Presentation of certificates to Members by Minister of Social Development; Committee Report on Oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape; Committee Programme

Social Development

28 November 2011
Chairperson: Ms Y R (ANC) Botha
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Meeting Summary

The Committee's Report on its oversight Visit to the Eastern Cape focused on the South African Social Security Agency's challenges in the Eastern Cape and a large number of projects which the Committee had visited.  The Report outlined the Committee's recommendations on how they could be addressed.

After extensive discussion on the Empilweni Old Age Home, the Committee adopted its Report with amendments.

The Committee's first term 2012 programme was adopted unanimously, while plans were made for Members to register for an accredited social policy course to be offered by the Department of Social Development. As the dates conflicted with scheduled Member training, the permission of the House Chair would be sought.  

The Minister of Social Development presented Members with certificates for their involvement in an accredited social policy course earlier in the year and commended the Committee for its commitment to furthering its education and expanding its knowledge on issues of social policy and development.

Meeting report

Introduction
The Chairperson apologised for the delay, but the meeting's business required a quorum.

Committee's Report on the Oversight visit to the Eastern Cape
The Chairperson summarised the report which stated that the Committee visited the Eastern Cape from 27 June to 01 July 2011. The Committee had received briefings from the provincial department and regional officers from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) on its performance in implementing national priorities. The Committee found that the provincial department had implemented the key strategic national priorities: welfare services for women, children and people with disabilities.

Ms Yolisa Nogenga, Content Advisor, detailed the key findings. There was a lack of infrastructure for officers for projects and there was a lack of training for caregivers. The Committee also found that the Isibindi model was a good model that should be rolled out nationally. It was felt that the projects which the Committee visited had made a positive impact, despite the challenges that the Committee also observed. They also visited the Sazama family project in Edendale which, although it had no office or furniture, successfully dealt with the issue of ukuthwala in that area. The Committee also visited the Empilweni Old Age Home which had problems with labour relations and the services provided which needed to be addressed. The Committee determined that the Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the province and the old age home needed to be revisited, particularly concerning what services the old age home provided.

The Committee determined that SASSA had done well in rolling out services but it had challenges in lack of space. The Committee visited its two park-homes whose safety was not up to standard, while the storing area for files did not provide a safe environment for confidentiality.

Ms Tamara Xhanti, Chairperson, Social Development Portfolio Committee, Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, informed the Committee that key challenges included the lack of action by the national Department in implementing resolutions taken by her Committee, that the Department was not prepared with the necessary information when presenting to the Committee, and that the Department often did not provide training. This Committee also noticed this when visiting projects as volunteers were often not trained. Ms Xhanti also highlighted the challenges for beneficiaries of grants as the Eastern Cape was largely rural and villages were often far from town leading to high travelling costs.

Mr Dalindyebo Maxegwana, General Manager: Social Welfare Services, Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Social Development, presented the integrated service delivery model which the province had implemented. In answering the Committee’s questions about the Masupatsela Youth Pioneer Development Programme, he stated that 79 youth members were employed to serve the programme and 1 000 Matsupatsela pioneers were employed by the Department. He also reported a communication strategy developed for youth development which focused on the recruitment of youth for the Masupatsela programme. He also stated that the Department subsided 1 247 Early Child Development (ECD) centres where it paid R15 per child per day as a subsidy, which was higher than in all other provinces. The Department also employed 349 graduate social workers; however, it was concerned over the high failure and drop-out rates which could be attributed to the limited number of lecturers in the field compared to the number of students. For example, in Fort Hare University there were 9 lecturers for 900 students.

The challenges that the Committee found included the shortage and availability of commissioners from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development which delayed the review of court orders and finalisations of applications for foster care grants.

 The Committee recommended that the Department establish working relations with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to address these delays. The migration of social workers between provinces to those which were seen to be paying better was also seen as a concern. The Committee recommended that the Department should consider developing a retention strategy to address this issue. A resolution was decided upon that the Department should provide the Committee with the annual report from its 2010/11 financial year.

Ms Nogenga then summarised the findings and recommendations that the Committee had made following its visit to several projects, including an agricultural cooperative, and a home community-based care system.

Discussion
Ms Tshwete commented that the SASSA delivery model had covered most of the challenges which the Committee had found. She felt that next year, the Committee could use this model as a point of departure for the Committee to monitor SASSA.

Ms Lamoela asked who would follow up on issues which were raised by the Committee. Some of the action plans detailed in the report should have started already.

The Chairperson replied that this issue could be incorporated into the resolution prepared by the Committee. These issues could then be raised with the Minister and the Member of the Executive Council (MEC). This could also mandate the Members of the Committee who were from the Eastern Cape to do a physical follow-up. The Committee could also make a one or two day visit to some of these areas.

Ms Lamoela commented that in one of the areas the financial report was defective.

Ms Masilo asked what time frame the Committee gave the Department to act on the Committee’s recommendations.

Ms Lamoela stated that the financial reports needed to be completed.

The Chairperson replied that the report was more focused on governance rather than budgets.

Ms S Kopane (DA) felt that the report should also emphasise the working relationship between the Departments of Health and Social Development for in many areas there was the possibility that services were being duplicated, particularly in training, and that the responsibilities should be shared.

The Chairperson replied that currently the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which held the training were accredited to both Departments, but the overall facilitation was done by the Department of Health. However, there should be more collaboration between the two Departments. She suggested, in reference to the challenge raised concerning the shortage and unavailability of commissioners, that a provision be added to set aside specific court days for the court to deal with this issue. In reference to the migrating social workers, she highlighted the extent of the challenge to social workers due to the vastness of districts. There needed to be appreciation for the work done by social workers in these conditions.

Ms Kopane mentioned that another issue was the lack of conducive working environments for social workers.

Ms Lamoela commented that the reason goals were not reached was because no time frame was set.

The Chairperson replied that the Department should consider a retention strategy as a mechanism to retain social workers in the province. The Department should also establish working relations with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development concerning court orders and the finalisation of foster care grants.

Ms Lamoela asked why the Department did not provide the Committee with an annual report.

Ms Nogenga replied that the Committee had the power to request this document.

Ms Lamoela questioned if this report had been requested from the Department during the oversight visit. Was this ever received?

The Chairperson replied that it had not been received and that a letter of request would be sent.

Ms Lamoela re-emphasised the importance of time-frames for if the initial request had been accompanied by a time-frame then it could have been provided by now.

The Committee adopted the recommendations.

The Chairperson suggested that as the national Department of Social Development ran the National Bursary Fund for social workers, the Committee should request information from it on how many of the Eastern Cape students were studying social work.

Ms Lamoela agreed with this suggestion, and added that the Committee should also request information on how many applied for bursaries.

The Chairperson replied that the real figures would only be available in January when the matric results were released and it was clear how many were successful. Currently there was only provisional approval.

Ms Lamoela replied that there should be a number of how many people had applied.

The Chairperson commented that the bursary scheme was a good way to encourage graduates to return to the rural areas after studying for there was a contract.

Ms Kopane felt that the Committee was not doing justice to the issue of social workers. She suggested that it be put aside until the Department gave a presentation to the Committee on the issue. Perhaps it could provide a present analysis on the issue in South Africa.

Ms Lamoela supported Ms Kopane, and suggested that the Committee held a special session on this issue.

The Chairperson replied that so many different departments used social workers. She suggested a cluster approach in debating this issue and talking about retention strategies.

The Chairperson moved on to focus on the recommendations concerning the agricultural cooperative which had suggested diversifying crops.

Ms Lamoela replied that this project was meant to end in July and wondered if it still existed as the funding had come to an end.

The Chairperson replied that a follow-up must be made concerning the status of the project.

The Chairperson then turned to the Zabuza home community-based care. This project did not keep records of the people assisted. Volunteers did not have kits or equipment, and the project did not have permanent buildings. The volunteers received no training. The Department of Health should train these volunteers. Due to the isolation in the rural areas, the workers would render assistance which required training from both the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development. There was also an issue with land. NGOs could be run from any facility.

Ms Masilo commented that in her own constituency there had been empty buildings belonging to the Department of Public Works which were leased to NGOs.

Ms Tshwete commented that she was confused as the findings were different from the recommendation.

Ms Lamoela replied that this was a duplication.

The Chairperson replied that this was incorrect. She continued that the challenges that the Sazama family project faced were the lack of capacity building for volunteers, that there had been no building in the building of a structure, and that the funds were managed by a conduit in Butterworth. The clients of this project were victims of domestic violence. The Department should closely monitor financial management. However, this service was to reduce a need as well as to advocate, therefore success was measured by a decrease in victims. This intervention had led to a reduction in the number of cases of ukuthwala.

The Chairperson stated that the service level agreement must be tangible. The Department should consider improving the branding and the marketing of the project.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) felt that on this project there should be close relationship with traditional leaders.

The Chairperson responded that this would fall under advocacy by the project where there would be debate with stakeholders, and traditional leaders would be one of the primary groupings. With the support of a traditional leader, 50% of the project would be achieved as they would bring authority.

The Committee recommended that SASSA develop a plan of action with time-frames to address the challenges it was facing. The Committee also requested that the regional office of SASSA provide it with an organogram which was still outstanding. The Committee observed the park-home offices which contravened safety and security. The Committee recommended that SASSA reconsider the use of park-homes and instead try to a find a better way of utilising its budget of R4.5 million. However, this recommendation was already out of date as the Committee saw the new building being built. Once the new building had been completed the Committee recommended that the park-homes be abandoned as they compromised the safety and dignity of the clients and the officials.

At the Isibindi project, the Committee observed that there was a shortage of open land, and a lack of funding to sustain the project; application for grants for refugee children were all challenges that needed to be addressed. The Committee recommended that the Department and the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) should consider building a working relationship that would be aimed at finding ways to sustain the Isibindi model. To address the challenge of finding land they should consult with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to find a solution. The Chairperson felt that this was the wrong department and that it should be replaced by the Umtata Municipality. The project required open space and imagination.

The Chairperson noted that the report excluded the recommendations surrounding the Empilweni Old Age Home. The Committee observed that the condition of the wards was not conducive for older persons as the new building that housed the frail had no heating system and no appropriately designed showers; however there was heating in the ward for active older persons. The Committee was also concerned that labour relations were not followed as management changed job descriptions without effective communication.

Ms Tshwete was worried as there was a lot of funding for the Old Age Home, but it was not supervised by the Department. Social Development must make sure and monitor. There was no proper supervising of the elderly; for example, they were naked and the curtains were not closed. They should take proper care of elderly people.

Ms N Gcume (COPE) raised the issue of the beneficiaries having to pay quite a lot to live in the Old Age Home. The other issue was the ownership of the Old Age Home – who owned it? The Government was putting a lot of money into it and the Board was reporting to someone else.

Ms S Paulse (ID) reminded the Members that she had asked to see the sluice room, after being assured that there was one; however, there was not one. There was only a storage room. This was an issue in terms of frail-care.

Ms Kopane commented that the recommendation should include the utilisation of staff. Those staff were not used effectively as they do not look after their patients. The entire old age home did not comply with the Department’s norms and standards. There were no programmes to entertain the old people.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) stated that the old age home should be closed because it was a daylight robbery of the old people. There was no care, no blankets, and it was very cold. There appeared to be corrupt activities occurring.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) reminded the Committee that if the old age home was closed then there would be no lace for the old people.

The Chairperson replied that the Department of Social Development and the Lottery fund funded the old age home.

Ms Makhuba commented that the parliamentary committees which were concerned with this issue should come up with a way to do the monitoring and the assisting.

Ms Mafolo stated that she wanted an investigation on how much money was spent there.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) stated that the place was not conducive to the elderly. She recommended the renovation of the building to fix the slippery floor, and remove the side wards. She also recommended that a housekeeper be hired to look at the linen and ensure that there were enough clothes for all the patients.

Ms Lamoela stated that it was useless if nothing came out of the oversight. She stated that closing it down now would not help, and instead the situation should be rectified. There was clear legislation on old age homes which was not enforced. There was a clear sign of neglect of the elderly. There were assurances from the national Government that an investigation would occur but so far no report had been issued to clear up the problem. She suggested an unannounced trip to see what the conditions were like now.

Ms Tshwete agreed that time should be given to improve the situation. The Committee should ask the Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) concerned to make a follow up visit. The Social Development department in the Eastern Cape must give the Committee a report concerning this issue. After this had occurred, if there had been no change then the old age home should be closed down.

The Chairperson reminded the Members that the issue was featured on the news in August as the management of the old age home was suspended. Clearly there were issues of governance occurring. She proposed that the Committee request that the national Minister send a task team to look at operations in the home, determine whether rights had been violated and what the management would do to improve living conditions.

She stated that it was a good move to suspend the manager. There should be some national and provincial responsibility. She requested that feedback be sent by early February. The other issue was that no recreation programme had been implemented and thus the elderly were simply waiting to die.

The other Members of the Committee agreed with the Chairperson’s suggestion.

The Committee recommended that Safe Houses be valid programmes that enabled men and women to participate in the 16 days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children.

Ms Kopane asked where the observations were.

The Chairperson replied that the observations appear to be missing.

Ms Makhuba commented that the Safe Houses set-up was wonderful as they were homely, clean, and tidy. The only issue discussed by the Committee was the issue of security.

The Chairperson explained that in SASSA offices managers were based on the same floor as the rest of the staff. This model was adopted to enable managers to constantly monitor the performance of staff. The Committee recommended that the new service delivery model should be implemented and monitored vigorously.

The Committee was not satisfied that the filing warehouse was not operating yet. The Committee requested a progress report on the operations. The Chairperson explained that the system was fine, but the building was closed so the filing was in chaos, and stacked in the regional office. In SASSA’s regional office the space was cramped but, if the warehouse was operational, some of the filing in the office would migrate there.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee would accept the report.

 Ms P Xaba (ANC) moved to adopt the report with amendments. This was seconded by Ms Gcume.

Committee programme first term 2012
Ms Lindiwe Ntsebo, Committee Secretary, outlined the programme for the first term 2012. The first meeting of the Committee would be on 18 January at which it would receive a briefing from the National Planning Commission on the National Development Plan and its impact on social development.

From 23 - 27 January the Members would attend training by the Department of Social Development. As this training would be in Durban, time would also be allocated to adopt a diagnostic report as per the requirements of the House Chair.

Members of the Committee had requested an update on implementation of its resolutions and the Committee’s strategic plan. The Content Advisor and Secretary would thus present a briefing on the resolutions, he implementation plan, the challenges, and the strategic plan on 08 February. Outstanding minutes would also be adopted then.

On 14 February there would be a presentation by the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority on its programmes. This meeting was requested by Members in 2011. On 21 February, the Committee would call in the Department of Social Development to brief it on issues emanating from the State of the Nation address.

On 28 February the Department would brief the Committee on its signed internal agreements.

On 5 March the Committee would adjust its annual strategic and business plan. This document would be produced prior to the meeting.

On 13 March, the last meeting of the term, the Committee would be briefed on the Child Protection Register by the Departments of Justice & Constitutional Development and Social Development.

Discussion
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that the programme could be subject to some adjustments due to the social policy course the Committee planned to attend. She presented the Committee with the option of participating in the course from 30 January to 3 February, or from 6 to 10 February. However, as the State of the Nation address would be held on 9 February, the Committee would have to attend the first option.

The Secretary replied that the reason that there had not been a meeting scheduled for that week on the programme was that the House Chairperson planned to held Member training and no other meetings could be held. She suggested that an application should be made to approve the Committee's missing the Member training for the course.

The Chairperson responded that it depended on the nature of the proposed training. If it was related to the Members’ duty of oversight, then she commented that a later date for the training could be requested. The proposed course from the Department was accredited training for the whole Committee, while the Member training would not be accredited. She stated that she had not received any notification of the proposed Member training. The accredited course had also been negotiated a year before this.

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) proposed that the Committee write a letter of motivation to ask for permission to attend the accredited course in place of the Member training.

The Chairperson asked whether the Committee would agree to the course being held during the week 30 January to 3 February. This was agreed to by the Members.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked whether the course in Durban on social security would still be happening.

The Chairperson replied that the Committee still needed to apply to the House Chairperson. She commented that new things were always happening in Social Development and thus training for Members was very important in order that they were prepared.

Ms J Masilo (ANC) suggested that the Chairperson arrange a meeting with the House Chairperson as she was concerned that writing a letter would be insufficient. She stated that he had declined three of the Committee's proposals, while other Committees had been given permission for similar events. This also impacted the Committee’s budget, for if its proposals were not accepted then the Committee would not use its budget and it would roll-over to the following year.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee found the programme acceptable. There was unanimous acceptance by the Committee.

The Chairperson then outlined part one of the social policy course. This course would focus on the analysis of poverty, South Africa’s social policy in the context of Southern Africa, the role of the state and other actors and institutions, the impact of globalisation on domestic social policy, and case studies on free schools and the child support grant. 

Ms Lamoela asked that the Chairperson email the Members a copy of the outline, which the Chairperson agreed to do.

Minister of Social Development Presentation of certificates to Members of the Committee
The Hon. Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, was very impressed that the Members of the Committee had attended this course. It was very important for Members of Parliament to understand their portfolio so as to be able to raise relevant questions. She particularly emphasised learning more about human rights and social policy.

The Minister then presented certificates to Members of the Committee.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister, before commenting that this was an indication on how serious the Committee was taking its responsibility of oversight.

The meeting was adjourned.



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