concerned with under spending of millions of rands while the people were suffering. He asked what measures were in place to ensure that that money for Community Development was spent.

The Department responded that the final output on programme 3 was still awaited, on the minimum quality of services to older people.

Mr Mashamaite asked when would the two pilot projects in KwaZulu Natal resume again for implementation.

The Department said they would take place in this financial year.

Mr Madonsela said that there was a fine balance in the public service as to what could be regarded as under spending and what could be regarded as saving. When money was allocated for social grants, it was based on projections of the numbers of people who qualified for certain types of grants, based on population size and level of poverty of the various provinces. Both the Department and SASSA were charged with the responsibility of ensuring increasing improvement on the integrity of the social grant system, and part of the integrity improvement included that certain grant types had to be reviewed at different intervals. Temporary disabilities had to be reviewed every six months. If a person did no longer qualify, then the money that was being paid to them was held back and saved. That money could not be diverted into other areas of need, but had to be given back to National Treasury, who would then reallocate it. What was seen as under spending here was in fact a saving, because improved measures for integrity and efficiency of the system were made. There were significant improvements on the part of SASSA as to how it had implemented the requirements of the policy.

He reiterated if the Department was unable to provide details now to any of the questions, it would send a written response.

Mr de Villiers was interested in the costing of the Children's Act.

Ms Dorothee Snyman, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DSD, responded that the Children's Act was costed in 2006. The Department was working with the provinces on the implementation of the Act in the next financial year to ensure they were ready, and to look at what parts of the Act the DSD would be ready to implement. The Children's Act was an improvement on the Child Care Act that was currently being implemented so it was not altogether new in concept. Provinces needed to look at those programmes that talked to the improvement.

A Member noted that there were problems around monitoring and evaluation of spending money in the Department, and there had been financial crises in the last few months, which affected service delivery. The question was why the Department had not detected that problem earlier.

The Department responded that the problems in fact related to a general increase in tariffs and costs and a general decrease in funding, so that the needs became greater. The DSD had to constantly weigh up what it could or could not afford, and sometimes there was unforeseen expenditure with regard to critical projects that needed to be implemented. It sometimes needed to reprioritise in order to stay within budget. The monitoring system was based on the government's financial monitoring system, where it continually introduced additional non-financial spreadsheets to assist in keeping track. There were management meetings to discuss matters such as inflation.

Ms Makgale said there were three types of sites, one for schools, one for the private sector, and one for the community. However, there was a problem getting data from interactions even at provincial level. The community sites did not appear to comply with norms and standards, and she asked how the Department was going to improve on that.

The Department understood the concern with regard to community sites and would ask the provinces to disaggregate the aggregated information, and focus on sites in the neglected areas.

Ms Boroto requested that male workers should be recruited into home based care centres, as older men preferred to be assisted by their own gender.

The Deputy Minister thanked the committee for the opportunity for such good engagement. She confirmed that the Ministry was committed to working positively with the Committee. She recommended the committee call in SASSA to get the information on some of the issues. If the whole Department were to be invited she would like the Ministry to be notified of this so that it could attend, but pointed out that a full day session would be required, to thoroughly interrogate the work of the agencies as well.

The Chairperson said the Committee would definitely visit some of the community sites in its oversight visits, and would also visit some of the secure care centres, old age homes, and child centres. It would also invite SASSA and the NDA and agencies linked to the Department. She requested the Department to furnish the committee with the steps to be followed in preparing for registration of an ECD site, to be able to assist people who were struggling to get their sites established. She thanked the Department, and the Deputy Minister, for sharing very important information with the Committee in a useful, lively and vibrant  interaction.

The meeting was adjourned.


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