Services aimed at improving lives of women & children: Department of Social Development briefing

Social Development

16 August 2010
Chairperson: Ms W Nelson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development (DSD) briefed a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Social Development, and on Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities, focusing on the services offered by DSD to women and children. It stressed that most policies were implemented in collaboration with civil society organisations, especially welfare services, non government organisations (NGOs), and community based organisations (CBOs), with around 60% of services being delivered by NGOs, and 40% by government. The Department outlined its various programmes for women and children, in the categories of child care and protection, services to older persons, services to people with disabilities, economic empowerment, home community based care, prevention and treatment of substance abuse, social grants, and victim empowerment. The relevant legislation in respect of each category was briefly described. The Department noted that ongoing challenges included poverty and inequality, disintegration of social fabric, high levels of abuse against women and children, high levels of substance abuse, illegal migration, high unemployment, crime, human trafficking; and insufficient human and financial resources. There was a need to change societal attitudes and behaviour towards the protection of the rights of women and children. There was also a need to consider the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children, the fact that socio-economic rights of women were not yet fully realised, and to address inadequate coordination and monitoring of services to women and children, and lack of delivery structures at community level.

Members asked about the relationship between DSD and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, the National Youth Development Agency, as well as the relationships with the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, who were cluster partners in dealing with some of the legislation. Members asked what services were rendered to children who had witnessed violence, and what services were offered at shelters. They asked about the results of the Childcare Forum audit, and sought clarity on the difference between the forums. Members enquired about the funding and monitoring of the Department, pointing out that competition for funding often led to the collapse of projects, and that NGOs were rendering many services that were the responsibility of government, and that there were disparities between provinces. They asked about the recent judgment of the Free State Court about the financing policy of the Free State Department of Social Development.  Members were concerned that some Early Childhood Development facilities, as well as Older Person’s facilities, were continuing to run although they were not registered, and asked what the Department was doing about this. Members were also concerned whether justice was being done to the numerous projects, because of the insufficient human and financial resources, and wondered if the shortage of social workers was being addressed and what had been done about their salaries and training. Members also expressed concerns about the publicity around the Tshwane Metro Police, and the SAPS removal of street children, and asked what strategies were in place for children living and working on the streets, and what the Department was doing to try to have these children placed back in schools. There was concern that the rights of street people, similar to the rights of Older Persons, were not widely disseminated or known, especially to the informal or non-registered institutions. Members asked about the National Child Protection Register and why certain provinces had not sent through information, and also discussed the matching between this and the registers in terms of the Sexual Offences Act. Questions were asked about the screening and training of foster parents, backlog of foster care grants, and whether foster parents who had a disabled child over 18, and people who had disabled children under 16, were entitled to apply for grants. Members wondered if Victim Empowerment was working in practice, and cited an instance in Limpopo where a successful Victim Empowerment Programme was running alongside a Thuthuzela Centre that was not dealing with Victim Empowerment, which seemed to be a waste of resources. Members were very concerned about and called for reports on the four facilities that had experienced fires over the past two years, and established that there had not been an audit of infrastructure. Members suggested that a strategic workshop between DSD and the Department of Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities might be useful. Members asked for elaboration on the HEMP Project, contributions to home community care workers and the Luncheon Club.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
Ms W Nelson (ANC) was elected to chair the meeting. She noted that an apology had been received from the Chairperson, Ms Y Botha, due to the death of a close family member. The Committee would pass its condolences to her and her family.

The Acting Chairperson welcomed representatives from the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities to the joint presentation.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) tendered apologies from the Chairperson of the portfolio committee on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities, who expected to arrive late.

Department of Social Development (DSD) Services to Women and Children
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General, Department of Social Development, tendered apologies on behalf of the Minister and Deputy Minister. He noted that the mandate of the Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) focused mainly on rendering services to vulnerable groups, and this presentation would focus on services rendered to women and children.

Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, Department of Social Development, noted that although the presentation focused specifically on women and children, in most instances DSD had a broad integrated approach for targeting groups, irrespective of whether they comprised women and children. Most policies were implemented in collaboration with civil society organisations, especially welfare services. 60% of services were delivered by Non Government Organisations (NGOs), and 40% by government.

Programmes directed to women and children included child care and protection, services to older persons, services to people with disabilities, economic empowerment, home community based care, prevention and treatment of substance abuse, social grants, and victim empowerment.

Services directed to children included implementation of the Children’s Act, child protection services, adoptions and international social services, Early Childhood Development services, Child Justice services, and services to orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS.

Dr Mabetoa then expanded on the DSD’s statutory mandate to provide services to children in terms of the Children’s Act. One of the major services provided to children was the prevention of and early intervention into child abuse, neglect and exploitation. Early intervention programmes, or removal into care, were provided to families where children were identified as being vulnerable to, or at risk of harm.

There were two child protection registers. Register A dealt with a database of all children who were reported as being abused. In 2009, 4 753 children were reported as abused, and their names and details were recorded on this register. Register B was a database of people who were found to be unsuitable to work with children, by reason of their conviction of murder, attempted murder, and indecent assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, in respect of a child. They would be prevented from working with children.

Exploitation included sexual exploitation of children and child labour. Services included advocacy, prevention by education, community mobilisation, and early detection and treatment. South Africa had committed itself internationally and nationally towards the Elimination of Worst Forms of Child Labour, and was ensuring partnerships in the development and implementation of the strategy for the purposes of the care and protection of exploited children. The Children’s Act also dealt with child labour and the reporting of child labour.

Alternative care services included foster care and cluster foster care. Child and youth care facilities were provided for children who were in vulnerable circumstances and at risk, or were found to be in need of care and protection, although alternative placements such as foster care and adoption were not suitable options. Almost 500 000 children received foster child grants. Adoption was preferred over other forms of care because of the permanency and protection it brought to the relationship between the child and the adoptive family.

Children living and working on the streets were defined as children in need of care and protection, and they should be kept in Child and Youth Care Centres.

She set out DSD’s role with regard to Early Childhood Development (ECD) and partial care. This included the implementation of the Integrated Plan for ECD, which promoted integrated services and establishment of partnerships at all levels, monitoring and evaluation of Partial and ECD services,  training and capacity building on service delivery in respect of the service providers, registration of partial care facilities and ECD programmes, subsidisation of children attending ECD programmes, and monitoring and evaluation of ECD programmes. Seven provinces subsidised registered crèches for the daily attendance of children at R12 per day per child, while two provinces paid R11 per day per child, owing to financial constraints.

Services were rendered to children in conflict with the law, in terms of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008, and the Probation Services Amendment Act, 2002, which prescribed that an arrested child who had not been released must be assessed by a probation officer as soon as reasonably possible, but before his or her first appearance in court, or within a further extended time that would be prescribed by the Court. Children had to be held for as short a time as possible, and should be assessed by probation officers immediately after arrest. Many social workers needed to be trained as probation officers. The legislation also provided for Assistant probation officers to be trained to work alongside the probation officers.

The Children’s Act also made provision for prevention programmes, for early intervention programmes, and the establishment of residential care facilities and programmes.

The Department participated on the Awaiting Trial Task Team led by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), to reduce the number of children in DCS facilities. DSD had 26 fully functional Secure Care Facilities, of which nine were outsourced to NGOs and 17 were run by the Department.

Approximately 26 207 children were diverted during the last financial year, but a more concerted effort was required to strengthen programmes and fund NGOs who provided the programmes, as there was a trend that children were committing more violent crimes and sexual related offences.

Dr Mabetoa then described the services that the DSD offered for women. The Domestic Violence Act of 1996 (DVA) aimed to protect women and children who were victims of crime and violence. DSD was the lead department for Victim Empowerment Programmes (VEP), as it facilitated the establishment and management of safe and secure shelters in South Africa, and it was also responsible for monitoring and evaluating the impact of services rendered in the VE sector and shelters. Almost all shelters were provided by the NGO sector. 96 shelters rendered services of life skills programmes, skills development/economic development, and psychosocial interventions. The Department also rendered services by engaging men and boys on the prevention of gender-based violence and on gender equality. 13 shelters were identified to render rehabilitation programme to victims of human trafficking.

Substance abuse services were also provided for women and children. A National Helpline was established and managed by South African Drug Awareness Group, to assist vulnerable groups such as women and children on substance abuse related issues. Prevention and early intervention services included raising awareness, provision of information, life skills, capacity building, support services, and the promotion of healthy life style. The Department’s Kemoja Programme, an ongoing campaign by provinces, NGOs and the Department, was targeting children, parents and caregivers. Six public treatment centres and 43 registered private treatment centres catered for youth and women detoxification, therapeutic counselling services and life skills. Community based services included counselling, capacity building, support services, life skills, family strengthening, and promotion of healthy and alternative life style.

DSD also provided HIV and AIDS services. Mostly, the care and support of people infected by HIV/AIDS rested with women, and more recently with young children. The Home and Community Based Care Programmes (HCBC) sought to address the needs of the most vulnerable people in communities, most of whom were women and children, by providing them with the necessary information and appropriate services to support them through economic and social empowerment programmes. These also aimed to relieve women’s burden of care by also involving men in the Home and Community Based Care Programmes, encouraging shared responsibilities.

Dr Mabetoa outlined that the Social Assistance Programmes that had an impact on women and children. These included the Older Person’s Grant (OPG), Disability Grant (DG), Care Dependency Grant (CDG), Foster Care Grant (FCG), Child Support Grant (SG), and social relief of distress (SRD). There were 9,826,420 recipients of social grants.

There were 19.5 million children living in South Africa, of whom more than 12 million lived in poor households. 9.9 million poor children were beneficiaries of the CSG. About 500 000 children were beneficiaries of the FCG, and 110 000 received the CDG. The majority of recipients of grants were women, and over R5 million caregivers were females, compared to 103 000 male caregivers. The majority of caregivers receiving CSG in South Africa were women, and approximately half of them were completely destitute, with their entire household living on less than R500 per month.

The Social Relief of Distress (SRD) programme provided temporary relief to individuals, households and communities who were experiencing crises or shock of a transitory nature. SRD was offered in the form of cash, vouchers and food parcels.

Social grants reduced poverty, and spending patterns in households that received social grants were more focused on basic necessities such as food, fuel and education. The increased spending on food was associated with better nutritional outcomes, and increased school attendance.

Dr Mabetoa moved on to services for people with disabilities. These were informed by DSD policies and legislation, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focused on human rights. Programmes included all age groups, both male and female. The relevant legislation included the Mental Health Act, administered by the Department of Health, and the Older Persons Act, administered by DSD. There were a total of 171 protective workshops throughout the country, and 9 511 people with disabilities benefited from the workshops. The education and skills acquired facilitated the development of small businesses, as well as the integration of people with disabilities with broader society.

Programmes and services for Older Persons aimed to promote dialogue between generations, so that older persons could share their wisdom and deal with youth issues. Many older persons faced the challenge of raising their orphaned grandchildren with very little understanding of the issues impacting on those children or the demands of modern society. Economic development programmes ensured that older persons were not excluded from issues of economic development in their communities. Community based programmes aimed at promoting quality of life for older persons, especially those who were frail. Abuse of older persons was rife, and the Older Persons Act defined an older person as one who was in need of care, and also dealt with procedures for managing abuse or violence, procedures to deal with the perpetrator, and the keeping of a register of perpetrators of abuse. Often, the rights of an older person would be violated as they were not generally known. Operation Dignity aimed at restoring respect and dignity. Residential and Frail Care services were available to older persons who were unable to live independently. Dr Mabetoa referred to the recent deaths of older persons occurring as a result of fires in the Gauteng area, and said that DSD was investigating how it could improve adherence to and implementation of this Act. NGOs were again involved in rendering services to older persons, and monitoring was critical to ensure quality of services

Dr Mabetoa noted that there were various community development programmes and services to women and children. The DSD’s Poverty Relief Programme, implemented through Independent Development Trust (IDT), supported 102 cooperatives, of which 124 belonged to women. The HEMP projected created a total of 84 jobs for women. Beneficiaries generated R71 000 in communal savings. There were five sustainable livelihood learning sites. The Bokfontein Drop-in Centre supported 200 children, and the Vegitunnels supported a cluster of three households per tunnel. Five community food banks fed approximately 66 000 beneficiaries a day through 1 000 approved agencies. DSD partnered with the National Association of Burial Societies for South Africa, with 3 000 women beneficiaries. Burial societies were run by women in the communities. 940 people, most of whom were women, benefited from the food security projects.

The major challenges to all of the programmes remained as poverty and inequality. There was also disintegration of the social fabric, high levels of abuse against women and children, and also of high levels of substance abuse, illegal migration, high unemployment, crime, human trafficking, and insufficient human and financial resources. Societal attitudes and behaviour towards the protection of the rights of women and children must be addressed. The problems were exacerbated by the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children. Socio-economic rights of women were not yet fully realised. Finally, there remained inadequate coordination and monitoring of services to women and children, and lack of delivery structures at community level.

Ms Malgas asked about the relationship between DSD and the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities. DSD had outlined its services, and she noted that it was very important for the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities that the data be disaggregated, so that the services and amounts for each category should be clearly set out.

Dr Mabetoa responded that DSD did have a relationship with the Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, but their roles differed, as the latter concentrated on monitoring and advocacy. That department also facilitated the rectification of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, but expected DSD to implement it and report to it. There was close working between the two departments. DSD was responsible, overall, to ensure that the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities were addressed by other departments and the NGOs.

Ms Malgas said that the Domestic Violence Act offered an integrated approach, and she asked what the role of DSD in this Act was.

Ms Conny Nxumalo, Chief Director: Families and Social Crime Prevention, Department of Social Development, responded that the budget breakdown was available and was submitted to the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities during the public hearings. She would send on a copy.
Ms Malgas also asked for details of the DSD’s relationship with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

Ms Sadi Luka, Chief Director: Youth, Department of Social Development, replied that the DSD did have a relationship with the NYDA in the area of youth work, the National Youth Service and other youth development programmes. The NYDA participated in the DSD’s Youth Development Forum, and this relationship was being formalised with a Memorandum of Understanding.

Ms Malgas asked what services were rendered to children who witnessed domestic violence.

Ms Margot Davies, Chief Director: Children, Department of Social Development, responded that there were quite a few programmes for these children. Prior to a court case, DSD could provide in-depth therapy. Many NGOs as well as social workers had been trained to deal with children who had been abused. Preparatory work was also done with children for courts. Many of the courts were very child friendly, and, particularly in the urban centres, there were special measures to prevent the child from coming into contact with the perpetrator. She added that the DSD also provided intermediary services that dealt with assisting very young children who were witnesses of child abuse. There were still not adequate numbers of social workers trained to do more of this work, although the DSD was addressing this need, as well as setting up training on child assessment, and programmes at ECD level, so that children could be able to identify when they were being abused.

Ms Conny Nxumalo added that at shelters for abused women and children, the children received psychosocial services. If a child had suffered from experiences of domestic violence, then the provisions of the new Children’s Act would apply. The Department provided support where children witnessed domestic violence by their parents.

Ms Malgas asked for the result of the audit on the childcare forums, and what else the Department was doing.

Dr Malega Connie Kganakga, Chief Director: HIV/AIDS, responded that the audit was one way of monitoring the programmes for home community based care. NGOs, CBOs and Child Care Forums all formed part of home community-based care, with Child Care Forums addressing issues of children and families affected by HIV/AIDS. There was confusion with regard to reporting, as sometimes childcare forums would report themselves as CBOs, although they were mandated to register as NGOs, which was the reason for having the audit. DSD had now trained communities on how to form and manage childcare forums. The audit also established the number of childcare forums in each province, and gave an idea of where more were needed, based on the numbers of orphans and those affected by HIV/AIDS. This report would be sent to the Committee Secretary.

Ms J Masilo (ANC) was interested in funding and monitoring of the Department. She asked whether DSD had legislation covering monitoring and evaluation, especially of the NGOs and civil society. At local level there were problems where too many were competing for funds, leading to collapse of the projects.

Mr Jackie Mbonani, Chief Director: Welfare Services and Transformation, DSD, responded that DSD was indeed reviewing the policy on financial rewards to service providers, with a view to developing legislation. Monitoring and evaluation was done by both national and provinces.

The Acting Chairperson asked how far that process, had gone, pointing out that many services that should be rendered by government were being rendered by NGOs, and the disparity was causing major problems in the community.

Mr Mbonani reiterated that the policy was being reviewed, and that this policy was being formalised throughout all provinces.

Dr Mabetoa added that the financial reward system was implemented by the provinces and a service level agreement was signed with every NGO that was subsidised, to ensure that each delivered services as agreed, in accordance with the norms and standards. The Children’s Act, Older Persons Act and Child Justice Act also set out how to work with the diverse services offered by NGOs.

Dr Mabetoa added that there was ongoing debate about improving salaries of social workers. If government had to pay the salaries of all the NGOs working in the sector it would mean that the NGOs must account to he Department, which would reduce their independence and the Department would be micro-managing. Instead, the DSD provided programme funding. The drafting of norms and standards was due for completion  by the end of the financial year, and the different services were also being costed, both in terms of human resources and infrastructure. DSD would then be in a position to tell National Treasury what the welfare services were costing, and what was needed to cover all services. NGOs also raised funds from the community, but government must ensure that services delivered by NGOs on its behalf were well funded.

The Acting Chairperson said that NGOs in different provinces would receive different funding at present, and the legislation would be crucial.

Dr Mabetoa said the Department was aware of the disparity between provinces, and the costing would inform that. She noted that for ECD, all should be at the same level, so lower payments would indicate that standards were also lower.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) was aware that NGOs had to create their own funds, but said they were finding it increasingly difficult to access public funds. Government could not shift its responsibility to NGOs.

Ms P Kopane (DA) asked whether the Department was aware that the Free State Court had found the financing policy of the Free State Department of Social Development to be unconstitutional, after NGOs in that province had claimed, successfully, that the funding was too low to allow them to render sustainable projects or activities. She asked what this would mean for the future.

Dr Mabetoa responded that the Department was studying the judgment and would meet with counterparts in the Chief Directorate of Welfare Services. She could not comment further until it had been discussed with the provinces.

Ms Masilo asked that the names of the chief directorates and their contact numbers should be submitted to the Committee Secretary.

Ms Davies responded that she would do so.

Ms Masilo was concerned that few ECD facilities were registered with the department, and asked how the DSD would assist with them, pointing out that they also created job opportunities for women and youth.

Ms Davies stressed that all ECD services should be registered, although many were not, particularly in Johannesburg and amongst foreign migrants. In the inner city, in particular, these facilities were not compliant with norms and standards, including safety standards. Most were run by people who were using them to generate income, some out of their backyards. One initiative to try to ensure compliance was attempting to get different organisations to cooperate and register as one facility, but there was resistance even to this. It was not an easy matter, as it involved a consideration of what was in the best interests of the children, and recognition that the women running them were trying to generate income.

Ms Lamoela was extremely concerned about the number of programmes being implemented by DSD despite insufficient human and financial resources. She asked whether justice was being done to the projects and who did the monitoring and evaluation, which was of pivotal importance so that the Committee could identify the challenges. She noted that 60% of services were delivered by NGOs, yet the main challenge was the shortage of professional social workers. She asked if the DSD was addressing this, or was trying to achieve equality in salaries to reflect the fact that the social workers were all working in the same field.

Ms Davies responded that 14 447 practitioners were trained last year, through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to improve the quality of care offered to children. There were developmental standards for ECD and a curriculum for 0 to 4 age groups.

Ms Lamoela asked for the DSD’s comment on the removal of street children by SAPS, in light of the Children’s Act. She asked for a copy of the strategy that was developed for children living and working on the streets.

Ms Davies explained that the Children’s Act was changed to ensure that DSD dealt with children begging on the streets, but the manner in which SAPS removed the children was at issue. Any removal must be done in a child-friendly way, protecting children’s rights. DSD was investigating and had asked for a full report from Gauteng.

The Acting Chairperson asked whether the Department would issue a media statement to put the record straight, because there was a lot of public interest in this case.

Mr Madonsela responded that it was the Department’s intention to issue a statement once the report had been received from the province.

Ms Lamoela added that the people on the streets must also be informed of their rights. Not everyone had public information, especially on the Children’s Act. She asked whether the legislation had ever been discussed with street people and those in the rural areas.

Ms Davies responded that the Department had developed an audit tool for of street people, which Provinces were being asked to implement, and this included questions on who the people were, where they came from, whether they were aware of the Children’s Act, and whether they had access to social security. However, it must be recognised that some might be unwilling to give the information. The DSD did substantial training around the Children’s Act with NGOs working with the vulnerable groups, and also ensured public awareness of it.

Ms Lamoela noted that the statistics of the National Child Protection Register were given, but none were apparent for Eastern Cape. She also noted non-adherence in Limpopo.

Ms Davies explained that the Eastern Cape was working on another system but had been informed that their information must nonetheless be put into the Child Protection Register.

Ms D Robinson (DA) asked what screening and training of foster parents involved. She said that some NGOs were doing very valuable work but were not receiving any funding. There was a need for foster care and for adoption, so government should be assisting. She asked what was being done, and whether the services were offered only in the cities or in the rural areas as well.

Ms Davies agreed that this was an issue that needed greater attention. Although the larger NGOs and provincial departments had foster care training programmes, these did not exist in the smaller rural areas, where there might be only one social worker. She said that the funding figures showed the total for the whole foster care programme and training of foster parents. She noted, however, that DSD had rendered services to the far-flung areas, particularly where the NGOs did not have the resources to expand. Substantial distances were travelled in the Northern Cape. Payment of rural allowances, to attract social workers to work in these areas, was being considered.

Ms Robinson cited a case of a disabled child, who was over 18, and was fostered, yet was receiving only the disability grant, with the result that the foster parents felt that they could not afford to look after him any more. She asked if any other assistance would be granted.

Ms Davies clarified that, depending on the level of disability, a person over 16 was entitled to a disability grant. There were also housing facilities in some areas, and she asked that the details of the case be forwarded to her.

Ms Robinson thought the theory of the Victim Empowerment services for women was very good, but she wondered how it actually worked in practice. The Committee had recently visited areas in Limpopo, and wondered how accessible the services were, considering the vast distances.

Ms Nxumalo agreed that there were insufficient and unacceptable service coverage, which worsened in rural and farm areas. The audit revealed a plan to migrate services to those areas. VEP was an integrated programme, which was not the responsibility of DSD alone, although DSD did provide leadership. VE was a priority of the cluster. At National level it was funded by the European Union, and implemented through UNODC. Provinces were requested to motivate and encourage community-based organisations to start programmes in rural areas. Well-established organisations went to rural areas twice a week, but it was recognised that people needed services on a daily basis.

The Acting Chairperson referred to services to older people. She said that four homes, three of which were for the elderly, and one for children, had burned down in the last two years. She questioned that surely the buildings must comply with municipal building regulations, asked what monitoring systems the Department had, and requested a report on all four instances from the DSD.

Mr Jackie Mbonani responded that the DSD was equally concerned about the matters. The Older Person’s Act emphasised the participation of other role player departments, who would be asked to contribute to addressing the issues that led to the burning. DSD and other role players were looking at the overall monitoring of the facilities. An audit was undertaken to try to identify some of the issues, but an infrastructure audit had not been included. Most of the facilities were very old, and in need of attention. The audit had looked at whether the centres generally met norms and standards, and if they were compliant with emergency procedures, but emergency evacuations were difficult to implement because of the age of the inmates. The Deputy Minister was currently visiting one of the old age homes and engaging in discussions on those issues. A report would be submitted to the Portfolio Committee, as requested.

Ms Robinson said that while some facilities for older persons were registered, others were not, did not comply, yet continued in operation because there was such a desperate need for accommodation. She had visited some facilities where the disabled and the elderly were in the same facility. She asked how the rights of older persons could be promoted, when so many people were unaware of the Victim’s Charter. She suggested there should be a public drive that aimed to get this information out to people living in backyards or small places, rather than simply to those in registered institutions.

Mr Mbonani reminded Members that there was a delay in the signing off of the Act, which had given the Department the opportunity to publicise it in all the provinces, and pamphlets were distributed, translated into nine languages, with pamphlets in the remaining two languages still being prepared. There were ongoing campaigns to reach out to older persons and communities about those rights.

Ms Malgas noted the Department’s concerns about the childcare forums, and asked for clarity on childcare forums, and children’s forums. She noted that in Eastern Cape, an Older Person’s Forum applied nationally, provincially and at local government level.  

Ms Davies explained that currently, the childcare forums were under the HIV/AIDS sector, but there was an amalgamation of childcare and children’s forums, so that the same types of services were rendered. The Child Rights Committee, situated in the office of the Premier in provinces, coordinated and had regular child care forums, but different departments were involved in child rights participation. The Child Rights Committee was coordinated through the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, with the reporting lines from the Premier directly to the Presidency.

Ms Malgas said that there was a Child Protection Register, a register for Older Persons, and also a register to be set up under the Child Justice Act. She asked how these were coordinated, and what measures were in place to ensure that they were effective.

Ms Davies reiterated that the Department had some challenges in dealing with the Child Protection Register, since two provinces were not providing information, but DSD was meeting with them. Mr Madonsela had sent out letters to all Heads of Departments reminding them of their statutory obligation to provide the information. NGOs were to provide new forms. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ) was preparing a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that the information was forwarded to that Department, especially for Part B, which related to people who were convicted of offences against children. Nineteen convictions were made since April. All Provincial and national departments also were informed that they had to report on persons who were found guilty of abusing children as a result of an administrative process, since that too had to be recorded, separately, on the register.

DSD had begun to send out certificates of compliance. SAPS had notified the DSD that it was doing a compliance study to ensure that there was integration, and police officers were aware that before appointing the high ranking officers, they must have clearance through the Register. Whatever was entered in the Sexual Offences Register that related to sexual offences against children must also be put into the Child Protection register. History from five years back must be included, and DSD was currently working on this.

Dr Mabetoa reminded Members that there was an A register, a B register and the Sexual Offences Register. There were discussions with the DoJ on sharing of information. There were challenges around confidentiality of the information, but discussions were ongoing on how to eventually integrate the registers, as they fell under similar pieces of legislation. In regard to the Older Persons Register, the IT Department was working on a system that would integrate all registers in the Department.

Ms Malgas asked what the DSD had done to ensure that the children living and working on the streets, who were then taken into shelters, were enrolled at schools, and asked if they required special documentation.

Ms Davies responded that the DSD had tried hard to get former street-children back into school. In Cape Town, relationships had been built with schools in the area of the shelters, who had taken in the children who were more stable. DSD also had skills development programmes for children who had been out of school for some time and were not prepared to go back into the formalised schooling process, as if offered a Morning School supported by the Department of Education. In Gauteng, there was a special school for children coming off the streets, which aimed to fill the gaps. Many provinces had built similar relationships, and the Department of Education played a role in ensuring that those children were taken back into formalised schooling. Under the new legislation, those children would be identified as those “in need of care”, although in the past they were not covered by statute, which meant that they could leave school if they wished.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked for clarity on allocation of funding to provinces, saying that equal allocations should not apply, since the needs of rural and urban areas differed, or there may be more NGOs to cater for more street children in one province, or there may be differing populations. He thought that the allocations should be based directly on the needs. There was also the issue of extended families in the rural areas.

Dr Mabetoa responded that that was dealt with through equitable allocation of funds by National Treasury. The Department took into account the human resources, maintenance, and all the costs involved in running each facility. The quality of the service was important, not the funding.

Ms S Rwexana (COPE) followed up on the issue of the relationship between DSD and other departments, pointing out that each had different funding. She felt that it would be useful to have a strategic workshop as DSD dealt with implementation and the Department of Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities dealt with monitoring and advocacy. This joint meeting was important to improve the relationship between the two departments.

Dr Mabetoa responded that DSD had not prepared a strategic planning document with the Department of Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities. The latter would call on departments on specific topics, such as the rights of children, and each would formulate and act on its own action plan. The Department of Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities would, each year, call a meeting on a specific focus area, and call on the various departments to report what they were doing. In turn, that Department gave the Country Reports for the various international Conventions relating to women, the rights of the child and people with disabilities.

Ms Rwexana noted that two of the country reports on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child were outstanding and she asked which Department was responsible for those.

Ms P Duncan (DA) asked for clarity on the disturbing media reports about the Tshwane Metro Police, asking whether this was a police campaign, or whether the Department of Health was also involved.

Ms Davies clarified that this related to the Tshwane Metro Police, but there was a direct link to the Departments of Health and Social Development at provincial level. The Director General would issue a media statement once a report had been received from the province.

Ms Duncan was pleased that the report on the Domestic Violence Act was finished, but noted that the Committee had not yet received it.

Ms Duncan said NGOs were rendering excellent service, yet many had severe concerns. On an oversight visit to Limpopo, the Committee had visited the Thohoyandou VEP Project, the Thuthuzela Centre in Limpopo, and some of the hospitals. The Committee had found some negligence in implementing the new Thuthuzela centre, with little attention given to VEP. The Centre was situated in a provincial building, but had water and electricity cuts, and she suggested that the National Department must resolve that. Government should not simply move to new models, but must look at what was working, such as this VEP Project, which was productive and rendered a good service, and avoid duplicating projects in the same areas, but rather roll out in other remote areas.

Ms Nxumalo responded that the DSD was aware of this VEP project, run by Ms Nicholson, and agreed that the Project and Thuthuzela Centre should be complementing one another, rather than competing or duplicating. The Thuthuzela centre was set up purely for sexual offences matters but the VEP Thohoyandou was broader. The DSD would check what the province was funding. She said that the growth of organisations in general should be monitored to try to find out how many were working in each category.

Ms Lamoela asked for details of any backlog in foster care grants in the provinces.

Ms Davies said there were backlogs. Meetings were held with DoJ and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the provincial representatives of foster care, and the DSD had an action plan to try to reduce the known backlogs.

Ms Lamoela asked if the  Kemoja project was implemented in all provinces.

Ms Nxumalo responded that it was implemented in all provinces, because it was a national programme. The DSD provided support, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation.

Ms Lamoela asked the Department to elaborate on the HEMP project.

A DSD official explained that hemp was initially classified as a weed, but was now classified as an agricultural product. It was of the same family as the dagga plant, but without the effects. It was used as a source of fibre, a source of essential oils, and a herbal source of herbs. Extensive research had been done over many years by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Department of Arts and Culture, and Department of Agriculture, which showed that South Africa produced top-quality hemp, and that it grew readily. In the past South Africa had imported hemp from India, where it also grew readily, but was of poorer quality. The National Hemp Foundation now embarked on commercialisation of hemp, and DSD was involved in investigating how it could link the growing of hemp to the poor and vulnerable  such as caregivers of other social grant beneficiaries. There was no wastage of hemp, and every part of the plant could be used for a variety of purposes. The focus was not on the planting of hemp, but on the cottage industries that formed part of the value chain. The Department of Agriculture trained women in the Eastern Cape in the production of hemp, in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council. DSD was implementing a project in the Eastern Cape in the production of hand creams, body lotions and hair products. Although hemp was categorised as an agricultural product, the Department of Health was the licensee, as hemp was categorised as a narcotic plant. DSD was engaging with SAPS on how best to deal with the problem. Currently, each farmer was permitted to plant two hectares of hemp. Department of Science and Technology would facilitate and drive the processes of essential oil production, but could only do that if the number of permissible hectares of planting could be increased to at least 1 000 hectares. This could have a high impact on poverty reduction.

Ms Malgas asked whether growing of hemp had now been decriminalised.

The DSD official said that to some extent it was, but there was still a need for engagement with Department of Health on licensing issues. Hemp was now classed not as a weed but an agricultural product. It was recognised that it had a value in reducing the use of dagga. Dagga was planted merely as a means of generating income, but people could be encouraged rather to plant hemp, which could be sold on the legalised market, providing more sustainable income.

Ms Lamoela also asked for comment from the DSD on the position of disabled children under 18 who did not qualify to receive a grant because of the means test for parents.

Mr Themba Rakoloti, Chief Director: Social Assistance, DSD, responded that children under the age of 18 years were entitled to a grant. The means test was raised significantly about two years ago, and was now quite generous. A person earning R10 000 per month, who had a disabled child, could still qualify to receive a care dependency grant for that child.

Ms Ditshetelo asked for clarity on probation officers and whether there was still such a shortage of social workers.

Ms Nxumalo clarified that currently there were 484 probation officers and 372 assistant probation officers. Appointments were made through the pool of social workers, but probation officers needed two to three years experience.

The Acting Chairperson said DSD was funding home community based care workers, and asked if Department of Health was also contributing. There was some confusion in the communities as to where people should apply for funding. She questioned whether there was still disparity between amounts paid by the two departments. She asked what would happen if, for example, there were forty home-based care workers, and whether an amount per person would be paid, or a lump sum.

Mr Mbonani said DSD in the provinces were handling the applications.

Ms Masilo asked for clarity on the Luncheon Club.

Mr Mbonani said that these Clubs applied in all the provinces in service centres. The Older Persons Act gave more emphasis to community based care and would continue to encourage it. Older persons participated, on two or three days a week, in activities such as cooking a meal for a day, looking after children, and developing a vegetable garden.

The Acting Chairperson suggested that any outstanding questions be directed to the Department directly.

The meeting was adjourned.


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