United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities implementation: Departments of Police and Social Development on responses to public hearings submissions

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

29 August 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Departments of Police and Social Development briefed the Committee, together with the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities Chairperson, on their responses to issues raised in  submissions at the public hearings on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The Department of Police made a brief presentation outlining a number of issues. These were related to the management of disabilities both internally and externally and the application of legislation and policies related to people with disabilities, particular highlighting Articles of the UN Convention. The presentation also looked at budgets and workshops, events and activities for the disabled, most notably, the National Disability Budget.

The Department of Social Development (DSD) presented a comprehensive briefing elaborating on a host of issues. These issues related to the legislative mandate and policies of the Department which applied to the disabled and core programmes for the disabled. Residential activities, protective workshops, grants and social security, social rehabilitation and social work, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and mainstreaming were thoroughly presented. This was substantiated with a good analysis of funding and budgets in the various areas in all the provinces as well as the total.

Members felt the presentation by the Department of Police was lacking in substance, especially on the National Disability Strategy, and asked the Department to present them with a better briefing at a later stage. During the discussion, Members raised issues around stakeholders, submitting of reports, awareness campaigns, accessibility and the impact of events and workshops.

Members were pleased with the comprehensive report of the Department of Social Development and raised a number of questions on foster care and child services, social grants and budgets, social work and increasing the focus of strategies on the rural areas.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted that she would be joined by the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities. She told the Department that the Committee had recently held public hearings from which key issues had emerged concerning various departments and this was the reason for their briefings.

Department of Police briefing
ajor-General M Mzamane, SAPS Head: Employee Health and Wellness, started by saying that the Police took the issues raised in the Committee’s public hearings seriously. He began by outlining the background on disabilities in the police which formed part of Employee Health and Wellness and Personnel Management. He looked at how the police managed disabilities both internally and externally. He noted these two sectors did not always coordinate but they were working on this.  He said that, externally, disabilities were handled by the vulnerable groups section to ensure that those with disabilities were treated equitably. He then looked at external and internal stakeholders involved with the police and how those with disabilities were managed with both stakeholders.

ajor-General Mzamane turned to the legislative mandate and policies both internal and external to the SAPS. Externally, SAPS was covered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006, the Constitution, the South African Police Service Act 1995 (No. 68 of 1995) (SAPS Act), the Children’s Act (No. 38 of 2005) and the Domestic Violence Act (No. 116 of 1998). He explained that the application of these legislative mandates covered all victims of crime against discrimination which included those with disabilities. This meant that police stations must work with stakeholders to ensure stations were accessible to those with disabilities. He said that the Police were working on ensuring these legislative mandates were adequately applied.

ajor-General Mzamane looked at the activities in progress like the National Disability Strategy (2010/14) which focused on internal customers. There was also the Disability Steering Committee which sought victim empowerment for both internal and external customers. Consultation with communities on these programmes was needed. The Victim Empowerment National Instruction and Manual guided the Police in treating victims with respect and dignity and providing technical assistance, information and protection. Police stations aimed to be as accessible to people with disabilities as possible which was a work in progress. He added that the provision of sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired was being looked into.  The Vulnerable Groups Sub Directorate guided the Police in dealing with vulnerable groups in collaboration with other departments.

He explained the SAPS Disability Management Budget and noted this sub-section had been allocated R4 million per year for the past three years. He said this budget catered largely for internal use for reasonable accommodation, awareness raising, assistant devices, adaptation of stations and sensitization in disability management. He added that operational budgets were also used by other internal stakeholders to raise awareness and cater for disability related activities.

ajor-General Mzamane looked at the UN Convention over  the period 2008/10 and outlined what SAPS was involved in, internally, under each Article. Under Article Eight, SAPS was raising awareness through disability awareness workshops and disability sensitisation workshops for senior management for each province and Head Office. There were also disability-related calendar events. Under Article 20, SAPS endorsed personal mobility through assistive devices, technological equipment and the adaptation of vehicles which all came at a great cost to the Department. Under Article 31, he highlighted the number of disabled people employed by the Police and noted that the Department was struggling to meet the 2% target, but a recruitment staffing strategy was being developed.

ajor-General Mzamane’s concluding remarks were that many people in SAPS were not applying the legislation and policy effectively. Members of the public had the right to lodge complaints with the Police. He also recognised there were many challenges for the Department to address moving forward.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for its input. She wanted the Department’s comments on the impact of the workshops held, because just saying the Department held workshops meant nothing. She also sought more information on the type of events the Department held and where they were held as she found it was important to highlight the specific areas.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) wanted to know if a deaf and dumb person who walked into any police station would get the proper assistance. She also asked what measures were in place to avoid discrimination against the disabled in the SAPS.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked what SAPS was doing to ensure the better application of its legislative mandate. She wanted to know exactly which places or police stations were fully equipped with the devices to assist the disabled. She also queried the numbers of disabled people at senior management. 

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) wanted to know how easily the Department’s information was accessible to those who were disabled. She asked how the Department gave effect to Article 13, especially in terms of the Department's budget.

A Member wanted to know what measures were put in place by the Department to ensure the application of legislation. She also asked about the accessibility of police stations.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) wanted elaboration on the external stakeholders of the Department and the meetings between the two. She asked if the Department submitted its report on the UN Convention in order to complete the country report. She sought clarity on the awareness campaigns of the Department to promote the rights of the disabled. She wanted the details of specific police stations which were accessible for the disabled. She noted on her oversight trips that police stations were not accessible and the issue was also brought up in the public hearings.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) wanted a reason for the decline in employment numbers for those with disabilities. She wanted to know if the Department had a system in place and time-frames to achieve the 2% disability employment target.

Ms B Mabe (ANC, Gauteng), the Chairperson for the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disability, said that the implementation and monitoring of policies by the Department was slow and dissatisfying. She proposed the Department was sent back to return to the Committee to bring back input on the implementation of the national disability strategy.

Ms Lamoela shared the sentiments of the Chairperson of the Select Committee as she felt the presentation on the national disability strategy focused only on internal customers to the neglect of external customers. She wanted information on what happened when a disabled person was arrested and detained. She felt the presentation was too vague.

The Chairperson questioned the system of social workers and how the Department was addressing, through support systems, people who were abused.  She also wanted to know the Department's relationship with the Department of Health.

A Member wanted to know about the procurement of accessible devices and where they were being used. She was specifically worried about the exclusion of rural areas.

Ms Mabe suggested the Department be given time to come back and present its implementation strategy again. 

ajor-General Mzamane said the Department could come back in the second week of March to report back on the implementation strategy. He responded to the question of devices purchased and said each province made known annually its need for the devices and head office provided them on the basis of business plans and the R4 million budget. He needed to check if police stations in rural areas were covered by this also.

Major-General Susan Pienaar, SAPS Head: Crime Prevention, said that there were experts in the Police who dealt with the internal environment. She also said most policies covered victims in general but it was also stipulated in these policies how to deal with disabled victims. She added that the national instruction developed was enforceable if victims, including the disabled, were not dealt with correctly. She explained that there were systems of referral in police stations to deal with disabled victims. She said these victims were taken to a special support room after which the Police needed to call someone from the local area from a referral list issued by Social Development to communicate with them in order to take a statement. She urged the public to complain so that action could be taken or policies and training could be revised and engaged with. She noted there was regular engagement with external stakeholders throughout the year on a range of issues with all spheres of Government, mainly through an interdepartmental forum.

Ms Gloria Jeaile, SAPS Gender Coordinator, said the Department was hoping to return the second week of March to present to the Committee again with more specific details. She added that sign language was a particular issue as there were specific dialects in specific areas. She said formal consultations with stakeholders would occur only after a proper guideline was presented. This would occur in March.

Ms Petersen-Maduna wanted clarity on the second week of March and what was referred to by this.

Ms Lamoela also wanted an explanation.

The Chairperson said that, even if the Department did not appear again, it must please make the relevant information available to the Committee by two weeks at the latest because March was too far away.

Ms Mabe agreed that March was too far away as by that time the budget of the Department would be debated and the issue would be old. She told the Department that she found it unfortunate that this had been a policy since 2007 but the Department still needed another six months for a better explanation.

ajor-General Mzamane said this could be reduced to two months as the Department understood the urgency of the Committee. Responding to the question on the employment of people with disabilities in senior management, he said that he knew of a major-general in the Eastern Cape. He reminded the Committee that there could be more employees but some chose not to disclose their disabilities. He noted that the Department had submitted a report on the UN Convention. Addressing social workers, he noted there were assistant social workers and psychologists in all the provinces and at Head Office to focus both on internal and external customers.

Ms Mabe recommended that the Department be given six months to present again to the Committee but to  respond to the concerns of the Members in writing within two weeks. She did not want thumb-sucking but  proper and accurate information to enrich the report. She said that this gave the Department an opportunity to give the Members better responses to their questions.

The Chairperson thought this was quite fair.  She said this would address the concern that the Department was simply citing programmes and activities without providing information on their impact and results.

Department of Social Development (DSD) briefing
Mr Jackie Mbonani, DSD Chief Director:
Welfare Services, apologised that the Director-General (DG) was not present as he was out of the country while the Minister and Deputy Minister had prior commitments to attend other meetings.

Ms M Molamu, DSD Director, began with an overview of the presentation. She gave a brief background of the constitutional mandate and legislative and policy framework of the Department and highlighted those related to disabilities; these included, policy on the provision of Social Services to people with disabilities, Community Based Rehabilitation guidelines, Guidelines on Residential facilities, Guidelines on Protective Workshops, Human Resources (HR) Strategy on disability, and strategy towards integrated services for children with disabilities.

Ms Molamu looked at the delivery of services and outlined which core programmes were rendered to people with disabilities. These programmes included services to children with disabilities, residential facilitates, social rehabilitation and protective workshops for people with disabilities and disability mainstreaming services. She defined the services for children involved the Department developing a strategy towards the integration of children with disabilities aimed at guiding service provision to ensure inclusive programmes. This was done in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and was inclusive of other programmes and services like Early Childhood Development (ECD).

She pointed to the funding for children service services: specifically, stimulation, protective workshops and day care facilities. She indicated the amount that each province provided for each service. She noted that Gauteng, Western Cape and Kwazulu Natal, the Department of Health, in terms of the
Mental Health Care Act (No. 17 of 2002), was responsible for providing these child services and was so reflected in the budget. In cases where the DSD provided the funding, the amount budgeted for was based on the number of services and facilities provided in that province.

Ms Molamu looked at residential facilities and noted that the majority of these facilities (149) were located in the urban settings of provinces with very few located in the rural areas. She said these facilities were to implement a number of services depending on the beneficiaries and training of staff from the Departmental officials involved in these facilities. She listed the number of facilities in each province as well as the total per province together with the funding and support figures for these facilities per province.

She turned to social rehabilitation and social work services and explained that rehabilitation services were to offer rehabilitation services to people with disabilities to decrease the impact of disabilities and to promote independence and full participation in society. This also covered services to promote independence in personal care skills, recreational facilities, family and carer training, wheelchair maintenance and repair, specialised clinics, on-site work/home assessments and vocational rehabilitation. She listed the number of services per province and noted that in most provinces this was referred to as social rehabilitation services. She listed the funding and support for these services per province.

Ms Molamu outlined there were 293 protective workshops which provided socio-economic activity-based production of goods which were done on a small scale. She said these were run and managed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and provided practical and applied therapeutic services for people with mental disabilities, intellectual and other disabilities. She showed the number of these workshops in different areas of all the provinces and the funding from provinces for these workshops.

She turned to social security which provided protection aimed at financial assistance in the forms of grants like the disability grant, care dependency grants, foster care grant, grant-in-aid and child support grant. She highlighted the recipients and funding of these grants.

Ms Molamu explained that provincial departments of Social Development funded Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) and NGOs. The concerns of the Department raised in terms of NGOs were related to partnerships, adequate funding, service delivery and legislative framework.

Disability mainstreaming by the Department was undertaken in ratification of the UN Convention. Programmes and activities related to disability mainstreaming within the Department included the auditing of DSD policies and programmes, capacity building workshops, development of an HR strategy on disability and a disability mainstreaming toolkit, partnerships with a Japanese funder, and planned training of Departmental officials.

Ms Molamu concluded with the remarks on the way forward. She noted that the main challenges of the Department were the lack of a disability funding model coordinated from the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities to guide the development of costing models by different departments, prioritising budgets for the implementation of the UN Convention, and the slow pace of integration of disabilities into developmental programmes.

The Chairperson thanked the Department and was appreciative of quite a comprehensive presentation. She  was happy that the issue of social work was raised as she felt the country needed to increase the number of social workers to counteract the serious shortage. She wanted to know why the number of protective workshops were low in KwaZulu-Natal and the North West.

Ms Nxumalo said that the existing social workers could not work with the communities and she heard many complaints regarding this. She was concerned about the lack of monitoring of foster children, homes and parents by social workers as well as adoptions. She also wanted to know about the awareness programmes and grant system, especially in the rural areas, and for an explanation of the rights of those people looking after disabled children.

Ms Tseke wanted an update on the social work graduates who were not working this year, especially in her area of Mpumalanga. She sought elaboration on the funding of protective workshops and the criteria the Department used as she felt the budget did not correlate with the number of workshops in the province. She asked if the Department had reached its 2% target for disability employment.

Ms Ditshetelo wanted clarity on the children services funding in departments which received their funding from the Department of Health. She specifically wanted to know how the Department fared in the employment of blind and deaf people.

Ms Petersen-Maduna asked why the funding for programmes in the rural areas was specifically less than in the urban areas. She wanted to know how the information produced by the Department was made accessible to those with disabilities as well as how the Department developed support groups for those with disabilities and their care givers. She sought clarity on what mechanisms the Department used to prevent the discrimination of the disabled in seeking employment.

Mr Mbonani said the Department was aware of social services not doing what they were supposed to in terms of monitoring. He appealed to Members to use the complaint line of the Department. He explained there was a backlog for foster care which the Department was addressing through agencies, like the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA), to monitor these backlogs. Looking at monitoring, he said there was a limit defined by legislation to the number of children who could be cared for by foster parents. He said there were not many adoption cases and the Department was pleading for the public to consider this. He noted that maybe the fact that there were no grants involved in this process did not attract people. Addressing the issue of the failure to absorb social workers, he said the Department embarked on a campaign to train these workers. Over the period 2007 to 2011, the Department managed to train over 3 000 social workers. He alerted the Committee to the issue of funding , budget cuts and reprioritisation within some provinces and said that the result was that the Department could not absorb the social worker graduates as funding was redirected to other equally important services. The Department was looking to reabsorb these graduates before the end of the financial year.

Ms Molamu addressed the lack of facilities in the rural areas and explained the funding model for all provinces to assist in setting base lines for Departmental funding for the rural areas. She told Members that protective workshops housed and accommodated different disabilities which escalated their cost. This was even more so when care givers were included, as in the case of mental disabilities. She noted that provinces acquired their own budgets which affected the need in the province. She said most facilities depended on production which they could sell. The ability to supply and sell decreased in rural areas and transporting products to rural areas was costly. She said that most recreational facilities were run by white people in the urban areas, while the Department continuously encouraged Africans to run these facilitates especially in the rural areas. She said that, in line with Article 19 of the UN Convention, the Department took awareness programmes for disabilities seriously. She noted that the Department ran a number of awareness campaigns and imbizos with disability representation, which was made possible with funding by provincial departments. She said that the Department not only made sure that people with disabilities were aware of social services but that they could easily access them. She told the Members that the Department had reached a level of 3% employment of people with disabilities, but the percentage in provincial departments was still being calculated. She said that the Department was working on making the internship programme available to those with disabilities so that they too could participate in skills development. She said that the challenge was in reasonable accommodation and funding model for the different kinds of disabilities. She said that visual and deaf disabilities were catered for in the Department in terms of reasonable accommodation. She explained that people who were visually impaired were provided with computer voice recognition software which enabled them to speak commands into the personal computer (PC). This was in both provincial and national departments. She said that the Department currently did not employ deaf people.

Ms Ditshetelo questioned if reasonable accommodation of visually disabled employees was only in the national Department.

Ms Molamu replied that the Department looked at reasonable accommodation as a service provision both internally and externally. She explained that access for the deaf was largely through sign language interpreters at the imbizos and awareness raising, although the Department did not employ any deaf people. She also said that the provision of services was not the sole responsibility of the DSD but was more so with the Department of Health and Department of Basic Education in terms of the Mental Health
Care Act 2002. It was difficult to clearly mark lines of responsibility among the Departments. The DSD was developing Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the Department of Health on mental disabilities.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Molamu for her thorough responses. She wanted to know what happened to a person who received a disability grant once the person had reached pension-qualifying age.

Mr Mbonani said the disability grant was permanent and was paid out annually. He explained that children under the age of 18 did not qualify for a disability grant but their care givers received a care dependency grant for those children needing 24 hour care.

The Chairperson was concerned about the awareness programme and noted that they should be more focused on the rural areas. She found it disappointing that governments cut their budgets, like the social services budget, as it affected the vulnerable groups more than other members of society. She asked if the Department still had ghost claimants.

Mr Mbonani replied that the new registration process continuously addressed this and that there had been a great reduction but it was an on-going problem. He reminded the Committee that the issue of disability was not the sole responsibility of the DSD.

The meeting was adjourned.

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