Child Abuse Management; Child Care Legislation: progress report by Department

Social Development

13 March 2003
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Meeting report

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2003
CHILD ABUSE MANAGEMENT; CHILD CARE LEGISLATION: PROGRESS REPORT BY DEPARTMENT

Chairperson: Mr E Saloojee

Documents handed out:
Child Abuse Management and Child Care Legislation Progress Report
Child Protection Services After Hours: Western Cape
Progress Report on Implementation of Child Care register
Strategic plan on Child Abuse: Department of Social Development
Child Care Bill

Relevant document:
Final Report of the Parliamentary Task Group on the Sexual Abuse of Children June 2002

SUMMARY
Representatives from the Department of Social Development briefed the committee on progress that had been made regarding child abuse management since Parliament's Task Group Report tabled in June 2002. The shortage of social workers

In the progress report on the new child care legislation it was noted that workshops on the Child Care Draft Bill will be held on 17 to 19 March 2003 in Pretoria. The refining of the Bill would take place one week after the workshop and the Department hoped to submit it to Parliament by the end of March 2003. Costing of the Bill has not been yet performed though the Bill would probably be introduced in phases to assist with implementation.


MINUTES
The Chair reminded members that a task team had been set up by Parliament in 2002 to investigate child abuse and to draft new legislation. They had agreed that after six months the task team would report back on progress made.

Child abuse management
Mr A Theron, Chief Director: Welfare Services Transformation, briefed the committee on the progress made on child abuse management (see document). Points made were that the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape had developed after hours services. With this 24 hour support, the Western Cape was the benchmark for other provinces. The Child Welfare Society and Child Line had done very good work but they needed government funding to continue their work. The department had commissioned the University of the Western Cape to do a training audit. It was the department's plan to train everyone involved such as judges, teachers and nurses on how to manage child abuse problems

Child Protection Register
Ms S Scholtz explained that the register was not just a list of names. It was a record of all services provided in child abuse cases such as referrals of families. The purpose of the register was to link the child with the social work network. She said that the emphasis was on the prevention of child abuse. (See document for full details)

Discussion
Mr N Clelland (DP) said that he felt that the training of magistrates and prosecutors was missing the point as they came late in the process and that the intermediaries that normally dealt with the child should be trained.

Mr Theron explained that the emphasis was not on the latter part of the process, but that it was rather on prevention. However that it was important for judges etc. to receive training in child rights so that they could do their work more effectively. Intermediaries were also trained. He explained that there was a shortage of social workers and therefore child care workers were also being used as intermediaries.

Mr Saloogee said that the shortage of social workers was a big problem. He added that social workers who were employed by NGOs earned less than those in the state and that this created problems and needed to be addressed. This problem with social workers kept coming up and he wanted to know if anything concrete was being done.

Mr Theron said that they were planning to increase subsidies to the NGO sector. He added that social security was taking more of the budget that social welfare and that this needed to be addressed.

Ms C Ramotsamai (ANC) said that many social workers were frustrated as it took long for a child to be removed from a home where it was being abused. The feeling was that the justice department was taking too long to process the cases.

Ms M Coetzee-Casper (ANC) commented that the abuse of children was not just sexual or physical but also emotional. She referred to the abuse children suffer because of parents who abuse alcohol. She asked what the power and function of social workers were to remove children from such situations.

Mr Theron replied that the new law was looking at removing the alleged child abuse perpetrator rather than removing the child. Social workers do not have to wait for magistrates to remove children but they could remove children by filling in a Form 4. They could then place the child in safe houses. There was a need for a bank of safe houses for children. He agreed that they should look at other abuse as well. He added that more money should be going towards prevention and not just to do interventions.

Ms S Rajbally (Minority Front) said the debate always seemed to go round and round over funding and human resources. Was there any funding from the other departments involved in the drawing up of the legislation? There needed to be more community volunteer involvement. She was also concerned about the brain drain in this sector.

Mr Theron agreed that there was too much emphasis on the Social Development Department. He said that if an integrated approach was to be taken, as proposed, then the budgeting also needed to be integrated. He supported volunteers getting involved. They were training some and he encouraged members, that if they knew of volunteers, they should direct them to the department. He added that high level intervention was needed to address the problem of the brain drain.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) also felt that the responsibility for child care should be shared amongst the other departments. She asked if street children were also part of the child abuse program. Mr Theron confirmed that this was part of their program.

Mr B Solo (ANC) said that it was difficult to locate social workers in the community as they were not very visible. He also felt that there was a need to make communities more aware of where they could go and what they could do in cases of child abuse.

Mr Theron replied that that social workers were at the department offices, but agreed that there was a need for a marketing exercise. Awareness was part of the department's strategy.

The Chair felt that child pornography was a contributing factor in child abuse and asked if the Department was interacting with Home Affairs regarding this.

Mr Theron replied that all departments were in involved in formulating the strategy.

The Chair asked how the child protection committees, which had been mentioned in the presentation, functioned.

Ms Scholtz replied that the committees were made up of different people in the area such as police, teachers and social workers. These committees address problems in the area and co-ordinate activities.

Ms X Makasi (ANC) said that it was her experience that people who volunteered to take care of children found it difficult to get any assistance from the department. She was also concerned about the long process that one had to go through to get the child.

Mr Theron replied that it sounded as if the social workers were not doing their work in the cases mentioned and not following up. They should know where the safe houses are and should not send people around.

Mr Solo was concerned about pornographic films shown on e-TV and wanted to know if this would be addressed. He was also concerned about children in shebeens.

Mr Theron replied that there was a need to get Home Affairs, Social Development and the police together to address the problem of pornography.

Mr Clelland suggested that the relevant portfolio committees should get together about this.

The Chair wanted to know if the UN protocols concerning child rights had been ratified yet.

Ms L Petersen, from the Social Development ministry, said that they had approached Foreign Affairs about this but that they had not followed it up. She said that once it was ratified, they would report back to the Committee.

Child Care legislation
Mr Theron continued his presentation which then addressed this issue. He noted that the steering committee would hold workshops on 17 to 19 March 2003 in Pretoria. He said that any members would be welcome to attend. The refining of the Bill would take place one week after the workshop and they were hoping to submit it to Parliament by the end of March 2003.

Discussion
The Chair asked if the costing of the Bill had been completed as this was crucial. Would this be able to be done by the end of March?

Mr Theron replied that they still had to appoint someone to do the costing. He said that they hoped to take a phased-in approach. He felt that while the costing was being done, they could get approval on policy changes.

The Chairperson said that he was pleased to see the progress that had been made on the legislation.

Ms Coetzee-Casper (ANC) asked if Members of Parliament were also allowed to be part of the child protection committees which had been mentioned earlier.

Mr Theron said they could and said that they would provide the committee with a list of committees that were already in place.

With this, the chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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