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WELFARE AND POPULATION DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
September 27 2000
DEVELOPMENTAL WELFARE GOVERNANCE BILL; SOCIAL ASSISTANCE ACT AMENDMENTS
Documents handed out:
Development of the Developmental Welfare Governance Bill
The Initiation of Proposed Amendments to the Regulations of the Social Assistance Act
Proposed Amendments to the Social Assistance Act
International Trends and Lessons from India on Gender and Social Policy
Chairperson: Mr Saloojee
The Director-General explained the development of the Developmental Welfare Governance Bill, its purpose, its link to the Ten Point Plan and she identified those clauses that had raised concerns with stakeholders. The proposed amendments to the Social Assistance Act were detailed.
Ms Devaki Jain, gender and development expert from India, spoke briefly to the committee on issues of social development.
The Director-General, Ms Angela Bester, presented context to the Developmental Welfare Governance Bill that the committee had discussed the previous week:
The process began in 1996 when an interim committee established the National Interim Consultative Committee on Developmental Social Services (NICC) to develop a draft bill on this issue. By April 1999 the NICC had developed a draft, but some concerns were raised by the department concerning this draft. The NICC had reviewed the draft by 31 May 1999 and the department undertook consultations. The Departmental Committee on Developmental Social Services (DCDSS), comprising ten heads of departments, met to advise MINMEC. The DCDSS proposed a number of substantial changes to the draft Bill. The draft Bill was submitted to MINMEC on September 7 1999, who approved it for submission to Cabinet. Cabinet approved the Bill subject to the removal of Clauses 11 and 12. The Bill was published for comment on December 12 1999. The Portfolio Committee was briefed on the Bill on March 8 2000 and public hearings were requested. On August 2000 the Bill was tabled in Parliament.
Why we have the bill
The Bill is concerned with facilitating and consolidating participation of civil society in formulating public policy around the transformation in the social sector. The proposed Council is to be an important vehicle for consultation. The Bill is an important legislative vehicle for transforming the welfare sector and redressing imbalances of the past.
Bill is linked to the Ten Point Plan
The Bill must not be seen in isolation from the Ten Point Plan:
- Co-operative governance: partnership with civil society to promote social development, - Re-direction of welfare resources to rural poor and historically disadvantaged.
- Re-orientation of social welfare workers to social development.
Over 70 submissions were received. These came from National Councils, welfare forums and service providers, tertiary institutions, national and provincial departments. There was a positive reaction to the intention of the Bill but concern was raised about certain aspects.
Issues were raised concerning Clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6:
Clause 3: Objectives of the Council. The objectives were felt to be too unrealistic. Its capacity was advisory rather than policy formulation.
Clause 4: Powers of the Council. The concern was that the Council would have ‘no teeth’, and its powers would be advisory only. Therefore it will not have sufficient clout. The credibility of the Council could be in question. It was asked if the processes are transparent enough.
Clause 5: Duties of the Council. Although there was no disagreement over the duties themselves, there was concern that such a long list would be unrealistic, given the proposed composition (9) and the resources required.
Clause 6: Composition of the Council [Four representatives come from government and five from civil society]
- How does this high powered council connect with the people on the ground as there is little or no representation from grassroots.
- There is no representation of organised labour although provision is made for tertiary and training bodies.
- Relatively high representation from government
- Representation assumes common interest amongst groups.
- No representation of local government.
- There is an apparent domination of national councils versus lack of adequate representation of national councils.
- Resources required: some view the sum of R686 000 000 as too much, others too little.
- Selection and appointment of Council: there is a need for transparency in this process. The Portfolio Committee has played a critical role in this process.
Ms Bester reminded the Committee that her office is committed to the aims of the Bill. They are committed to partnerships with civil society. She urged the Committee to hold consultations with the public in the form of public hearings. Ms Bester also urged the Committee to give an indication as soon as possible as to what the final say will be so that her office can budget and plan.
Chairperson Saloojee pointed out that there would be further opportunities to discuss the Bill, and that legislation should not be processed too quickly.
An MP pointed out that when people are invited to meetings they are always regional representatives. She asked would it not be possible to arrange for people from rural communities to comment.
Professor Mbadi (UDM) pointed out that Bishop Seoka of the NICC had not been consulted.
Ms Coetzee-Kasper (ANC) noted that the submissions all came from big institutions, and not the actual people concerned at grassroots. Submissions from individuals were important, even if it means going to those areas. It was very clear that the Committee needed to do a lot more around the Bill.
Dr Mbulawa (ANC) asked Ms Bester if it would be possible to produce a breakdown of costs, so that the Committee could better judge the size of the allocated budget.
Mrs Cupido (DP) raised concern about the size of the Council and asked if all sectors could be comfortably accommodated in a Council of nine members.
Ms Bester explained that she did not have a breakdown of costs with her, but it was available and that she would see to it that it would be given to the Committee. She stated that the size of the Council was a common concern. In terms of outreach to rural communities, it was for the Committee to decide what to do, and the office of the Director General would support the decision. In relation to Prof Mbadi’s query, Ms Bester pointed out that the issues of last week had specifically not been addressed in today’s presentation, but that she thought that by explaining the chronology of the Bill, this would cover the issues.
Prof Mbadi said that he was still concerned by the fact that Bishop Seoka had not been able to meet the Director General.
Another member stated that she did not want to answer for the Director General but she pointed out that the NICC had been disbanded, and that they must deal with what is in the Bill now. People from the NICC are now in other structures.
Chairperson Saloojee pointed out to the Professor that there was nothing final about the process, and that the Bishop would still get a chance to meet with the Director General at a later stage.
Ms Ghandi (ANC) welcomed the suggestion that public hearings would be held and stated that the Committee must plan ahead.
Chairman Saloojee replied that he was planning to do this in the New Year as unfortunately there was not enough time left this year to do so.
Proposed Amendments to the Social Assistance Act
Ms Pat Naicker, Director of Social Assistance, said that prior to 1992 the system was fragmented, archaic and discriminatory. The first attempt to address these problems was an amendment to the Act in 1992. She noted that fourteen systems have been amalgamated since 1992. It was further amended to bring service delivery in line with the Constitution. Steps taken to address the problems had been both short term and long term.
Ms Naicker then presented the amendments (see copy of amendments)
Ms Bester emphasised that the purpose of their presentation today was to provide an overview, and to recognise that the process may be long. Recommendations from the Portfolio Committee are needed.
The Chairperson asked how soon can the recommendations come to the Committee and Ms Naicker replied that they were in the process of finding out if other contributions will be made, but they anticipate November by the latest.
An MP commented that she was excited by the proposal of accrual of benefits from the date of application by the beneficiary, rather than accrual from the date of approval by the department. The MP asked Ms Naicker if she could indicate what problems existed, if any, for example with foster care being replaced by the State Maintenance Grant. She further asked why the department is sticking to the age of seven and not eight for school-going children. The MP pointed out that the definition of disability needs to be made clear. Because of high unemployment, people are using this avenue to obtain money, especially by claiming temporary disability benefits. In terms of the definition of temporary disability, how would one differentiate gout from arthritis?
Ms Cupido (DP) asked if it was possible to look at the proposals and add to them. She agreed that the grants should be uniform, but why not accommodate children between the ages of 8 to 18?
Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked what phasing out of the disability grant meant in concrete terms. She said that there was confusion with people who are clearly permanently disabled who are slotted in. Is the talk of a developmental approach concrete or hopeful? For example, people with TB on medication need support.
Dr Mbulawa (ANC) raised two issues. In the Eastern Cape the media covered a report that the ministers were using a social model. Was this the actual case or had the media misrepresented the facts? Also, on the issue of appeals – Dr Mbulawa felt that it unfairly hung a carrot in front of desperate people that they could not reach.
Ms Bester stated that the Child Support Grant is being kept at the same rate, not taking inflation into consideration and the issue has been taken to the National Treasury.
Mr Saloojee asked if before the next budget would representations about an increase for pensions be made? Ms Bester replied that they had been very vocal, but would have to wait, the value of pensions has been eroded over the years, and it is an important tool of poverty alleviation. Ms Bester asked that if anything had been missed out in their proposed amendments, the Portfolio Committee should inform her department as they would like to propose that some recommendations are made well before November, especially on disability grants. There is a clear need to prioritise and move on this issue.
Mr Saloojee replied that the Portfolio Committee would do its best to move with some speed on this issue.
Ms Bester said that, concerning the exclusion of children between the ages of 8 to 18, they have raised this issue before, because it does become a problem when dealing with AIDS orphans, especially older siblings who are left to care for younger siblings. There are no district surgeons in rural areas therefore the department is looking at alternatives for deep rural areas.
Ms Naicker said that they had drafted a policy outline that will be made accessible to everyone, in eleven different languages, in terms of the review of grants.
Ms Tshivhase (ANC) said that her concern was particularly with rural people who are very disadvantaged. For example, in the case of a pregnant schoolgirl, who should apply for a grant?
Another MP commented that the Director General said something is being done for 8-18 years old. Should they not wait until the policy changes the school going age to seven?
Ms Kasienyane (ANC) asked in consideration of poverty relief grants, should a child of eight go to school on an empty stomach? Should someone with TB take drugs on an empty stomach?
Ms Ghandi (ANC) said that if the pension take-up age for women is to be changed, it will have a bad effect on women who will suffer and that they need to examine this further. There also needs to be uniformity in foster care grants. A Child Support Grant will last for seven years only but a foster care grant can go on until the child is eighteen. She pointed out that they have been talking about this for years and that there should be something permanent in foster care, it needs to be clearly addressed.
Another MP commented that if she were a teacher, her husband would qualify for a pension but this is not the case if her husband was a teacher, she would not qualify. Why is there this discrimination?
Ms Chalmers (ANC) asked that when social relief was being talked about, were they talking in terms of a grant? What is the time frame? They need to think creatively around this issue as there is much distress.
Ms Naicker brought the attention back to the issue of children having children in rural areas, and how this was to be dealt with. Children do not qualify for social grants, but the Law Commission is looking at the definition of what is a child. Children caring for younger children, as in the case of AIDS victims, need to have access to benefits.
The definition of disabilities is very important, deciding who is eligible and who is not is causing a lot of problems. The Department is addressing this seriously.
In answer to the question about a poverty relief grant, the issue of social security for all South African’s is being examined. The point is taken about discrimination over age. The Foster Care grant has no permanence because the aim is to return the child to the family, but they are children whose needs have to be addressed. The focus, however, is on the family.
Distress has been identified as a problem area and is very developmental. The department is looking at some type of permanent assistance. They have to be innovative in this instance, for example, the provision of training, imparting skills etc.
An MP brought up the issue of child abuse and sexual child abuse by fathers. They pointed out that mothers are relying on the father for support and what kind of grant could the mothers depend on to get them out of the situation?
Mr Singh (DP) commented that there was a degree of lack of uniformity. He asked what the criteria were that was used for a child with a disability.
Ms Bester pointed out that an effort was made to target people more effectively so even if they receive some sort of grant it can also be linked to poverty relief. As for age discrimination, it was something that they had to examine. Reports show that money goes further if you give it to a woman. In the case of the issue of discrimination around education, she had no available information but would find out. Grants are given for different purpose. There are no specific grants for child abuse or domestic violence but support services are available.
Ms Naicker stated that if a child is subjected to abuse by a significant other, the child is removed from the family and placed with foster care, and that grants were available for this. The means test is fairly liberal. But if you are earning more than R1300 per month you will not qualify for a grant. If your are single and own a house worth more than R180 000 you will not qualify, also if you are married and own a house worth more than R360 000 you will not qualify.
Ms Ghandi (ANC) said that in terms of child abuse, mothers can go straight to the police, the man is immediately arrested. This attempts to preserve the family and remove the perpetrator, but if the perpetrator is the breadwinner, the income source is removed too. Therefore, mothers often do not report child abuse due to fear of lack of income.
Ms Naicker replied that she recognised that need, but they can only access a grant if the child is under the age of seven.
The question was asked if the value of property should affect pension grants as property is not an income. What happens if a pension is suspended after the valuation of a property. A flood of old people has been seen who were told to come with their title deeds.
Ms Naicker replied that information and how it should be disseminated was being investigated. Electronic information should be available by December, which means that each pensioner should receive information on a payslip in his or her own language. This electronic device is in the process of being rolled out.
A question was raised about the reregistration process in Pietermaritzburg, 38 000 reregistrations were being held back because of the process. Mr Saloojee asked if there was any other way of processing the information.
Ms Naicker explained that there was a plan to put Helpdesks at every pension payout point, which meant approximately 4000 Helpdesks. These would be available to assist pensioners. In terms of communicating with the pensioners, they have found the most effective method is word-of-mouth. In the rural areas there is rarely any media available. Replying to the question of the 38 000 in Pietermaritzberg, 39 000 pensioners failed to respond to communication but many now have responded. Only 8 000 remain to be processed.
It was pointed out, however, that the Helpdesks will only be effective if the issue of transport is addressed. Ms Naicker agreed and said that that point had been overlooked.
Mr Saloojee raised the issue of delivery. The Minister has indicated to the media that he wants this to move speedily. It would be good to know details so that the Portfolio Committee members can play their roles as public representatives. He is under the impression that a lot of work is being done in the Department to become more efficient. There is an ongoing process between the Portfolio Committee and the department and he looks forward to more briefings of this nature. Mrs Ghandi (ANC) added that she would like to commend the Director General and her team for a job well done, and the Chairperson agreed.
International Trends and Lesson from India on Gender and Social Policy
Ms Devaki Jain’s began by thanking the Gender Advocacy Programme (GAP) for inviting her from India. She is here to share some of India’s experience with South Africa and to bring some South African experience to India. Indians can learn much from South Africans. The non-hierarchical dialogue in South Africa impresses her, there is no pomposity, and she believes that as countries age, a hierarchy begins to set in. She believes that the various bodies do a lot of work and is very envious of that, such as Nedlac, the Constitutional Court, the TRC and others. People like Bishop Tutu, Ahmed Kathrada, and Albie Sachs have all given time to her to explain the evolution of such institutions and she has learnt much.
Mrs Jain mentioned that terminology was an issue, do you call something social policy or social justice? Naming is very important. People in India used to laugh at the term social welfare, which was changed to social development, but she feels that this is the wrong term and that social security and economics are better terms.
One criticism she has of India is that it hands out departmentalised packages to poor people eg agriculture, education, housing etc. A poor person cannot cope, and becomes dependant. It makes them powerless and makes service providers important. Rajiv Ghandi found that only 10c out of a dollar actually got to the poor, the other 90c went to the system. A similar situation is happening in South Africa, 30c goes to the poor, while 70c goes to the system. Mrs Jain stated that the poor are not a pimple, but are part of your bloodstream. You cannot merely lance the pimple. You cannot stretch with the left hand to give to the poor while with the right hand stretch to the rich to trade, your efforts must be combined.
She explained about the work generating projects in rural India, where women are involved in making chocolate, poppadoms and handicrafts. In fact, India’s top export is now handicrafts.
To move towards social justice in South Africa, the focus must be racial and gender; in India it is gender and caste. Affirmative action is in place for lower caste members but has not helped them because the system is so entrenched.
There is so much to learn from failure. Ms Jain said that she gets restless because she can see a young South Africa going down the same path, but she realises that the young need to burn their fingers. She sees that South Africa has many problems, it is crucial to empower local government - the district level local economy. It was Ghandi’s idea that people should both produce and consume in one area. But is this idea xenophobic? There is a case for strengthening the national economy.
Mr Saloojee commented that she has captured the essence of South Africa’s problems.
An ANC MP commented that after the democratic elections they had thought that it would be so easy to go in and make a change. The government has good policies but many are unable to be implemented so we need advice. We have a huge civil service, because of the need to rationalise there will be many job losses and so there are accusations that the government is not growing jobs. Also, many people are unskilled. The most important area of delivery is local government but still they are not delivering. How can this be turned around? The poor are not going to wait for us to talk about structure, we are failing them.
Another MP agreed that local government was the way to go in terms of delivery, but in South Africa many people go into local government inexperienced, and white Afrikaners in the civil service are running rings around them. The MP pointed out to Ms Jain that social security in South Africa has always meant grants, and sometimes the only source of income for 10 or 11 people is one old age pension. Sometimes more money means more shebeens being constructed. In the Northern Cape, people are growing dates, flat packing them, and sending them overseas. The South Africans need to know how local government can assist in growing jobs.
Ms Ghandi (ANC) agreed that local government is the most important source of delivery. Many people are saying that the outsourcing of services is good because it gives more opportunity for work. There are not many co-operatives working in this country.
An MP pointed out that there is an institutionalized and bureaucratic way of dealing with things, people can be very creative but then how do they market their goods? Also, in housing for example, who are the people who decide for the people, it is still very male dominated. A business plan is very difficult, how do people get loans and finance?
Mrs Jain said that these questions made her feel that we can talk and learn from each other. To hear that social security meant grants and social development meant something else was new to her, she had not understood this before. She felt that there were no immediate answers but how the problems were conceptualized is important to their understanding and unraveling. How much money is given, and how does one deliver?
In terms of local government, in India they are not experienced enough, they have many programs but cannot deliver. She does not think that people in local government need certain skills to deliver, there is a large bureaucracy for that purpose, and the MPs must learn to trust the civil servants. Money is spent on training local officials, but you are in actual fact deschooling them, you are schooling out their intuition. It is true that mistakes can be made and corrupt practices will occur. In India, 1 000 000 are in local government, 70% of them are illiterate, 60% of them are accompanied by their husbands to meetings and are influenced by them, but each woman is learning.
We undermine democracy if we do not trust the bureaucracy. In one of our states, there is a province, we have given them their own budget and told them that they must make the decisions, they must sink or swim. What has been noticed is that villages have organised themselves, retired schoolteachers and retired nurses get involved in organising. It has been noticed when a budget allocation has to be spent to justify it, things happen like toilets get built that are useless, they stand alone, with no water.
Ghandi designed a support system, everyone in the village can spin, shops then sell their goods, and Ghandi encouraged everyone to buy from these shops. In fact, if you wanted to become a politician you had to buy from those shops.
The role of legislation in this process should be strengthened. The latest report from the World Bank points towards a decentralised government.
Self Help Groups – women are encouraged to form groups, and save every month to help each other. They receive no funding from the government. After they have saved, they then receive a matching grant from the government. Curiously, it is rolling money like crazy, and banks are now competing for the Self Help Group’s money. One group even employed an advertising agency to advertise their wares professionally. One village hears what the other does, it is communication without electronics.
Identification is a very corrupt system. Ghandi had a good system and would visit each village to ask the village to identify the poorest five in each village, in public. This process is very public and transparent. It is a very good system of identification, no-one can argue when it is this transparent. This is Ghandi’s idea of giving charity to the last person.
Chairperson Saloojee wished that a more formal exchange of ideas between India and South Africa could be established. Mrs Jain agreed that it would be good to formalize an exchange between the two countries. The meeting was concluded.