Millennium Development Goals: response by Minister of Social Development

Social Development

28 May 2012
Chairperson: (Acting) Mr V Magagula (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

With the Minister of Social Development present, the Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the link and contributions of the DSD to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A full report to the United Nations General Assembly was due in September 2013 on South Africa’s progress toward the MDGs. This report was being compiled and would be distributed to the Cabinet, the Portfolio Committee and other forums in February 2013.

The DSD’s mandate enabled it to contribute – directly or indirectly – to MDGs 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8. Regarding MDG 1, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, the DSD was working to implement the Social Assistance Programme by providing income support, assisting families to buy food and clothes, fighting destitution, among other initiatives. Research demonstrated that this programme was the single most important contribution to poverty reduction in South Africa.

The DSD also worked in the Community Development/Sustainable Livelihoods programme, the Food for All campaign, and the Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery programme with the objective of creating job opportunities through integrated social sector programmes.

Regarding MDG 2, achieving universal primary education, the instituted Child Support Grant (CSG) for
children younger than 18 years old had demonstrably helped to maintain children in school.

As for MDG 3, to promote gender equality and empower women, the proportion of females living below the poverty line declined from 30.2% to 26.4% between 2000 and 2006 and the Social Assistance Programme primarily helped women.

In terms of MDG 6, combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, the DSD developed an HIV/AIDS and TB prevention strategy 2012-2016 to address both the drivers and the social impact of each disease. Additionally, the Department provided services to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, such as psyc
hosocial support, food provision, homework supervision and the provision of school uniforms.

Financially, total allocations for the DSD programmes were projected to increase from R112 million in 2012/13 to R130 million in 2014/15.

The Department was concerned that government funding for the Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery programme remained far from ideal, so it was only able to achieve limited results. Challenges often arose from working with other institutions, as collaboration at times delayed or threatened to derail some initiatives. Therefore, some of the Department’s contributions were not as robust as they could be.

Members asked questions about seasonal child labour, accessibility of food banks, accessibility of treatment for people with chronic illnesses, the DSD’s work on the Early Child Development programme, and the sustainability of jobs created. Also concerns were expressed over the high proportion of South Africans receiving social assistance and how this related to the country’s inability to create sustainable jobs.

Meeting report

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): response by Department of Social Development (DSD)
Mr Wiseman Magasela, DSD Deputy Director-General (DDG): Social Policy, briefed the Committee on the link and contributions of the DSD to the MDGs. Given the MDGs target date of September 2015, a full report to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was due in September 2013 on South Africa’s progress. The DSD was currently compiling this report, which would be ready for tabling by the end of February 2013. At that point the report would be distributed to the Cabinet and other government forums for contributions.

As background, the
MDGs were about the global fight against poverty in the world. The MDGs acted as guidelines and indicators for measuring levels of development. Countries had to enact policies to achieve development commitments made. The MDGs were time-bound goals, quantifiable targets, internationally agreed upon.

The DSD’s mandate enabled it to contribute – directly or indirectly – to MDGs 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8:

MDG 1 Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger
The DSD was working with the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA) to implement the Social Assistance Programme by providing income support, assisting families to buy food and clothes, fighting destitution, among other initiatives. Research demonstrated that this programme was the single most important contribution to poverty reduction in South Africa. Over 15.5 million people received social assistance (approximately 30% of the population).

The DSD also worked in the Community Development/Sustainable Livelihoods programme, which focused on food production and contributed to food security. Further, the DSD had started the Food for All campaign, based on Brazil’s Zero Hunger model. More than 1 049 566 South Africans had benefitted from the DSD food production and distribution initiatives implemented through soup kitchens, food banks, drop-in centres and food gardens.

The DSD had also instituted the Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery programme with the objective of creating job opportunities through integrated social sector programmes. This had contributed to increasing household incomes around South Africa.

Overall, the Social Assistance Programme accounted for the growth in expenditure levels to help the poor to around 3.4% of South Africa’s GDP. The fact that between 3-3.5% of GDP went toward non-contributory social assistance from general revenues showed a significant commitment to poverty eradication. Also the proportion of people living in absolute poverty had declined – measured by the threshold of US$1 to $2.50 per day.

Although income distribution inequality remained high, social grants had made significant improvements in this area. South Africa had cut in half the population living below the poverty line of US$1 per day from 11.3% in 2000 to 5% in 2006. Access to free basic services (such as electricity, housing, and water) was on the rise. Additionally the poverty gap ratio had declined from 3.3 in 2000 to 1.1 in 2006 at the threshold of US$1 per day.

MDG 2 Achieving universal primary education
The DSD was in charge of early childhood development for children aged zero to four. Research demonstrated a link between households that received the Child Support Grant (CSG) and school attendance. In certain areas of South Africa, the school attendance rate dropped during the harvest season, as children remained at home to work, but CSG demonstrably helped to maintain children in school.

MDG 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
Women caregivers made up 98% of the CSG recipients. Women also constituted 63% of recipients of the Old Age and Disability Grants. The proportion of females living below the poverty line declined from 30.2% to 26.4% between 2000 and 2006 whereas that of males declined from 26.7% to 22.9%. The income support from the Social Assistance Programme also primarily helped women, which consequently furthered MDG 3.

MDG 6 Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Since malaria did not significantly affect South Africa, the DSD’s efforts focused on combatting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The DSD developed an HIV/AIDS and TB prevention strategy 2012-2016 to address both the drivers and the social impact of each disease. Additionally, the Department provided services to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, such as psyc
hosocial support, food provision, homework supervision and the provision of school uniforms.

Financially, total allocations for the DSD programmes were projected to increase from R112 million in 2012/13 to R130 million in 2014/15. The DDG was concerned that government funding for the Social Policy and Integrated Service Delivery programme remained far from ideal, so the Department was only able to achieve limited results.

The DSD collaborated with other institutions within and outside government in the execution of its mandate. These included several non-government organisations (NGOs), as well as the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Labour, Justice, Health, Public Works, Defence and Military Veterans, and Rural Development, among others. However, challenges arose from working with other institutions. At times, collaboration delayed or threatened to derail some initiatives. Therefore, some of the Department’s contributions were not as robust as they could be. For instance, in early childhood development (ECD), the actual provision of a facility, the centre itself, could pose a challenge due to competing objectives of the local governments and the different departments involved.

Discussion
Ms J Masilo (ANC) asked what the Department was doing to combat seasonal child labour and to ensure children attend school. Next, in regards to the HIV/AIDS grant recipients, were these one-time grants or did the recipients receive the grants over time?

Mr M Waters (DA) asked whether the Portfolio Committee would be one of the forums receiving the MDG Report in February 2013 for contributions along with the Cabinet. As for the 164 500 jobs created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), over what time period had these jobs been created? And were these temporary or more sustainable positions? Further, he asked whether the EPWP paid at or below minimum wage.

He expressed concern over the high proportion of South Africa’s population receiving government help (30%), as this highlighted the country’s failure to create sustainable jobs. Though he agreed that the government needed to provide grants to the poor, the government also needed to identify sectors of the population that found employment and were no longer in need of government aid. He asked if the DSD was working with other departments to ensure that the grants were available to those that actually need them.

Ms N Gcume (COPE) asked who was benefitting from the food banks and how far these were from the communities? She asked how far the Department had gone in improving access to treatment for people with chronic diseases.

Acting
Chairperson Mr V Magagula (ANC) asked how much of the budget was being allocated for ECD and HIV/AIDS programmes.

Mr Zane Dangor, Special Advisor to the Minister: DSD, replied to Mr Waters’ question on the impact of the social assistance programme on 30% of the population. He said that the Social Assistance Programme should be seen as an investment toward development, particularly when benefitting children. Research showed that, aside from providing social protection, the child support plan in particular had an effect on development by providing economic opportunities. It also helped in other issues, such as reducing child pregnancy, keeps children longer in school. Addressing these factors led to poverty reduction over the long term. Studies showed that reducing social protection programmes actually led to increased poverty. Therefore, research supported that South Africa should actually invest further in social assistance in future.

The Department also considered the Social Assistance Programmes as an investment on the labour market, by allowing the government to make policies for job creation. People in abject poverty, the disabled, and the elderly were largely unable to enter the labour market without social assistance. Therefore, social programmes had a significant impact both on social and economic development.

Ms Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Social Development, responded to Mr Waters’ question on the 2013 UN report. The plan was to first submit the report to the Cabinet and then to the Portfolio Committee and other stakeholders. The DSD would allow NGOs and other entities to contribute by submitting their own reports (shadow reports). Even if there were areas of disagreement, the DSD considered having others’ perspectives would strengthen the report. The goal was that all parties involved would understand where South Africa stood in terms of the MDGs by the time South Africa submitted the report to the United Nations in September 2013.

In response to Ms Gcume, Ms Dlamini replied that provinces provided welfare services consistently, and that the DSD was working to ensure wages were standardised in all the provinces. However, the Department also needed to know where NGOs were offering services so that the DSD could more efficiently identify where services were most needed or not adequately offered. The people should know that service providers other than the government were also providing welfare services that were accessible to the people.

Ms Dianne Dunkerley, General Manager of Operations: South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA), said that there were still no HIV/AIDS grants. The only grant SASSA offered was the disability grant for those cases where the condition rendered a person unable to work.

As for people with chronic illnesses, SASSA was working closely with the Departments of Health and Social Development to implement a harmonised assessment tool that would allow SASSA to assist people with chronic illnesses through disability grants. A major issue was that many people with chronic illnesses were not currently covered, so SASSA was working to address this. And, as for the people with chronic conditions that were actually receiving the disability grant, there was a need to ensure that they would not be disadvantaged when the harmonised assessment plan was implemented.

In regards to the social relief programme run by SASSA, the total budget allocation amounted to R165 million. This programme assisted people without any other income. For people that had been approved for a grant and were waiting for disbursement, the programme awarded one month’s salary, since, by the second month, they would receive the grant. And for people without any income, the programme allocated up to three months’ salary.

Minister Dlamini replied, in regards to oversight of food banks, that the Department had five main hubs. There were also seven satellites linked to the hubs and more than 200 NGOs linked to the satellites. The Department would develop metrics for satellites and NGOs to assist members in their oversight responsibilities.

Mr Magasala said that the jobs created in the social development sector were predominantly long-term. These included people trained in home and community-based care, ECD practitioners, among others. Once trained, these people would continue working well into the future. Other initiatives, such as improving and maintaining roads, construction, etc., however, tend to be less permanent.

Regarding the minimum wage, the Public Service Commission had previously determined a level for an adequate minimum daily stipend. In some cases the EPWP was giving out this regulated minimum daily stipend, which, due to the nature of the work, could fall below the standard minimum wage. However, this was regulated by the government.

As for child seasonal labour, three different departments were addressing this issue: the Department of Labour, the Department of Education and the DSD. The main thrust behind extending the CSG to children up to 18 years old was because the dropout rate tended to be higher between the ages of 15 and 18. Children generally dropped out to support themselves or their families, so this challenge remained. However, government interventions, such as the CSG, were making progress.

Mr Dangor said that the Zero Hunger plan, which they call the Food for All Programme, was primarily aimed at addressing households’ nutritional needs and meeting the challenges of malnutrition. The programme included four areas of work, which encompassed a number of government programmes. The first was meeting people’s immediate nutritional needs, particularly the most vulnerable. The Social Assistance Programme was the most effective way to address this issue, so the Department was working with SASSA to ensure that all who were eligible to receive social assistance were getting the opportunity to purchase food. The Social Relief of Distress grant and the DSD’s funding of food banks also addressed these concerns.

Second, the DSD was working with the Department of Health to improve food fortification. It was necessary to ensure that people had access to nutritious food, rather than just any food. Third, the DSD was addressing challenges of food accessibility and cost, as inflation remained a problem. The fourth component involved integrating the production and consumption of food. The DSD was collaborating with the Department of Agriculture to support household and family production. Currently, the Food for All programme contained all the components of the Brazilian Zero Hunger plan, and the only missing link was the lack of integration between production and consumption. In this regard the DSD had identified the need to create a market to increase accessibility and demand for nutritious food. The Food Purchasing Act would become important for this initiative.

Mr Magasela, in reply to Mr Magagula’s question on the budget reserved for ECD and HIV/AIDS initiatives, said the DSD was
working on the universalisation of ECD to ensure that every child in South Africa had a well-rounded development, nutritionally and educationally. Much more funding was required, however. The DSD had standardised a subsidy of R15 per child per day, which was actively spent in child development goals in all provinces.

In terms of HIV/AIDS, Mr Magasela emphasised that the DSD’s allocation for HIV/AIDS initiatives was a very small part of the national plan combatting HIV/AIDS, which included several other departments and programmes outside the DSD’s reach. For instance, when a certain department addressed STIs, they were also addressing HIV/AIDS transmission. Therefore, if the DSD was to provide a budgetary figure of its involvement in HIV/AIDS initiatives, it would provide a distorted perspective on the funds allocated to combat HIV/AIDS nationally.

Meeting adjorned.

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