Children's Act Training by the Children's Institute: Focus on implementation challenges

Social Development

13 June 2011
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Children’s Institute gave presentations on three major problem areas preventing effective implementation of the Children’s Act. Namely human resources, the crisis in the foster care system, and the budget required to implement the Act.

The first challenge concerned various constraints on the human resources required to effectively implement the Act. The shortage of social workers was highlighted as a major concern. There were also discrepancies between the salaries and benefits received by social workers working in government and those working for non-profit organisations that were problematic. There is a serious need to recognise and develop the other categories of workers such as child and youth care workers and early childhood development workers and to shift tasks away from social workers.  

The Children’s Institute played a twenty-minute DVD showcasing the ISIBINDI Model project. The Minister of Social Development had approved the roll-out of the project which involved training and employing child and youth care workers and would aim to reach 1.8 million children across the country. Members asked a number of questions about the project. The Children’s Institute suggested that the Committee visited one of the ISIBINDI project sites in the Eastern Cape in the next few weeks when the committee went on tour.

Ambiguity around the application of the Child Support Grant and the Foster Care Grant for orphans was a second major factor frustrating effective implementation of the Children’s Act. Due to the increase in orphans combined with the shortage of social workers – relying on a social worker and court based system -  to process poverty alleviation grants to relatives caring for orphaned children was not sustainable.  

The third major issue was the shortfall of donor and government funding available for the implementation of the Act for 2010/11 – 2012/13. Insufficient funding for NPOs, as well as other problems linked to the financing of NPOs, were also highlighted. Committee members posed a number of questions relating to the funding of NPO run initiatives.

The Committee expressed its willingness to take on board issues frustrating the implementation of the Children’s Act and to schedule another meeting with the Children’s Institute as there was not enough time in the meeting to adequately engage with all aspects of the presentation.


Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and especially Ms D Ramodibe (ANC), the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Women and Children and People with Disabilities and some of its members.

Oversight over the Implementation of the Children’s Act
Ms Paula Proudlock, Programme Manager: Childs Rights Programme at the Children’s Institute, explained that oversight of the Act was complicated because the main responsibility for implementing the Act lay with the nine provincial Members of the Executive Council for Social Development. However, the Act is a national law. The Act was aimed at giving effect to children’s rights to social welfare services. Such services under the Children’s Act included partial care facilities for children (crèches), Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and programmes, prevention and early intervention services, protection services and alternative care (foster care, adoption and child and youth care centres).  

It would not be possible to train members on the whole Act as it was very extensive. The presentation would be divided into three parts that would each focus on three areas that were preventing effective implementation of the Children’s Act. These were:
• human resources constraints and capacity issues,
• orphaning and the Foster Care Grant (FCG) issues,
• problems with government and donor funding available for the implementation of the Act.

Implementing the Children’s Act: Analysis of Human Resource Capacity and Constraints
Ms Proudlock said the research and statistics on human resources she presented were  foscussed on the workforce that fell under the Department of Social Development (DSD) and that were necessary to implement the Act, as this was where the main shortage of human resources lay. This included social workers and auxiliaries, child and youth care workers and auxiliaries, probation officers, early childhood development practitioners, community care workers and managers and administrators.

The number of social workers registered with the Council had decreased since 2009. It was also estimated that of the 13 773 registered social workers in South Africa, only 45% provided direct welfare services while a large portion of the remainder had taken up administrative, managerial or human resource related posts. There was no single database to gauge exactly how the country was faring on its number of active social workers providing direct welfare services. The costing of the Children’s Bill had estimated that between 16 000 and 66 000 social workers were needed to provide direct welfare services for the Children’s Act alone. There were not enough social worker graduates each year to supply this demand (approximately 1000 graduated per year). One solution to this shortfall could be to shift as much work away from the social workers to other categories of workers as possible so that the scarce time of the social workers could be used on only the issues for which they were really required.

Ms Proudlock highlighted the ISIBINDI Model (translated to mean “circle of care”) which relied heavily on child and youth care workers. ISIBINDI was a project involving a major collaboration between government, USAID and the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers. Isibindi is a “social franchise models”. “Social franchise models” were defined as child services delivery models run by large NPOs with offices and projects throughout the country and using a standard model of practice. The ISIBINDI programme currently had 67 rural and urban sites throughout the country and across the nine provinces, employing 1 071 youth and child care workers and reaching 64 000 children annually. The roll-out of ISIBINDI would increase the reach to 1.8 million children and 10 000 child and youth care workers. It was hoped that money could be leveraged from the  job fund to assist the roll out.

A breakdown of the ways in which government, through the DSD, funded services associated with the Act was by employing staff, making payments to NPOs and commercial enterprises, allocating funds to government funding agencies that fund service delivery organisations and through the Expanded Public Works Programme. Delivery indicators showed that NPOs were delivering services to more people than government or commercial enterprises. However, NPOs struggled to find sufficient funding to do this.

Many NPO social workers moved from NPOs into government because of the better salaries and benefits and career growth opportunities offered by government. Furthermore, graduate social workers were entering into government because they were on government-funded bursaries. This meant that there was a shortage of social workers particularly in NPOs. The higher salaries paid to social workers working for government also meant that delivery services provided by government were more expensive than those provided by NPOs.

There were three main ways government funded NPOs:
▪ Through subsidising social workers and related posts, although government covered only part of the salary at entry-level salaries and this excluded benefits.
▪ Through funding provided to NPOs for particular programmes.
▪ Through the “per child subsidy” provided to NPOs. The most common of these was subsidies given to Child and Youth Care Centres (CYCC) based on the number of children under the care of the particular CYCC.  The amount that each NPO received per child under their care was set by each province. The amount set by provinces ranged from R1 700 to R2 500 per child per month for CYCCs. The variation across the provinces was problematic considering that the law was a national framework law and therefore required uniform service delivery across the country. CYCC funding in the Eastern Cape at the end of 2009 was used as an example of the complications this caused. The funding model for NPOs delivering services on behalf of government, currently being discussed at Cabinet and provincial level, was not in sync with the requirements of the Act.

There were a number of concerns with the government funding of NPOs. The main complaints from NPOs were that the funding payments were often erratic and late and partial. The latter problem had resulted in the “NAWANGO” court case brought by a number of NPOs against the Free State DSD. The NPOs called for equal subsidy of children’s homes that were run by NPOs and those run by government. In the NAWANGO case the complaint was that the government was paying R6 000 to R7000 per child being cared for in a government-run home yet only R2 500 for each child under the care of an NPO-run home. The Free State High Court ruled that this was unfair and inequitable and ordered the Free State DSD to revise its policy. An underlying problem had been that the money allocated to the provinces was insufficient and so the Free State DSD did not have enough money to allocate more to the NPOs. There were systemic flaws in the ways that budget decisions were being made which was resulting in provinces not being able to deliver on their promises.

Ms Proudlock stated that NPOs did not feel as if they were being heard by government. This was made evident in a meeting that Ms Proudlock attended with the national treasury and a number of NPOs whereby the national Department of Social Development presented its new funding policy for NPOs as “finalised”. There had been an outcry from NPOs because the policy was presented as “finalised” yet NPOs had not been consulted on the policy nor had it been published for comment. Ms Proudlock suggested that the Committee could play a role in ensuring that such policies should at least come before parliament for debate before being finalised by the National Department.

The government was currently funding 4 400 social work students through its bursary programme. There were however no government bursaries for other categories of professionals that also need to be expanded such as child and youth care workers.

In concluding, Ms Proudlock listed some of the policy processes that would be dealing with some of the problems highlighted in the presentation and that were going to need the Committee’s oversight in the future. This included the Social Service Professions Policy currently being developed by the DSD.

DVD Documentary on the ISIBINDI Project  
A DVD was played showcasing the ISIBINDI “circle of care” model that the Minister had agreed to roll out across the country and that would aim to reach 1.8 million children. The DVD provided insight about the children whom the ISIBINDI model provided services to. For example, the DVD showed seven young children, living in Umbumbulu, Kwa-Zulu Natal who had been orphaned when their mother died of HIV Aids. The children were being taken care of by their grandmother who was very elderly and poverty stricken therefore struggled to take care of the children. A child and youth care worker, under the auspices of the ISIBINDI project, had been assigned to assist the grandmother with all aspects of taking care of the young children to help alleviate her burden. The DVD showcased the type of support offered by the child and youth care workers in a number of other provinces.  

Ms Ramodibe asked why there was only one ISIBINDI project in the Free State but eleven in the Eastern Cape and twenty six in KwaZulu Natal. She asked if ISIBINDI was a national programme and to what extent was the programme existed in other provinces.

Ms Lamoela asked if there were special criteria for having the ISIBINDI programme implemented in a specific area or province.

Ms Proudlock replied that the criteria for the placement of ISIBINDI projects across provinces was based on factors such as the number of poor children in that province, and its level of HIV prevalence. Another determining factor was available funding from provinces and whether the NACCW, a major training organisation for child and youth care workers driving ISIBINDI, could form a  partnership with the provincial department. For example, the NACCW had managed to form a partnership with the Northern Cape DSD and as a result there had been expansion of ISIBNDI projects in this province. Now that the programme had been endorsed by the Minister there would be a careful selection of where ISIBINDI projects should be located based on child headed household statistics, poverty and HIV prevalence and linking up to other government priority programmes in rural areas.

Ms Lamoela asked how many success stories there were with the ISIBINDI programme and in particular how many child-headed households had benefited from the programme.

Ms Lamoela stated there were many problems associated with the funding for NPOs in Limpopo and asked how many ISIBINDI projects would be implemented there.

Ms Proudlock replied Limpopo was one of the targets for the roll-out of the ISIBINDI project.

Ms Proudlock suggested that Committee members visited one of the ISIBINDI sites in the Eastern Cape in their upcoming trip to Eastern Cape planned for June 2011. If the Committee did do the site tour of ISIBINDI they should ask the NACCW to do a presentation on the roll-out plan.

Ms Lamoela said she was surprised that there was no single database that could show how many social workers there were in South Africa and asked for the presenter to explain this.

The Chairperson stated that a high number of social workers were falling off the radar and not reregistering every year. One of the reasons was that social workers were often promoted to managerial positions.

Ms Lamoela commented on the extremely high turnover of social workers. She also expressed her concern over the shortage of social workers.

Ms Proudlock replied that the Committee could ask the DSD and the Council on Social Service Professionals to present to the Committee their plans and strategies relating to this. Strategies to retain social workers as well as strategies to produce social workers needed to be assessed, Social workers were an “emigrating category” of workers because the developed world also had a high demand for South African social workers. This is another reason by  indigenous categories of workers who came from the communities and intended to return to their communities should be targeted for training.

Ms Makupate commented on the shortage of social workers stating that the issue of the quality of social workers as well as the quantity should be kept in mind.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked if there was a plan to address the fact that many social workers from the NPO sector crossed over into the government sector to receive higher salaries.

Ms Proudlock suggested that the pay for social workers in government and in NPOs should be equalised. The NPO Funding Policy [Policy on Financial Awards for Service Providers] was currently being set at the national level and there was still time for the Committee to call the Department in to question them on this. A particular problem with the NPO Funding Policy was that it did not distinguish between “statutory” services and “discretionary” services. The Department lumped these together which was problematic because government had an obligation to fund those organisations that were performing statutory services. Lumping the services together inflated the number of NPOs that the government was constitutionally obliged to fund to 76 000 NPOs whereas the actual number was only approximately 20 000 which was for more manageable for the task of equalising the salaries of NPO and government based social workers.

Ms Kenye asked if there were any statistics available on the balance of males and females employed as social workers.

Ms Proudlock replied that they did not have these statistics but that Council might have them.

Ms Kenye asked how many provinces had experienced the same problems that came up in the Eastern Cape with unequal funding from government for government- and NPO-run services.

Ms Proudlock replied that these problems existed in all provinces and that technically any of the provinces could be taken to court over the same issue that the Free State Department had been challenged on. All the provinces were not paying full funding for statutory services. National DSD needed to lead the way in creating  legislated funding norms so that the provinces could follow.

Ms S Kopane (DA) suggested better family planning education campaigns to encourage people to have fewer children, especially if parents knew that they were HIV positive and might not be able to take care of their children in the long term. Parents needed to be more aware of the responsibilities involved in taking care of, and providing for, children.

Ms Proudlock replied that in recent years there had been improved access to ARVs for HIV positive people. As a result, HIV positive parents with access to ARV medication were now able to live longer and take care of their children. Family planning and health promotion training should be part of the home and community based child and youth care workers training and if it was not, then the Committee could take this up with the Department of Health and Social Development.

Ms Kopane stated that out of a total of 40 million people who were beneficiaries of social grants, 10 million were receiving child support grants. This was a large chunk out of taxpayers’ money.

Ms Katherine Hall (Senior Researcher
, Children’s Institute) replied that there was a lot of concern about the size of the budget of social grants but that in fact it was really only a small proportion of our Gross Domestic Product.

Ms Kopane asked if ISIBINDI care workers coordinated with community home-based care workers based in other government departments so that there was no overlap or duplication of services.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) asked who funded the balance of the salaries for social workers working for NPOs if the government only partly funded their salaries. What could Committee members do to assist with this problem?

Ms Makhuba asked how the Free State DSD had explained their decision to grant government-run homes R 6 000 per child and NPO-run homes only R2 500.

Ms P Duncan (DA, Portfolio Committee on Women and Children and People with Disabilities) asked if the Institute had any recommendations as to how government could more efficiently and effectively address children’s rights.

Ms Duncan said there needed to be a way of monitoring and evaluating the work of NPOs and the difference that was being made in the lives of children.

Ms Proudlock responded that the beauty of programmes run by “social franchise models” such as those run by NACCW and Child Welfare was that the funders of these programmes, such as USAID, had extremely strict financial requirements and monitoring and evaluation criteria. The models therefore had good monitoring and evaluation systems in place and could produce good statistics on their interventions. There was a need to streamline the monitoring and evaluation systems of government and NPOs so that NGOs did not have to do two sets of monitoring and evaluation, one for their donors and one for the Department.

Ms Duncan commented that the DVD brought to her attention the fact that all government departments needed to participate in meeting the needs of children.

Orphaning and the Foster Child Grant: Return to the “Care or Cash” Debate
Ms Katharine Hall, Senior Researcher at the Children’s Institute, presented the differences between the Child Support Grant (CSG) which was currently R260 per child per month and the Foster Child Grant (FCG) which was R740 per child per month. The FCG was increasingly being granted to orphans, however the application of the FCG was inconsistent as some courts had ordered the FCG for the care of orphans by their relatives while others had not. There were a number of legal contradictions within the Children’s Act which were causing ambiguity in understanding the purpose of the FCG.

The escalating number of lapsed foster care grants was a symptom of an overburdened system that cannot keep up with the demand. The Social Security Directorate of the DSD had started a process to review the policy on the FCG. Ultimately the Portfolio Committee would need to debate and pass the amendments needed to the Children’s Act and Social Assistance Act to address the problems.

Ms Proudlock gave an overview of foster care legal reform and recent related court cases. When the Children’s Act was passed by Parliament, it was split into two bills due to the need to follow different procedures in the NCOP for “s76” bills (that affect the provinces). The two bills were dealt with at different times and Part 1 and Part 2 actually contradicted each other on the FCG. For example, s150 (1) (a) on the first Bill (which became Act 38 of 2005) can be interpreted to mean that orphaned children already living with relatives did not qualify for the FCG,  whereas the second Bill (which became Act 41 of 2007) recognises that family members could qualify as foster parents and thus could receive the FCG. A further complication was that all of the policy and law reform processes that had dealt with the foster care issues so far, either dealt only with the placement issue or only with the grant. Issues of foster care placement and foster care grants needed to be discussed in conjunction with each other; they could not be debated separately. The Directorate of Welfare Services and Directorate for Social Security needed to work together on a joint policy reform process to address this. Otherwise Parliament was going to end up with the Children’s Bill on its table again and it would only be able to look at the issue of placements without any grant options available to address the issue.

Ms Hall presented statistics on the number of FCGs paid each month to children for the years 2007 to 2011 across the country and in each province. Analysis of the statistics showed that FCGs lapsed mainly because of expired court orders. Orders have to be extended by the social workers and court after a two-year period. This indicated that there were currently too many FCG beneficiaries for the system in its current form to handle and there were not enough social workers to do the applications for foster care and the extension of the orders.

The care arrangements, poverty profiles and situations of orphans living with relatives was juztaposed with other categories of vulnerable children such as children living with their biological mothers, and children living with relatives due to their mother working in towns.  Ms Hall posed a number of important questions that Committee members might consider in reflecting on why there was a difference in the amount of the grant that each category of child can access.

Government and Donor Funding Available for Implementing the Children’s Act: 2010/11 – 2012/13
Ms Proudlock presented problems and issues related to the government and donor funding available for implementing the Children’s Act for 2010/11-2012/13. The funding allocated by the nine provincial departments of social development for implementing the Children’s Act in the 2010/11 financial year was presented. The allocation of funds to provincial departments was according to the “equitable share formula” which had not been amended to take into account legislation passed by the Committee. In particular the Children’s Act had increased the burden on provinces to provide services - yet provinces had not been provided with additional funds. There was inequality in the allocation of budget to Children’s Act services across the provinces because provinces had discretion on how much money they allocate to each department. Average annual growth in the Child Care and Protection sub-programme of the Social Welfare Programme grew on average by 13% per annum over 2010/11-2012/13, except for the North West, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces which “grew” at a number below inflation.

The Children’s Act costing represented what should have been allocated by government in 2010/11 to implement the Children’s Act. The budget allocated by the 9 provinces combined fell significantly below the funds needed for the Act’s implementation for 2010/11. Only 45% of the budget for the lowest level of the implementation plan for the Act was currently being provided for. Other sources of funding needed to be found. A number of recommended actions to do this were highlighted.

Ways in which the pace of service delivery could be increased were suggested. One of these was the finalisation of a fair, equitable and reasonable National Policy for the financing of NPOs delivering services on behalf of government.   

Ms Duncan asked the Children’s Institute if there was a database on the demand for adopting children in South Africa

Ms Proudlock replied that the national department should have such statistics. There was a database of adoptable children but she was doubtful that there was a database of the demand for adoption. There was no incentive for families to adopt because adopting meant that the FCG would be stopped. There were a number of reasons why families were not interested in adopting children.

The Chairperson agreed that this issue needed to be followed up by the Committee.

Ms Kenye asked why only the pilot programmes of NPOs were being funded by government.

Ms Proudlock corrected Ms Kenye stating that not only pilot NPO programmes were being funded by government. Many of social franchise models that now operate on a large scale started off as pilot programmes that were initially funded by donors but were now  also being funded by government.

Ms Kopane asked why provinces were not budgeting enough for social welfare services. Was this because of the shortage of social welfare practitioners?

Ms Proudlock replied that provinces were often unable to show that they had the capacity to deliver services. This was partly because they did not have enough human resources and partly because they were not including the NPO business plans in their bids. The provinces submitted requests for their funds and then the NPOs applied for money. If the NPOs and the provinces did joint budget planning then the provinces could use the NPO data to show treasuries that there was existing capacity to deliver services through NPOs that had the workers and the systems in place. Including donors in budget planning would also be helpful.

Ms Lamoela asked how the criteria for NPOs affected the funding received by NPOs.

Ms Proudlock replied using the example of an ECD Centre. ECD Centres could not qualify for government funding unless they had NPO registration for which there were a number of financial reporting and other requirements which many NPOs were not able to meet. Even NPO registered ECD Centres could not qualify for ECD subsidies unless they met the Norms and Standards required by the Children’s Act. The Norms and Standards were often too high for ECD Centres to meet because they did not have sufficient budgets to pay for the required care workers, toilets and food for the children that was required by the Norms and Standard.

The Chairperson commented that these criteria were important for the protection and safety of children visiting the ECD Centres. It was extremely important that monitoring and evaluation systems were in place to ensure that NPOs offered quality services.

Ms Lamoela commented that fathers needed to be held more responsible for taking care of children. Was there any research on this?

Ms Hall replied that there had been concern about the nature of the family and the role of parents and fathers in the lives of children. In terms of income maintenance, it was known that the income maintenance system was not good and that there had been fewer remittances to households meaning that households were receiving fewer remittances from absent members than they used to. It could be that more grants were reaching the rural areas and that these households were receiving fewer remittances from family members living in the cities. This was not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it meant that people migrating to cities to find work were able to spend their money on establishing housing and accommodation with a view to bringing their families to come live with them in the cities. How did people start breaking out of the existing spatial patterns of poverty, where households and families were split and where old women looked after young children in rural areas in order to free up young people to go and find work?

The Chairperson expressed Committee’s wish to arrange a follow-up meeting with the Children’s Institute to engage more with the issues in the presentation.

The meeting was adjourned.


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