The University of Cape Town (UCT) Children’s Institute presented on violence and other forms of abuse of children, budgets for social welfare services, and addressing poverty through grants. The presentation focused on Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as well as on Article 39. The presentation outlined the challenges to implementing Article 39 the Policy Frameworks for the prevention and management of child abuse, Thuthuzela Care Centres focused on a physical health and a criminal justice response. Specialised counselling services for children were limited and mainly located in well-resourced urban settings, and child-focused services were overburdened with long waiting periods. There was also a lack of accessible services for children, which impacted on psychological healing and recovery. There was insufficient budget to cover full service costs for non-governmental organisations assisting in the delivery of legally mandated services to children and families. There was also insufficient funding to support full implementation of critical pieces of legislation, including the Children’s Act (No. 38 of 2005).
The presentation covered the way in which provincial departments provided these services, the gap in allocation between the budget and what was needed, and key trends in provincial budgets for 2012/13.
The Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria, in its presentation covered the education sector, norms and standards (stating that the Minister of Basic Education had the power to tackle this matter), learner pregnancy policy, corporal punishment (which had not been dealt with sufficiently in the report), and special courts procedures for child victims and witnesses (which also had not received special mention). The Intersectoral Child Justice Steering Committee (ISCCJ) had been criticised by the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee in 2011 and no report had been done in 2012.
Child Welfare SA commented on general measures of implementation, civil rights and freedoms, family environment and alternative care.
Members asked about instances of bullying and forced marriage not being outlined in the report, ‘granny grants’, the aiding of non-governmental organisations by Parliament, child prostitution, access to education, norms and standards, children with disabilities, the rights afforded to children, corporal punishment in the home, grants for teenage mothers, instances of violence and their effect on children, the varying ages at which children were allowed to undertake certain activities, abortion information, the cost of implementing the Children’s Act 2005 and the difference between Child Support Grant and Foster Care Grant.
UCT Children’s Institute SA Country Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Professor Shanaaz Mathews, UCT Children’s Institute, said that the Institute looked at what the government had done well and also at what some of the challenges were. It was an opportunity for the country to get the UN’s support in facing some of the challenges of the report. The Institute would do a written submission to bulk up the presentation that would be given to the Committee and the Department.
The presentation focused on the violence and other forms of abuse of children, budgets for social welfare services and addressing poverty through grants. It looked at article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the right to life survival and development. The report noted infanticide but the issue was not engaged with. Infanticide (the killing of a baby from 0- 12 months) included abandonment. The Medical Research Council Child Homicide Study (Mathews et al 2012) established an excessively high rate, the figures were 17 9/100 000 for girls and 14 4/100 000 for boys under one year of age. She highlighted that most killings occurred in the first week post birth. The recommendation was that infanticide was a challenge but the country did not have a full understanding of the problem. The country needed to gather more evidence through research to design evidence based interventions. Policies on Termination of Pregnancy and abortion services were not sufficient. Awareness on the availability of reproductive health services needed to include abortion services. There was a need to have a focus on maternal mental health to assess and post natal depression.
Prof Mathews covered Article 39 saying that it stated “State parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and reintegration of child victims”. The aim was to heal the child psychologically and to integrate back into families and communities. The question was this being achieved? The section was, however, silent on victims of violence and focused on child offenders. It had been framed in terms of our responsibility to protect child offenders from further harm. It lacked a response to the challenge of psychological recovery for child victims of abuse, such as counselling and therapy at Thuthuzela Care Centres and NGOs (i.e Childline).
In terms of levels of violence and abuse:
·1 in 3 girls had been sexually abused before the age of 18 years
·3 children a day were murdered
·A child was raped and killed every third day
Children who were abused were more likely to suffer depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for their schooling to be affected if they remained untreated. Child offenders were most commonly exposed to traumatic experiences. This could result in early school drop-out, unwanted pregnancy and risk-taking behaviour. If this continued into adulthood it impacted on relationships, the ability to parent or function socially, and in the workplace. Investment in psychological recovery was critical to break the cycle of violence. The figures for psychological recovery post sexual assault were outlined.
The challenges to implementing Article 39 included the Policy Frameworks for the prevention and management of child abuse, Thuthuzela one stop Care Centres focused on a physical health and a criminal justice response. Specialised counselling services for children were limited and mainly located in well-resourced urban settings and child focused services were overburdened with long waiting periods. There was also a lack of accessible services for children impacts on psychological healing and recovery.
Prof Mathews said that parents had expressed disillusionment with services and reported that they had said ‘I did not feel right at all, I did not like it, it felt like there was no help at all’. Children were referred out to child-focused services and the long waiting periods were a barrier to access services. Parents were not included in most counselling approaches, rendering them unable to respond to the child’s needs. The recommendations stated that for adequate recovery there was a need for resourced accessible child focussed counselling services. The state had committed to increase services for women and children who experienced violence. The budget showed an allocation for Thuthuzela Care Centres but no commitment had been given for specialised courts. Finally to increase conviction rates and to send a strong message to perpetrators one needed courts that were child friendly and understand the needs of children. The way forward was said to be the implementation of Article 39 needed to take into account the cycle of violence and the need to break this. South Africa faced huge challenges with the magnitude of violence and required an action plan to implement article 39.
Ms Paula Proudlock, Children’s Institute of UCT, presented on the Budget for Social Welfare Services, which related to articles 19 and 39. The question was whether South Africa was allocating sufficient funding to ensure children had access to the range of social welfare services required by the Children’s Act 2005. The answer was that the budget information that was available highlighted insufficient funding to support full implementation of critical pieces of legislation, including the Children’s Act 2005. There was also insufficient budget to cover full service costs for non-governmental organisations assisting in the delivery of legally mandated services to children and families. The services that were included were partial care facilities (crèches); Early Child Development (ECD) centres and programmes; prevention and early intervention services; drop-in centres; protection services (identification, assessment and protection of vulnerable children, a support scheme for child-headed households); foster care, cluster foster care, and adoption (placement and monitoring); and child and youth care centres (children’s homes, places of safety, secure care facilities).
The presentation covered the way in which provincial departments provided these services, the gap in allocation between the budget and what was needed, and key trends in provincial budgets for 2012/13. The report did not indicate how the State intended to address the challenge of insufficient funding and did not indicate how the State intended to address the non-governmental organisation (NGO) funding crisis. It emphasised the success of the Child Support Grant (CSG) especially in alleviating child poverty, and improving nutritional, health and educational outcomes. The Institute’s own research supports this and it therefore recommended that the State should continue to invest in expanding the CSG.
The presentation showed the impact of larger grants on child poverty and child income poverty per caregiver in terms of category.
The report gave statistics showing major increase in Foster Child Grant (FCG) over the period 2002 to 2011. However since 2010 one had seen stagnation as the foster care system failed to cope with the demand. South Africa had over 1 million maternal and double orphans living with relatives in poverty in need of adequate social grants. In 2011 only 460 000 were getting the FCG (R770) while 570 000 were getting the CSG (R280). It had taken nearly ten years to reach 460 000 orphans with the FCG. She asked how long it would take to reach the target of over 1 million. The report mentioned some of the challenges and ad hoc responses on page 44. However – these ad hoc measures had not yielded growth in the grant. Two High Court cases had highlighted the urgency of reforming the system. The court had ordered the State to implement a comprehensive solution by December 2014.
In November 2012 the Department held a consultative meeting on proposed reform that would provide a larger (in amount) child support grant to relatives caring for orphans (“Extended CSG”). Children’s rights groups had welcomed the proposal. It would ensure orphans got their grants faster and it would also free up social worker and court time to provide better protection services to children who had been abused. The report needed to reflect an acknowledgement of the challenges in reaching all orphans in poverty and report that the Department was in the process of reforming the social assistance system to ensure that orphans received adequate social assistance in good time. (The Directorate on Social Security within the Department of Social Development (DSD) could provide more information).
Centre for Child Law Comments on SA’s country report to the UN CommitteeMs Anne Skelton, Director: Centre for Child Law, University of Pretoria, presented on the education sector, child victims and witnesses, child justice issues, litigation and some other issues of concern.
Ms Skelton said that the report had been a long time in the making and it was sensible to group the three reporting periods together. The drafters of the South Africa’s report to the United Nations needed to be complimented on a well-written comprehensive piece of work. The government (Executive and Parliament) needed to be commended for all the achievements. She also stated that the role of civil society was visible and was acknowledged near the beginning, as service delivery by NGOs needed more recognition.
In terms of the education sector the report did record the work that had been done in this sector and was also honest about some of the problems such as teacher absenteeism and low teacher abilities. One area where the report could have said more was that with regard to infrastructure, the ‘mud schools’ settlement had committed the Department of Basic Education to spending R8.2 billion over 3 years.
Ms Skelton spoke about norms and standards saying the Minister of Basic Education had the power to set norms and standards and had recently issued norms and standards for infrastructure for comment. However, she had not issued norms and standards for admission (capacity e.g. size of classes, teacher pupil ratio). Until she did, School Governing Boards (SGBs) had the say, unguided by government. This had led to court case entitled ‘Rivonia Primary School’.
On learner pregnancy policy she said one needed to think of the Welkom and Harmony High Schools cases. She said the lack of a national policy had led to SGBs setting their own policy and ‘measures’ that were issued by Minister were sometimes contradicting. Constitutionality of learner pregnancy policy under the spotlight in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) the previous day. The report (on p 69) suggested that government was providing clear guidance on this, but that was misleading. She questioned when national policy/regulations were going to be issued.
On corporal punishment in schools the report proudly stated that South Africa had abolished corporal punishment in schools; however, the figures were astonishing. This was one of the most shocking sets of statistics in the report, but there was no real acknowledgment or serious plan.
She said that child victims and witnesses had not been dealt with very well in the report. The UN Guidelines for Child Victims and Witnesses in the Justice System had not mentioned that South Africa had tried to bring its laws in line with this and also that the Constitutional Court had mentioned these guidelines in the case of Director of Public Prosecutions v Minister of Justice (2009).
Special court procedures for child victims and witnesses had not had special mention. She questioned ‘what about intermediaries, CCTV cameras, special waiting rooms?’ Paragraph 185 on p 49 of the report showed that children’s courts were mentioned but not these special measures for child victims and witnesses. She suggested that there needed to be dedicated sexual offences courts. In terms of the child justice system the report had proudly recorded some of the gains made. South Africa could brag more about the extraordinary reduction in the number of children in prison – if the report included figures going back to 2000 – there were about 4000 children in prison then. It did need to be clear about which children were awaiting trial and who had been sentenced.
She argued that the minimum age of criminal capacity would be very controversial with the UN committee and although the report foreshadowed this it could have gone further. It needed to emphasise Parliament’s role. The minimum age of criminal capacity needed to be reviewed by Parliament within five years.
The Intersectoral Child Justice Steering Committee (ISCCJ) had been criticised by the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee in 2011 and no report had been done in 2012. (See slide 17). The presentation also mentioned the cases concerned. (See slide 18.)
The final issues she raised were the fact that paragraph 41 of the report said that all the rights in the Bill of Rights applied to children. The age of marriage was low and discriminatory and compliance was insufficient. She mentioned unaccompanied foreign children and the problems they faced, but the reference on page 73 was only to refugees and asylum seeking children.
Instances of bullying and forced marriages
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said it was strange to see that in the report the number of instances of bullying and forced marriages was said to be unknown. It was important to engage with the Department to point out the gaps in information as these cases were being reported on and the figures needed to be shown.
Ms Van der Merwe said the fact that grandmothers could not access grants because they were labelled as parents was of concern. These grannies were expected to support lots of children with next to no money.
Ms Proudlock said there were many problems as to why grannies could not access the grant. There were problems with how magistrates were reinterpreting the law; some were applying the means test and some were not. There had been a recent case where grannies could not get the grant but aunts could. The main problem lay with the social workers as the process took a long time. They had to do the investigation and do a report, which took about three years. There had been a need to find a solution outside of the foster care system.
Non Governmental Organisations
Ms Van der Merwe said the NGOs were expected to do the work but there were no plans as to how government would assist them. Government should be taking the lead on this matter.
Ms Van der Merwe said that there was an increase in child prostitution and there was no concrete action from government on how this would be tackled.
Access to education
Ms Van der Merwe said the number of children who could not access education was still truly worrying.
Norms and standards
Ms E More (DA) said that she had thought there were norms and standards in place.
Ms Skelton replied that school governing bodies were setting norms but not the national Minister who should be setting a norm and here lay the problem.
Ms C Diemu (COPE) thanked the presenters for really highlighting their points.
Children with disabilities
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) asked about children with disabilities and said they needed to be highlighted within the report.
Rights of the child
Mr D Kekana (ANC) said he did not understand the fact that children had all rights except the ‘right to vote’ as he argued they had not reached a proper age of maturity in order to engage in this activity. He asked for a further explanation on this and what it implied.
Ms Skelton replied that children did not have unfettered rights to all rights as the law regulated them. It was the way in which domestic laws regulated them. One needed to notice that children were given the right to dignity and the right to life.
Mr Kekana asked what the situation was in the home in terms of corporal punishment. He had thought it was unlawful in the home as well but South Africa came from a tradition of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. What action had been taken to remedy these situations? Were the teachers and parent being given other ways and means of taking correctional measure? If this was not done then society complained that the problems today were because there were no ways of correcting their children.
Ms Skelton replied that corporal punishment was not unlawful in the home. There had been an attempt but it had failed in Parliament. She did accept the idea that there was a need for alternatives to corporal punishment.
Grants for teenage mothers
Mr Kekana asked about the grants and asked if these did not encourage young girls to become pregnant so as to make money from the grants. He asked if it would not better to have a campaign to discourage young people from having children when they were not ready for them.
Ms Proudlock replied that a study showed that teenage pregnancy rates were going down. One also needed to remember that a child support grant was only for people 16 years and over and thus it did not encourage young people to get pregnant for the sake of the grant. There were also a number of reasons why teenagers were falling pregnant.
Instances of violence
Mr Kekana asked what effect the high instances of violence amongst adults had on the instances of bullying in schools.
A Member said that the issue of child labour needed to be highlighted. She had thought that the presentation would highlight the issue of child labour.
Ms More said she was confused about the varying ages children were allowed to do things such as having an abortion at 14 but only voting at 18. This was confusing.
Ms Skelton replied that it was confusing that there were different ages for different things but growing up was a progression, which in turn required different ages. There was the argument to be made that some ages were illogical such as having sex at the age of 16 but getting condoms at the age of 12.
Focus on the perpetrator
Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) said that when a child was raped the focus was always on the perpetrator.
Ms Nxumalo said a child had been given the right to abort. What was the number of children being given abortions? She understood these numbers were kept private but it was important to know. She also asked what impression it gave to young people when they were told they could have sex so early and so young.
Ms Proudlock replied that doctors doing abortions were trained on Child Rights and this included reporting teenagers who were having sex. This had been concerning as now teenagers might feel that it was better to go to have unsafe abortions, thus there was a challenging of the notion.
Professor Mathews answered that there was no way to quantify the numbers of women who went to private abortion services. Work on child homicides was beginning to unpack that, as there were huge numbers of ‘dumped foetuses’.
Ms Skelton replied that the issue of illegality of having sex did not affect teenagers below the age of 12. The age of 16 did not give one the right to have sex; it meant that one was able to consent. However, in individual households parents could still and must give guidance to children and the law did not stop parents giving this guidance. There were many sources of guidance in different families.
Sources of rape
Professor Mathews replied that there had been work done on the sources of rape. These had included boys who had intense or adverse childhood experiences, attachment and personality disorders, and substance and firearms abuse. There was also gender inequitable masculinity, namely, ideas of what it meant to be a man and even social learning problems. These ideas were important from preventing men from becoming rapists.
Costing of Implementation of the Children’s Act
Ms More asked about costing of the implementation of the Children’s Act 2005?
Ms Proudlock replied that the Department in 2006 had done a costing of implementation and the Institute had continued to calculate that taking into consideration inflation. An annual analysis had been done every year.
Difference between the CSG and Foster Care Grant
Ms Van der Merwe asked what the difference between applying for the CSG and Foster Care Grant was.
Ms Proudlock replied that with CSG one needed only to go to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and fill in a form and gave the necessary documentation and SASSA processed it in a few months. For the foster care grant one had to go to a social worker and undergo an investigation; this was a much longer process as one had to go to court and to get a date in a children’s court could take up to a year. Once one had a court date then there was an order given and this was what was taken to SASSA. This system did not allow for all the children to be reached.
Child Welfare SA (CWSA) UNCRC Country Report Briefing
Ms Julie Todd, Director: Child Welfare SA, gave a brief presentation on the report. She commented on general measures of implementation, civil rights and freedoms, family environment and alternative care. The presentation was brief and read quickly due to time constraints.
The meeting was adjourned.
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