Child Care Grants

Social Development

12 October 2000
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Meeting report

CHILD CARE GRANTS

WELFARE AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 October 2000
CHILD CARE GRANTS

Documents handed out:
New Women's Movement submission on Child Care Grants (submission awaited)
Molo Songololo submission on Child Care Grants (see Appendix 1)

MINUTES
Here follows the draft minutes of the committee clerk, Ms Zarina Adhikari:

PRESENT
Saloojee, Mr. E (Chairperson)

AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
Bhengu, Mr F
Coetzee-Kasper, Ms M P *
Chalmers Ms J
Jassat, Dr E E *
Kasienyane, Miss O R *
Makasi, Mrs X C
Masutha, Mr M T *
Tshivhase, Mrs T J

DEMOCRATIC PARTY
Cupido, Ms P W

APOLOGIES
Gandhi, Ms E
Mbulawa, Dr B G
Rajbally, Ms S
Tsheole, Ms N M

WITNESSES
Ms. R Edwards - New Women's Movement
Ms N Cetiwe - New Women's Movement
Mr A Liebenberg - Western Cape Association of School Governing Bodies
Ms R Horne - Women on Farms
Ms V Anthony - Molo Songolo

The Chairperson opened the meeting by apologising for the late start of the meeting and explaining the unusual circumstances that arose in the National Assembly that delayed the members. He noted his appreciation for the fact that the delegation waited for the Committee members. He explained that the background to the meeting with the New Women's Movement and said that the Committee had obtained special permission to meet.

After introductions, Ms Edwards made a submission and she was followed by Ms Cetiwe (See attached document). Ms Cetiwe outlined the following demands:
· The Means test must be done away with.
· The age of children benefiting must be from 0 to 18.
· Grants must increase to R250 and must be reviewed periodically.
· Children who receive grants must be exempted from paying school fees and this must be borne by the State.
· Welfare officials must be retrained so that they are able to treat women with respect and dignity.

This presentation was followed by that of Mr Liebenberg, Ms Horne and Ms Anthony (See attached document).

The Chairperson noted the impressive manner of the presentation in terms of clarity and passion. He added that the Committee felt very strongly about these issues.

Mr Masutha acknowledged that the problem with the Public Servant's attitude seemed to be difficult to erode. He said that the Committee felt very strongly about this issue and that they would engage the Department about service delivery. He indicated that this issue needed to be resolved provincially. The Law should protect those that are excluded and all resources should be used in this respect. He encouraged the organisations present to engage in the current processes that were underway in terms of new legislation.

Ms Cupido disagreed with Mr Masutha about the fact that service delivery was a provincial problem. She said that the grants were determined by the National Department with the imput of the Portfolio Committee. She indicated that she had maintained that the State Maintenance Grant should have been retained and that the amount should be increased to R250. She also felt that the age should increase to 18 years. She said it was the State's responsibility to take care of children and that children on grants should not have to pay school fees. Ms Cupido noted that the problem with officials should be taken up with the Director-General.

Ms Kasienyane suggested that women, who were experiencing problem, go to their constituency offices and demand information. She agreed that provinces were responsible for distribution only but noted that they would have the information needed by the communities. She concurred with the previous speakers about the problem with officials and expressed her support for the concerns raised. She pointed out that organisation in the Western Cape was privileged as they are able to gain access to the National Parliament. She noted that women elsewhere in the country did not know where to go with there problems.

The Chairperson said that the Minister was touring the country to investigate the conditions under which the poor live. He suggested that the concerns raised by the organisations could be raised with the Minister when he undertakes a tour of the Western Cape. The Chairperson indicated that he would be accompanying the Minister when he tours the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Ms Coetzee-Kasper said that she would prefer to hear solutions as well as concerns being raised. She explained that the grant was extended to all and that was why it had been reduced and in this regard pointed to the Namibian example. She said that the issue of the age was being addressed and that the Welfare Department was not the only Department that was responsible for social development issues. She said that Departments such as Education and Housing has an equally important role to play.

Ms Ntwanambi said that several factors need to be looked at and that women must look at developing themselves. She said that Government would assist in the form of anti-poverty programmes. She felt that women on the farms should be concientized and developed and that sustainable development be promoted.

Ms Cetiwe responded to Ms Coetzee-Kasper and Ms Ntwanambi by saying that she agreed with the idea of developing women but that many of the women were not skilled enough to write their own business plans. She pointed out that the officials were not very helpful in this regard and they be trained to assist these women

The Chairperson informed the meeting that the anti-poverty funds have been sent to the provinces for disbursement. This process will occur in conjunction with the Independent Development Trust. He said that Provinces have to identify projects and officials have to assist with the delivery.

Ms Anthony expressed her concern about the intervention process and the time delays. She said that they were very concerned about the impact of Aids and that they hoped to speak to the Minister about it.

Mr Masutha reiterated his earlier appeal for organisations to get involved in the processes around the drafting of new legislation, which would be required to correct the present situation. He pointed out that the Provincial government was responsible for the payment of the grants.

Ms Anthony responded by noting that it was difficult to get information about Parliamentary processes.

Ms Chalmers proposed that people visit their constituency offices, as that would be the best place to get information. She said that people could demand the information that they required. She stated that in terms of the Administrative Justice Act, officials could be held accountable. She noted that the CSG as it presently stood levelled the playing fields and included those that were previously excluded. The current system is a pilot project, which will be reviewed with persons from civil society.

Ms Edwards said that she agreed that the grants needed to be deracialised but disagreed with the reduction in the amount. She felt that there needed to be greater co-ordination between local, provincial and national government in terms of solving the problems in the grant system. She welcomed Mr Masutha's suggestion and said that they would try to interact with the processes. She felt that there was a need for a comprehensive co-ordinated integrated process to deal with concerns. She said that the Committee should take into account international treaties and constitutional obligations to monitor the Department's progress.

Ms Hangana said that the New Women's Movement were fortunate to be able to come to Parliament to access national government. Elsewhere women have to deal with the provincial governments. She said that initially she was very angry when she was informed that the amount of the grant would be R100. She had been denied a grant while growing up. She said that she understood that this had to happen to be able to take everyone on board and it would be advisable for people to register so that the grant may be improved over time. This would allow government to ascertain what the need is and the budgetary concerns could be taken into account. In the interim there was access to the grant. She felt that organisations and public officials had a role to assist with empowering women through the Poverty Relief Projects.

Ms Makasi said that people could use the constituency offices to report officials. She cited a case that she was dealing with in her constituency.

Mr Masutha said that he encouraged the organisations to raise issues with the commissions drafting legislation, as they would appreciate the representations made. He pointed out some of the differences between the CSG and the SMG. The SMG was limited to two children and only single mothers could benefit. It did not take the African culture into account where grandparents or other relatives would look after children. There is no limit to the number of children that can get the CSG. He said that he agreed that the amount and age should change but presently children under Seven years of age are the most vulnerable and at least they were getting something. The legislation makes room for the age and amount to increase but it needs to be financially viable. He said that the commission will investigate various approaches and it was therefore important for them to hear from civil society.

One of the members of the New Women's Movement expressed her dissatisfaction at the proceedings, saying that most of them do not understand what is being said. She said that hey supported the commission and the Committee but that the voices of the women needed to be heard.

Another member of the New Women's Movement said that the Allpay system and Poverty Alleviation projects had been instituted without any consultation of the people involved. She felt that a needs assessment should have been done.
This view was repeated by another member who said that Allpay officials were very rude and that some action should be taken.

The Chairperson ended the meeting by suggesting that the organisation stay in contact with the Committee by writing to them. He thanked them for their presentation and said that the meeting had left the Committee with a sharper understanding of the issues. He noted that the upliftment of children and the poor was a common concern. He invited the organisations to attend any of the Committee meetings in the future.

Ms Chalmers asked the organisations to invite the Committee to their projects.

The meeting adjourned.

Appendix 1:
A MOLO SONGOLOLO SUBMISSION

Molo Songololo is a child rights organisation that concerns itself with the survival, development and protection of children and their rights. Established in 1980 to overcome apartheid barriers, Molo Songololo tasked itself with the principle of creating a forum for children's voices to be heard in all matters concerning children.

Every day we are exposed to the pain and hardship that children are forced to experience. The high rate of poverty and unemployment has a serious affect on their lives leaving families to live in a state of abject poverty. This degrading form of poverty is directly related to the increasing numbers of children forced into prostitution for survival. Poverty is impacting on value systems where families are surviving through the forced sexual exploitation of their own children The payment received by the child is a mere pittance, leaving them to live in a state of subservience, degradation and humiliation. Organised gangs and syndicates have also recognised the vulnerability of children and families struggling to survive and have capitalised on this situation. Often payment is made to parents in exchange for a child who is used within the sexual exploitation trade across our country.

The United Nations estimates that between 2 and 4 million people a year are traded against their will in to some form of slavery, be it domestic labour, begging or prostitution. According to the United Nations many of these are children.

Children of South Africa:
• Children form nearly half of the population of South Africa
• 61% of South African children under 16 years live in poverty
• Poverty amongst African children is the worst at 70%
• 400% increase in the number of HIV/Aids orphans in South Africa
• By 2010 there will be an estimated 3.6 - 4.8 million children orphaned by HIV/Aids

Research has shown that these children are the most vulnerable to the trafficking and sexual exploitation trade.

The story of Ramona will highlight the experience of children sexually exploited across South Africa.

The story of Ramona David
Ramona was born in a sub economic area of the Western Cape in 1985 and is the older of two children. Both Ramona and her brother live with their parents in an informal settlement where unemployment and abuse of alcohol is rife. Both of Ramon's parents are unemployed and alcoholics. The community where Ramona lives is also highly under resourced subjecting children to further neglect.

Ramona's home environment was one of over crowding and poverty. Several people shared the living space in the home where there was no privacy for adults or children. Ramona, took care of her brother whilst her parents remained despondent and in a drunken state.

At the age of 11 Ramona's mother prostituted her to local men in the community for money and from that time Ramona became the sole breadwinner in her family. This lasted for four years, as Ramona became one of several children who were prostituted in the same area.

Our research further indicates that children below the age of five years are being prostituted. The point of argument is not whether this child's Mother is receiving a maintenance grant or not but the direct correlation between poverty and the sexual exploitation of children. As in the case of Ramona's life where basic survival was a daily battle, at the age of 11 she no longer qualified for the grant subsidy. But the same question applies to Ramona - what impact does R100.00 make in meeting her basic right to survival as enshrined in Section 28 of the South African Constitution and it fly's in the face of our governments "first call for children". We recognise this and I am sure you do to. The question I pose here today is how can we continue to ignore the consequences of poverty as indicated in one child's story, a child that represents hundreds of thousands of children in our country.

The future of these children if they are lucky enough to escape with their lives is dismal. Any intervention in their lives must happen now to make a real difference if we are to tackle the many social dilemmas of poverty.

There was never money for food Molo Songololo strongly argues that the amount of money that the government spends on our children must be increased.

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