Older Persons Act implementation: briefing with Minister and Deputy Minister

Social Development

18 February 2013
Chairperson: Ms Y Botha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister and Deputy Minister of Social Development were present and took part in the discussions which followed the progress report on the implementation of the Older Persons Act, 2006 by the Department of Social Development. 

The Department reported that provincial plans were in place for the implementation of the Act and resources had been committed by provinces and government departments. The South African Older Persons Forum (SAOPF) had been established nationally and in provinces and there was continual capacity building for stakeholders on the norms and standards for services to older persons. A Charter on the Rights of Older Persons had been launched nationally and provincially. The Act had also been translated into some of the official languages and two annual Older Persons Conferences had been held. The business requirements for the development of an electronic Older Persons Register had been finalised. The Department had trained provincial coordinators on the Protocol for the Management of Elder Abuse and funded the National Elder Abuse Line (NEAL).

The challenges which were experienced during the implementation stages were related to funding, personnel, coordination, infrastructure and the non-reporting of older persons abuse cases by communities.

In the discussion that followed, Members asked questions about the safety and infrastructure needs of older persons residential facilities; the reasons for and measures to improve the reporting of the abuse of older persons; the costing of the Older Persons Act; and why older persons still had to pay for services - could the Department not subsidise and pay these charges? Members asked if there were any plans to integrate the residential facilities which were previously separated on the basis of race. On the non-reporting of abuse, the department was asked what results had been obtained from the National Elder Abuse Line. Of prime importance to the members was the timeframes set by the department to achieve the deliverables set out in the Older Persons Act. The Department was encouraged to enhance its cooperation with the South African Police Service. The Committee asked the Department for an explanation on what had been done with the findings of the assessment of the 58 residential facilities. Members held the strong view that some of these facilities were seen to be risky and the Department had to take quick action.
 
The Minister commented that some of the major challenges was the difficulty of coordination amongst the relevant government departments and the fact that most residential facilities were privately owned thus hindering the department’s moves to upgrade the facilities.

Meeting report

 

Briefing on the Implementation of the Older Persons Act, 2006
The delegation from the Department of Social Development was led by the Acting Director General, Mr Coceko Pakade. The presentation was done by the Acting Deputy Director General in charge of Welfare Services, Ms Conny Nxumalo. After outlining the background and the political and technical authorities involved with the implementation of the Act, Ms Nxumalo briefed the Committee on the progress achieved with regards to particular chapters of the Act, the challenges and the way forward.

Progress and Achievements
Ms Nxumalo told the Committee that the Older Persons Act was intended to deal with the plight of older persons by establishing a framework aimed at the empowerment and protection of older persons and at the promotion and maintenance of their status, rights, well-being, safety and security. In implementing the Act, a uniform approach aimed at coordinating and integrating the services delivered to older person had been taken with the focus areas being the protection framework, the maintenance and well-being framework, the advocacy framework and the empowerment framework.

Provincial plans were in place for the implementation of the Act and resources had been committed by provinces and government departments. With regards to creating an enabling and supportive environment, the South African Older Persons Forum (SAOPF) had been established nationally and in provinces. This forum was to serve as the voice of older persons. Older Persons Desks had been established in KwaZulu Natal and Limpopo. There was continual capacity building for stakeholders on the norms and standards for services to older persons. A Charter on the Rights of Older Persons had been launched nationally and provincially. The Act had also been translated into some of the official languages and two annual Older Persons Conferences had been held.

In terms of community based care and support services, employed caregivers had been trained in Module One of the Manual on the Implementation of the Act and continuous assessment for adherence to the norms and standards for Community Based Services.

On residential services, 412 residential facilities were audited for quality of service and were conditionally registered. Condition assessment for 58 residential facilities was undertaken to identify infrastructural risks.

On the protection for older persons, the Department of Social Development had trained provincial coordinators on the Protocol for the Management of Elder Abuse and funded the National Elder Abuse Line (NEAL). Training for caregivers on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia-related conditions had been conducted in provinces. The business requirements for the development of an electronic Older Persons Register had been finalised.

Challenges
Ms Nxumalo told the Committee that in implementing the Older Persons Act, the following challenges had so far been experienced:
▪ Insufficient funding for the implementation of the Act;
▪ Establishing a coordinating body of government departments and municipalities;
▪ No dedicated personnel from government departments for providing services to older persons;
▪ No dedicated personnel for the management and coordinating of older persons services in the provinces;
▪ The infrastructure of residential facilities was dilapidated and risky for occupation;
▪ There was inaccurate and non-reporting of cases of abuse of the elderly by communities; and
▪ No budget to address areas identified in the report on Condition Assessment of Residential Facilities.

The way forward
In addressing these challenges, Ms Nxumalo said that the amendment of the Older Persons Act was necessary. In this regard, a discussion document had been developed and a consultation process had been initiated. The Department was going to ensure annual assessment of the quality of the services and registration of residential and community based facilities. It was going to negotiate with provinces to appoint monitors for services to older persons and the establishment of the Older Persons Desk was going to be spread to all the provinces. The Department was also going to seek funding to address the issues identified in the Condition Assessment Report. The development of the Older Persons Register was going to be finalised and the local forums for older persons in provinces was going to be established.

Discussion
Questions
Mr M Waters (DA) asked if it was possible for the Committee to get copies of the costing which was done during the passing of the Act. This was going to give an indication to the Committee how underfunded the Act was. How underfunded was the Act?

The Chairperson said that the requested details were important as most of the members were new to the Committee.

Ms Nxumalo replied that she did not have copies available immediately but she was going to forward this to the Committee.

Ms E More (DA) asked when the National Register had been developed and enacted and how many cases had been reported since its operation. What did the Department do with the information received from the register? Were communities aware of the existence of the register? What was the Department doing to create awareness of the existence of the register? Was there a possibility for the Department of Social Development to ensure that the older persons did not have to pay for health care? Since when were the provincial plans in place? What were the timeframes for the other provinces to have Older Persons Desks?

Ms P Tshwete (ANC) asked if the Department was working with the South African Police Service to get information on abuse which was not reported by communities. What was the exact function of the Older Persons Desk? How often did the coordinating structure meet to discuss the plight of older persons?

Ms J Ngubeni-Maluleka (ANC) asked if there was any plan to integrate the residential facilities which were previously separated on the basis of race. In relation to the non-reporting of abuse cases, what were the results obtained from the National Elder Abuse Line?

Ms P Xaba (ANC) asked what the Department was doing to monitor the coordinators to ensure that caregivers were given the appropriate stipends and for these stipends to be given on time.

Ms F Khumalo (ANC) asked who was responsible for the caregivers which were not focusing on homecare services.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) asked what the department was going to do about the lack of personnel for the management and coordinating of older persons services in the provinces. The elderly really needed attention and such a challenge could not be taken lightly.

Ms N Gcume (COPE) said that the issue in the provinces was a lack of dedication amongst the personnel. What was the Department doing to address the problem where residential facilities received grants and subsidies from the government but continued to charge the elderly?

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) asked what the Department had done with the findings of the assessment of 58 residential facilities. Some of these facilities were seen to be risky. What did the Department do with these facilities?

The Chairperson acknowledged and welcomed the Minister and Deputy Minister of Social Development who had just joined the meeting.

The Chairperson said that the replacement of the manual register with an electronic register was a huge challenge which had to be addressed. When was the process going to be finalised? The Chairperson asked the Minister if it was not feasible for the Department to go out and have a focus on the protection and the rights of the elderly as enshrined in the Act. This could be linked to the launching of the register. She said that in recent year there had been horrific incidents where elderly people had been burnt to death because of the poor evacuation procedures and occupational health and safety standards in some of the residences. The upgrading and maintenance of the facilities was not government’s responsibility but it was very necessary to have a more vigilant approach to the situation. Cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia were becoming very common in communities yet the facilities were not equipped and qualified to deal with these diseases. This forced families to look at very expensive options. What policies were being considered to deal with the handling of these two conditions in communities?

Responses
The Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, apologised for coming to the meeting late. She was held up by the Cabinet Committee on Social Protection. She was going to speak on just a few issues and hand over to the officials from the Department.

Minister Dlaminin said that during the implementation phase, some gaps had been identified in the Older Persons Act such as coordination which were a major challenge. Some of the responsibilities were not clear as to who should deliver the services. These challenges were going to be considered in the amendment of the legislation. At the NGO Summit, it was noted that welfare services were driven by non-profit organisations (NPOs) and the bulk of the budget was part of the equitable share to provinces. In terms of education and mobilization of communities, abuse of older persons needed to be checked. After the assessment of the 58 facilities, a proposal was made to National Treasury as these facilities which did not belong to government, needed to be upgraded. The responsibility of the Department of Social Development was to provide services to vulnerable groups. In June 2012, the Department had visited provinces and many problems were identified. There were dilapidated facilities and the roles and responsibilities within administration were not clear. It was important for the electronic register to be finalised. The Department was considering focusing on albinism and autism as those were vulnerable groups which had not been given enough attention. However, the needs of older person was a priority. The Department was also working towards having a strong programme related to changing the lives of older persons and not just “carrying out”events.

Mr Pakade said that he was going to add to what the Minister had said by responding to some of the questions. In terms of service provision to older persons, the Department had taken the view that it needed to re-look comprehensively at the issues raised at the NPO Summit in August 2012, particularly on the issue of transformation.

The costing of the Bill was based on 2005 pricing and projected for a five-year period. The costing also recognised the issues related to infrastructure. There was a component of the costing which went to practitioners, caregivers and everyone involved in the process of taking care of older persons. The costing also included running costs and maintenance of structures. When the sad incidents of fires were experienced, it was agreed that provinces would deal with the immediate needs and the national department was going to do an assessment across all provinces. National Treasury had funded an assessment of the infrastructure needs and the designing of an infrastructure plan. Progress had been made in this regard. The question of the private ownership of the facilities was going to be discussed with National Treasury.

The Department was working with provinces on a broad human resources plan. This started when the provincial and national budgets were aligned. A lot of work had been done around the alignment of organisational structures. The third phase was to have a comprehensive human resource plan for social services. This work had been initiated and was coordinated by the national department.

It had been resolved that the register was going to be up and running before the end of the current financial year. Resources had been committed to that.

Ms Nxumalo said that in terms of the transformation agenda which the department was pushing, there were challenges with geographical distribution and the management structures of beneficiaries and compliance with norms and standards in providing services. With regards to geographical distribution, the department was seeking to move services to where they were not available and make sure that rural areas were covered. The challenge with management structures was the difficulty in efficiently coordinating the various stakeholder institutions which included government departments, communities and private facilities.

On the coordination structure, the government departments which were supposed to be part of the coordination structure were the departments of Transport; Health; Cooperative Governance; Education; Justice and Constitutional Development; the South African Police Service; Agriculture; Sports and Recreation. However, only Sports and Recreation was actually taking an active part in the programmes. There was the need to make the coordinating structure more functional. The Older Persons Desks were to play a very important role in coordination and serve as a forum for the upholding of the rights of the elderly.

The Department was also exploring what role could be played by community development workers as they were available in the communities.

The Chief Director: Welfare Services in the Department of Social Development, Mr Jackie Mbonani, said that in terms of education on the Act, the Department had publicised the Act through the development of the Charter, training manuals and guidelines. On the non-reporting of abuse cases, the Department had noticed that people were aware of the fact that they could report the cases, they knew where to report these cases but for reasons known to them, they choose not to report the abuse cases. The Act had been translated into some of the main languages and the plan of the Department was to translate it into all 11 national languages. The intention was to spread knowledge of the Act to everyone.

With regards to why older persons still paid charges at residential facilities, Ms Thuli Mahlangu, DSD Chief Director: Care and Services to Older Persons, said that the Department subsidised the facilities and it also added to the amount which the older person had. Unfortunately, a uniform approach still needed to be taken by the service provider or the facility. The Act also had to regulate how much was to be taken from the pension of the older person. On the concern of caregivers and stipends, the main issues in the Act were the joint responsibility of several departments but the main one was the Department of Health. Caregiving, especially for older persons, was more health related so the bulk of the responsibility relating to the training and payment of caregivers was with the Department of Health.

The Minister said that some of the issues raised were going to be answered in detail and in writing. The answers had to be precise and backed with figures.

The meeting was adjourned.  



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