Department of Social Development: Impact of State of Nation Address, Committee Report adoption

Social Development

27 February 2012
Chairperson: Ms P Tshwete (ANC)(Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Social Development (DSD) outlined the implications of the State of the Nation Address for this Department. It noted that the country faced a triple burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Priority areas were identified in addressing these challenges. These included the provision of social grants to poor households, to improve access to foods, under the Zero Hunger campaign and it was stressed that this also had input from other departments. Concerns included food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. Food distribution and procurement issues were discussed. It was noted that another priority was expansion of services of child and youth carers, where R1.4 billion was required to drive all programmes, and it was hoped that 1.3 million vulnerable children would benefit. Anti-substance abuse programmes were also important, as they aimed to prevent further poverty and to increase the publics' knowledge of the effects of substance abuse. Policies were being developed to strengthen coherence of the approach to alcohol and illicit drugs. All stakeholders would be involved in developing social dialogue, and community involvement was encouraged.

Members rised issues about resources for the various programmes, and asked about the progress made in monitoring and evaluation, stressing that this was an important aspect, and that timelines were required for all programmes. They also asked about the development of policy, noting that there were backlogs in implementing matters discussed some years previously. Committee members were particularly concerned with what the DSD was doing to assist women, child-headed households, widows as a separate group, and wanted to know if there were particular problems in implementing in rural as against urban areas. They called for further information on the Anti-Substance Abuse programmes and the involvement of other departments.

The Committee adopted its draft reports on the National Development Agency and the South African Social Security Agency.

Meeting report

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) was appointed as Acting Chairperson.

Department of Social Development (DSD): The State of the Nation Address (SONA)
Mr Vusi Madonsela, Director General, Department of Social Development, apologised for the absence of the Minister, who was in New York, as well as the Deputy Minister who was in a Cabinet meeting.

Mr Rodgers Hlatshwayo, Chief Director: Strategic Planning, Department of Social Development, stated that this presentation would look at some of the issues in relation to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), and noted that the Department of Social Development (DSD or the Department) remained committed to addressing the issues.

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) SONA set the framework for government to deal with the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The findings from the Social Profile of Vulnerable Groups in South Africa (2002-2010) showed that household structures were severely disrupted and disproportionately affected by poverty. A major strategy announced in the 2012 SONA was that of infrastructure development, which sought to increase access to water, electricity, housing and other basic constitutional rights.

The DSD's response focused on expanding its social protection measures, to save lives and to reduce the levels of deprivation, through social grants, community development and welfare services. There would be a dedicated focus on programmes such as Early Childhood Development (ECD), Child and Youth Care programmes, Anti-Substance Abuse (ASA) and Food for All programmes. All of these sought to address the challenges facing the country.

Other priority areas included the Zero Hunger approach, where social grants played a huge role, Child and Youth Care, where services would be expanded using the Isibindi Model, and ASA campaigns aimed at educating populations on the dangers of abuse, together with strengthening policies in relation to alcohol and other substances. These would go a long way to reducing crime, which included violence against women.

Priority areas for ECD were then described. Subsidies would be raised to levels that would support cognitive, social and physical development of children. Policy would focus on making ECD a public good. Adults and care-givers needed to be involved, to create depth. Mr Hlatshwayo mentioned that Grade R had been more than doubled over the last eight years, from 300 000 in 2003 to 705 000 in 2011. The Department was working towards a target of 100% coverage of Grade R by 2014.

Strategic gains would be consolidated by continuing too use the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to alleviate poverty, through the provision of short medium term work opportunities, using labour-intensive methods. Other areas for consolidation would be strengthening of the social dialogue and cooperation between government, business and communities, encouraging active citizenry and having a 'bottom-up' approach so that poverty was eliminated and inequality was reduced over the next two decades. A national Integrated Social Information System (NISIS) would provide social infrastructure technology, which would improve the level of co-ordination of anti-poverty efforts. All sectors of government were concerned with methods of increasing industrialisation.

Finally, in consolidating programmes, the focus would be on increasing the capacity of the state. Nurses would be utilised in the anti-poverty drives. The DSD would continue to work towards women empowerment and the passing of the Gender Equality Bill, to promote compliance in both government and the private sector, whilst imposing sanctions for non-compliance.

DSD welcomed the Heritage projects mentioned in SONA, as they acknowledged historical landmarks, for example, the Women's Uprising of 1913. The move not only recognized the contributions of women in the liberation struggle, but placed the culture of rights and social cohesion at the centre of community development,.

The Acting Chairperson commented that the issues were well known and understood, but she was still concerned about setting time-frames, and about evaluating and monitoring and their time-frames.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked what strategies were being considered in relation to the issues of food security, land reform and agriculture and the auditing of state owned land. She asked whether monitoring and evaluation strategies were in place. She also asked what specific strategies the DSD was running on the dangers of substance abuse ,especially in relation to women.

Mr Madonsela responded that strategies for food security, rural development and youth programmes, and the conducting of audits of state lands were all in place. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform had experts who were active in seeking solutions and were working together with all stakeholders. Social Assistance programmes placed cash in the hands of poor people. These grants were mostly spent on food, before spending on other general needs. Through social assistance, people were provided with the ability to buy food for themselves. In the following year, the social assistance would be in excess of R100 billion. Increased need for food would require additional generation of funds.

He added that the Department of Land and Rural Development was tasked with making land available to smallholder farmers who wanted to produce food directly, to cater for the needs of poor communities. The DSD wished to address the issue of malnutrition as well as provision of food. In both areas, there was joint work being done to try to achieve zero hunger, between the Ministries of Social Development and of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Dr Maria Mabetoa, Deputy Director General, DSD, added that there were monitoring and evaluation systems for these programmes, as well as the Isibindi programme, and for every programme that was developed, there would be monitoring and evaluation systems.

Mr M Waters (DA) asked what the projections were for reducing the numbers of people who were dependent on grants. He noted that some policy changes from four years ago had not yet been implemented from four years ago, and questioned the development of new policies..

Mr Hlatshwayo said the DSD was aware that more extensive information about measurements and targets was needed, and this would form the subject of a separate, more detailed presentation.

Mr Waters asked how many social workers were being trained.

Mr Madonsela responded that at the beginning of 2007, there were more than 4 000 social workers. Another 1
 000 social workers had just graduated, bringing the total now to more than 5 000.

Mr Waters asked how many children were reached through the Kimanyo project.  He also wanted to know where and how many Leadership Camps there were, what was the selection criteria and what skills were taught.

Mr Peter Netshipale, Chief Director: NPO and Partnerships, Department of Social Development, (DSD), stated that there were a number of issues facing the youth and that the first strategy was to engage youth via social skills development, such as in collaboration with loveLife. In relation to HIV, it was necessary to identify youth for inclusion in social change programmes, care facilities, leadership programmes and youth camps. Youth already at risk would be the primary target. The youth camps were intended to prepare young people for the labour market. These campaigns existed in both urban and rural areas, to draw youth into development and other programmes.

Dr Mabetoa emphasised that policy development and reform must continue, so that the DSD was prepared when reforming legislation was introduced, rather than waiting until the implementation date of that legislation.

Ms P Xaba (ANC) asked about human resource strategies, ICT training in schools and food security for female or child-headed households. She asked how these households were being identified and assisted, and how these matters were communicated.

Mr Madonsela responded that recruitment of child and youth care workers involved all stakeholders and that screening criteria, including correct identification procedures, had to be in place to ensure that the right people were placed to work with children. He noted that women and child-headed households were specifically targeted in the programmes. The Food Bank South Africa and civil society networks worked collectively to provide food. Provision was made, in the Children's Act, that child-headed households had to have access to food under a supervising adult if the head of the household was under the age of sixteen. Those above sixteen years of age would be identified and assisted in accessing social assistance programmes. Communication strategies included extensive use of radio, whilst reading material and other visual-audio material was also made available. There was constant work on developing resources for women, and facilitating the development of capacity. All programmes would be regrouped to include these issues.

Mr V Magagula (ANC) enquired about the readiness of the Department to provide equipment and resources to implement the strategies.

Mr Madonsela stated that at a local level, support was provided to farmers and households with seedlings, tools and other equipment. In the matter of state procurement of food, food availability was being addressed through alternative strategies, together with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Households also received food parcels.

Ms E More (DA) requested additional information about improving access to food.

Mr Madonsela said that part of improving access to food was done through programmes that ensured that people had cash in hand to buy food. Social relief of distress covered the delivery of food parcels to households, and this was complemented with food supplements to increase the household vitamin intake. Responses covered hunger and nutritional needs, and sought to prevent malnutrition. All these measures sought to address quality of life issues.

Ms More asked whether taverns situated close to schools were to be prevented from operating.

Mr Madonsela replied that the Department of Trade and Industry was mandated to look into the issue of the trading of taverns. Illegal
taverns were being targeted and the police had taken action to close them.

Ms More complained that information was not disseminated adequately, including information about bursaries, where many people did not get the information within the time to make applications. She questioned whether access was an issue, especially in rural areas and wanted to know how the Department coordinated the appointment of youth and child carers.

Mr Madonsela agreed that bursaries in rural areas were poorly accessed, but assured members that campaigns were being accelerated and taken to high schools, and that more scholarships would also be made available.

The Acting Chairperson noted that Anti Substance Abuse (ASA) campaigns were more evident in the urban areas, and questioned how the DSD ensured that they reached the rural areas.

Mr Madonsela stated that programmes of action were being implemented to ensure that every department in every province crafted its own programmes. Even the Department of Sport and Recreation had a role to play. Campaigns were being intensified and policies were being drafted in relation to alcohol and drugs.

Mr R Bhoola (MF) requested input about the efficiency and effectiveness of programmes. He mentioned one ASA programme as an example, where only 5% of those involved had stayed clean, whilst the rest relapsed. He asked for examples of actions taken to engage youth, especially in areas where there was no infrastructure.

Mr Madonsela restated that research was being undertaken on monitoring and evaluation. Substance abuse was a difficult area, since numerous factors impacted on the success of programmes, although all matters related to effectiveness were being addressed.

Mr Bhoola expressed concern about the Biometric Verification System and whether it would address fingerprint verification of the elderly and the ill.

Mr Madonsela said that the DSD was running campaigns to alleviate the public distrust about the Biometric verification system, stressing that this was not a re-registration procedure. Phases in the process included strengthening the integrity of the data-base and the issuing of a temporary card, and, by December, the system would include voice recognition of bio-information by the banks. There was an extensive communication programme under way, and this included the distribution of pamphlets to educate people about the Biometric Verification System.

Mr Bhoola asked what was being done to alleviate poverty for widows.

Mr Madonsela noted that there were no specific programmes or policies in relation to food security for widows. However, the DSD interventions targeted all women, so widows would not be overlooked. They were a vulnerable group, as were the elderly and the ill. Retirement provisions were being reviewed, as well as income support for dependents of widows and orphans. Once further research was done in this field, the Department would consider the specific issue of widows in more detail.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked how successful the substance abuse programmes were.

Mr Madonsela explained that the response to ASA programmes was a multi-departmental, and cross-societal collaboration. As an example, he referred to the involvement of the Department of Health's role in the Foetal Alcohol (FAS) campaigns, and the fact that the Minister of Health took a leadership role in the Central Drug Authority. Resolutions and actions were taken at a summit meeting last year to broaden the projects, and increase the role of the community in ASA issues.

Ms E More (DA) stated that it would be a good idea to develop a compulsory funeral scheme; for instance, deducting an amount of about R40 from pensions, so that people could be assured of a dignified burial. Teenagers should also be encouraged to start co-operatives to start their own business to provide work and an income for themselves.

The Acting Chairperson stated that the briefing session would be of great assistance in budget debates and future deliberations.

Other Committee Business: Adoption of Reports
Draft Committee Report on National Development Agency (NDA)

The draft Committee report, of 13 October 2011, on the National Development Agency (NDA) was tabled. The Acting Chairperson highlighted the goals outlined in that report. These included the goal to build capacity of civil society organisations to enable them to carry out development work effectively. ECD was mentioned, and nine networks were funded and supported in an amount of R9.52 million. These networks provided support to 224 sites. Goal 3 included the facilitation of research towards poverty eradication, and here it was mentioned that nine provincial policy dialogues with Community Service Organisations (CSOs) were carried out, in preparation for the Rural Economic Development summit in October 2010.

The Acting Chairperson reviewed the Committee Observations and Recommendations (see attached presentation). The Recommendations stated that the NDA should consider awarding funding to projects on the basis of the poverty levels instead of population size.

Members adopted the Report, without amendments.

Draft Committee Reports on South African Social Security Agency (SASSA)
The draft Committee Report on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) was tabled, which highlighted this key achievements and challenges. The Acting Chairperson drew attention to the overview by the Chief Executive Officer, stating that there was a steady increase in the demand for SASSA's services in 2011. The new Service Delivery Model, which was a positive step in meeting the challenges, had been set out. The recommendations included that the DSD and SASSA would ensure that skills transfers from contractors to SASSA employees took place, so that there would be sustained, effective functioning of SASSA.

The Acting Chairperson noted her concerns about the amount of R3 million per month paid to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate fraud and corruption in social grants. She said that this issue should be resolved urgently, and SASSA should be able in future to conduct its own investigations.

Members adopted the report.

The meeting was adjourned.

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