The Committee had held substantial discussions on the two Children's Amendment Bills on the previous day and the Chairperson, with the support of Committee Members, suggested that the final formalisation and adoption of the Bills be postponed. The Committee had encountered some practical issues and wanted a chance to get more input from the Department of Social Development and give all parties a chance to formulate final responses, and did not want to rush the process.
Members then raised a couple of other points that they felt needed attention outside of the Bill. There were a number of prospective adoptive or foster parents who were unable to formalise their processes to adopt or foster because they had requested confirmation from the Registrant that their names were not on the Register of Sexual Offenders. However there were substantial delays and bottlenecks in that process, which had a negative effect on both the prospective parents and the children. The second concern related to legislation recently brought to the NCOP of which the Portfolio Committee was unaware and in this regard the Chairperson said that she would find out what it was although this had presumably happened because of the tagging of the Bill.
Children‘s Amendment Bill (B13-2015) and Children’s Second Amendment Bill (B14-2015): Deliberations
The Chairperson acknowledged the presence of representatives of the Department of Social Development (DSD) and their ongoing commitment to meeting deadlines as requested by the Committee. However, she noted that she had some concerns about the bills still and thus wanted the DSD representatives to give input during the discussion on the formalising of the amendments as discussed. The Chairperson did not believe that the two bills were ready to progress to adoption stage as yet.
She summarised that following the long discussions on the previous day, it was agreed that the outstanding matters should be brought to a close and the resolutions as taken would be implemented. Time would be required to process the implementation of the amendments proposed, and to give all the parties a chance to give sufficient and considered input into every clause.
The State President was attending Parliament today, 17 March 2016, and this had put pressure on the Chairperson and Committee Members. The Whips had requested responses from the Chairpersons of Committees, and because she had been attending other meetings earlier, there was no report and no submission made, and she requested that the issues stand over.
She asked that the DSD should now make documents available to all Members, and she asked that these be directed via the Committee Secretary. This Committee remained a priority in the House and both Bills, numbers 13 and 14 of 2015, would be considered first for implementation. Enough time would be scheduled to deal with both.
Ms E Wilson (DA) highlighted the importance of the Children’s Second Amendment Bill [B14-2015], saying that because it would affect the majority of youth and children it had to be regarded as a priority. She agreed that because of the time constraints and the concern to deal with the matters thoroughly and properly, to avoid detrimental issues arising out of a rushed job, the meeting should be postponed.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) agreed.
The Chairperson also agreed with Ms Wilson although she wanted to highlight that Bill B14-2015 was desirable for everyone, and should be able to address the anomaly that there were some children who cannot be adopted because of difficulties with the current Register.
Ms Wilson asked whether she might pose two questions on different matters that related to other concerns. She noted that the Committee had been inundated with complaints and queries from people who were either adopting or had applied to foster children, in every area of the country. An issue raised was that the people were unable to proceed at present because they were unable to get a response from the Registrar to certify that their names did not appear on the Register of Sexual Offenders. Some people had been waiting five to six months with no response, even after having written four to five times to the Registrar. Meantime, the children to be fostered or adopted remained in care which was not ideal, and some were desperate for homes who could be with loving foster or adoptive parents, but because of the mismanagement of the process and the lack of response, the prospective parents were unable to take in the children.
Ms Wilson secondly said that there were numerous queries from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), including the fact that when legislation was proposed earlier in the week questions were asked about the input and knowledge that the Portfolio Committee had of that Bill, and she asked why it had been brought to the NCOP.
The Chairperson responded that this probably had to do with the tagging of the Bill in question, but she would make a query so that the Committee would be taken on board, and the Committee given an indication of whether the proper channels had been followed as it did not seem to be correct that it would have been proposed without any input from this Committee.
She asked that Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director General: Welfare Services, DSD, should submit a comment on the issue in regard to the Register, in writing, to the Chairperson so she could then formally find out how and where the Committee could assist. DSD was the custodian of the Register. There were other departments also – such as Department of Justice – responsible for maintaining registers and full feedback would be given on the issues.
She highlighted that the Register was nothing new. There was existing administration around it. The Committee would check and attend to any bottlenecks, but if new policy was required then the matter may have to come back to the Committee again. She noted that when laws were made and implemented, it was correct that the Committee should receive feedback and complaints so that it could try to address them.
The meeting was adjourned.
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