SA Council for Social Service Professions funding; BRRR

Social Development

31 October 2018
Chairperson: Mr R Capa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee of Social Development met to receive a briefing from the South African Council for Social Service Professions (SACSSP) on its funding support from the Department of Social Development. The Department of Social Development was also invited to brief the Committee on this matter.

Before commencing with the main agenda item, the Committee members raised concerns about a flyer that was being distributed around the country stating that SASSA would give unemployed people R2200. Members stated that this was an issue of national importance as it had the potential to cause a lot of chaos given the high level of unemployment and the fact that it was the festive season. They further agreed that the Committee would add its voice to SASSA’s condemnation of the flyer but felt that the later could use other channels than just a press statement to communicate its message.

The Committee heard that the according to the National Development Plan (NDP) the SACSSP needed to have about 50 000 social service professionals. The SACSSP had exceeded this number but it could not see the product of exceeding the number of required social service professionals on the ground because some of them were not registered.

Some members asked whether the NDP target reflected what was needed on the ground. Members were concerned with celebrating a target reached that might not translate to what was actually needed on the ground. How closely did the NDP target fit the actual number of social service workers needed on the ground? The Committee members were also concerned that the gender representation in the South African Council of Social Services Professions was not balanced.

According to the SACSSP the lack of access to universities and bursaries was a big challenge in the child and youth care profession.  Another challenge in the profession was the lack of quality training content writers for the profession.

The disparities in salaries across provinces in the profession was also a problem that deterred workers in the child and youth care profession from working in the rural and poor areas where the service was arguably needed more. Gauteng was found to pay up to triple the salaries paid in the Eastern Cape.

The SACSSP indicated that it received no budget appropriation from Parliament. It was only depending on the registration amount from the qualified social services professionals.

According to the National Department of Social Development, the SACSSP had been funded over the years and was being funded as an NPO. The DSD found that the SACSSP had not been utilising the entire annual budget being allocated to it. Further, SACSSP could not account for the money it used, did not submit reports on time and the reports submitted were not quality reports. The DSD struggled to get audited financial reports from the SACSSP.

The Committee members thought that the Council should not be treated as an NPO. Some members wanted clarity on whether the SACSSP was funded as an NPO and expected to report as an entity.

Members asked for an in depth analysis of the relationship between the appropriation of funding by the DSD and the challenges experienced by the SACSSP.

Committee members wanted to know what else the DSD had done to ensure that the SACSSP had fulfilled its mandate except the withholding of budget appropriation.

Some members asked what the reasons for the 5000 unemployed social service workers were. Out of the 19 000 students enrolled at university, how many are retained as professional social workers once they are qualified?

Members felt that the timing of the fit and proper assessments was very critical. They thought that the assessments should be done during the interviews for entry into university as this would immediately eliminate any student who is not a potential social worker.

Finally, the Committee members felt that there was a lot of information that caught the committee by surprise. There was also a lot that the Committee did not know off. The structure of the Council was new to the Committee. The presentations needed more clarity and more depth. The Committee also felt that some of the matters that needed to be addressed would need the involvement of the Minister.

Meeting report

SASSA Response to flyer

 The Chairperson welcomed everyone.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee had any matters of national importance it wanted to raise.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) stated that there was a flyer with wrong information that was being distributed across the country stating that SASSA would give R2 200 to people who are unemployed and that people should e-mail their details.

Ms Tsoleli said the Committee needed to add its voice to the statement SASSA had released distancing itself from the advert. From the nature of the advert, one could see that it was a scam trying to steal the little that people had and it had created a serious hype.

The Chairperson agreed that the matter raised by Ms Tsoleli was truly of national importance. She suggested that the Committee should release a statement today that would reject the advert and distance SASSA from it. She stated that she would accept guidance from the member so that the process could be attended to whilst the meeting was ongoing.

Ms B Masango (DA) stated that she had also seen the advert and had wondered whether SASSA could use channels of communication like local radio stations to reach as many people as possible. She appreciated that SASSA had issued a statement against the advert but thought that the people who may have seen the flyer might not have access to the channel that was used by SASSA to issue the statement.  She agreed that the Committee should release a statement but she also thought that this was an operational matter that SASSA should handle.

Ms B Abrahams (ANC) concurred with the pervious speakers. She expressed that SASSA should be much more active. When most of the Committee members communicated with SASSA after they had seen the advert, SASSA responded by stating that it would do a press statement. She thought that beyond the release of a statement, SASSA should check whether it cannot investigate and press charges on the source behind the matter especially given that it was now Christmas period and people were very vulnerable. She explained that this was not the first scam and SASSA should act promptly when it saw these things.

The Chairperson indicated that she believed that the Committee should also be more hands on in communicating with people on the ground. The Committee is made up of lawmakers and when it says something it is mostly believed because it emphasises the legislation available. This action [the advert] created expectations that would not be met would create a negative perception against the Committee amongst the South African people. She welcomed the views raised by members but she echoed that the Committee needed to have a constant communication with the South African people.

Introductions by South African Council of Social Services Professions

The Chairperson requested the Council to introduce itself and relate the nature of each members work, the tools of trade and the challenges it faced to the Committee.

Dr Maria Mabetoa, Council President; South African Council of Social Services Professions (SACSSP) introduced her team.

Ms Tsoleli asked why it seemed that there was no gender balance in the representation of the SACSSP. She asked why there were no men in the team.

Ms Mabetoa stated that the SACSSP did have men and her deputy was a man. She explained that the council was well balanced; almost a quarter of the council was made up of men.

Dr Mabetoa further explained that the professions that SACSSP was responsible for were mainly female dominated professions. She indicated that men do train as social workers but they quickly go to management positions in the industry.

Ms Tsoleli stated that that Dr Mabetoa’s last statement indicated a challenge. The Committee had a challenge of fighting against the matter of men quickly rising to management positions in the industry. The same way that men rise to management positions should be the same way women also rise to the same management positions. This was one of the patriarchal tendencies that needed to be fought in the industry.

The Chairperson expressed that that this was also the case in the Health Department where men preferred to be doctors as opposed to being professional nurses. They will study hard in order to get out of that sector.

Ms Masango asked if it was confirmed that the council members knew all the Committee members.

The Chairperson allowed the Committee members and the Secretariat to make their introductions.

Briefing by the South African Council of Social Services Professions (SACSSP)

Dr Mabetoa commenced the briefing by thanking the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity to engage with it on a number of successes and challenges that the Council had faced.

She stated that the council had a huge responsibility. When the Council was re-established in 1998 it had less than 10 000 social workers but at the moment the Council was registering 60 000 social service professions. There were 48 000 fully qualified social service professions and about 31 000 social workers. The child and youth care workers were about 10 000. The students registered for social work and child and youth care worker were about 19 000.

Out of all the social service professions, 5000 people were unemployed. According to the National Development Plan (NDP) the SACSSP needed to have about 50 000 social service professionals. The SACSSP had exceeded this number but it could not see the product of exceeding the number of required social service professionals on the ground because some of them were not registered.  To ensure that the Council protects the clients, it has to register all social service professions to make sure that they practise according to the conduct of their profession. This was one of the main duties of the Councils.

Dr Mabetoa stated that the Council also dealt with cases of misconduct in the profession but she felt that there were fewer cases than should be as people were not reporting cases.

Dr Mabetoa stated that she would hand to the registrar to do a quick overview.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the process of reporting misconduct. She asked where people were meant to report. Who do people contact? Where there any current cases of misconduct that the Council was dealing with?

Dr Mabetoa replied that the Council did have misconduct cases it was currently dealing with. The process followed to report misconduct is in accordance to the Social Service Profession Act and Regulation. It was reported directly to the Council. An appeal by the accused goes to the Minister of Social Development.

Ms Langi Malamba, Registrar, SACSSP, stated that the Council had three legislative mandates. These were to register people who graduate in any qualification for which a board had been established; professional conduct; and a mandate on education and training. All of the three mandates have a financial burden to the Council. She expressed that the Council depends on the subscription fees from individuals who have qualified and registered for practise in the qualification.

Ms Malamba indicated that one of the challenges the Council faced with regards to registration was that some people delay registration and practice without certificates in hopes that it will not be picked up.

She expressed that the Council should be able to do training for new professionals entering the field and to do spot checks on legal practice but the biggest challenge the Council faced was with community training centres.

Ms Malamba expressed that businesses see opportunities to offer services as social and auxiliary work trainers as means to an ends. This leads to a lot of destruction in young people’s lives as these institutions are sometimes bogus or not even registered.

People spend lots of monies averaging above R18 000 and at the end of what is supposed to be a credible training, people want to go to the Council to be registered with professional boards but they are not able to do so as the institutions do not meet the set standards.

Ms Malamba pointed out that the Council has financial constraints because currently the source of its income is the subscription.

She stated that according to legislation, there has to be appropriation through an Act of Parliament and that avenue had never been explored.

Ms Malamba also indicated that the challenge facing the office of the registrar was that the professionalization was not translating into policy.

There were also challenges pertaining to career pathing and staff establishment.

Ms Malamba stated that most of their cadres had to work in deep rural areas and the matter of Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) was always a challenge; rural allowance and safety allowance.

The Council was also sometimes burdened with employer matters which are not part of its mandate.

Ms Aziwe Magida, Chairperson: Child and Youth Care Board, SACSSP, stated that the Child and Youth Care professional was a relatively new profession. It was at a stage where it was still trying to align to the level of the social work profession.

Ms Magida stated that one of the key challenges was the payment of stipends. The payment of stipends was very irregular across the provinces. Gauteng, for instance, would pay triple the amount that the Eastern Cape would pay. The payment of stipends was not only irregular but there were also cases of non-payment putting the child and youth care workers in a vulnerable situation on top of working in a vulnerable environment as well.

The Department of child and youth care was now faced with the task of ensuring alignment in the OSD and between the professions.

Ms Magida explained that the ripple effect is that for the Child and Youth Care Board to be able to professionalise the profession, it needs access to universities. There was currently one public university which provides the Child and Youth Care degree. Monash is also the only private university that provides the degree.

She expressed that the Board had tried to have engagements with universities to introduce the degree as an offering. One of the main universities of focus was UNISA. The major stumbling block in the process was funding. UNISA agreed to have the qualification but it requires assurance that the number of students required to take up the course would be available. This had a ripple effect in the sense that the Child and Youth Care Board did not have bursaries. Even if it was to agree to the terms by UNISA, it could not guarantee funding for the students. In comparison to the social work, the Child and Youth Care had far less bursary funding.

The Chairperson requested that because of time, the person responsible for finances should not give a presentation but rather respond to questions from members as they came.

The Chairperson asked for clarity between the linkage between the Council and the Department of Social Development so that the Committee could understand the funding matter with more clarity.

Briefing by the National Department of Social Development (DSD)

Ms Civil Legodu, Chief Director: Professional Support and Older Persons, DSD, commenced by stating that the national DSD was working close with the Council and it was aware of the challenges that had been raised by the Council.

Ms Legodu explained that DSD had been funding the Council over the years. Challenges were experienced specifically during the 2013/2014 financial year. DSD picked up that there were challenges in the Council and things were not going well in respect to the business plan that the Council had submitted to DSD during the call for proposals.

Ms Legodu expressed that it was important to note that DSD had been funding the Council as a non-profit organisation (NGO) over the years. That particular approach of funding enabled the Council to respond to the annual calls by DSD for funding proposals. This was the reason the Council members were calling for budget appropriation as opposed to the current funding structure.

Ms Legodu stated that around the 2013/2014 financial year, the key areas that DSD struggled with were around the quality of business plans submitted to the Department when it called for submissions for business proposals.

Secondly, the manner in which the Council was accounting for a particular financial year relating to the objectives it had entered into a contractual agreement with the Department on was concerning. The Council was not effectively able to account on key areas, the key activities and the related costs. These key aspects were critical for the Department to release funds. DSD releases funds on the basis that monitoring reports and progress reports were submitted and the Department was satisfied that in terms of the ending year the council had done its work. The next release of funds is dependent on how the Council had performed on its previous financial year.

Ms Legodu stated that the Council could not account on how the money was spent on top of the issue that when the DSD followed up on the reports, certain information would change.

Ms Legodu pointed out that another challenge was that the Council was spending below what would be allocated to it annually. For example in 2013/2014 the DSD gave the Council R1.6 million but the Council did not spend the entire money and requested a rollover of funds on an annual basis.

DSD also struggled to get audited financial statement from the Council. The progress reports were also not quality reports. The required documents were also submitted late. On an annual basis DSD would have to request to Director-General to consider the proposals because it had been submitted late. 

Discussion

The Chairperson thanked Ms Legodu. She stated that the information provided had not been mentioned in the presentations from the Council. She asked the Members to engage with the knowledge that it was not that the Department had not been funding the Council but there had been challenges within the Council.

Ms Tsoleli welcomed the presentations. She stated that the last presentation by the Department changed her line of question a bit from what she had noted all along during the presentations from the SACSSP.

Ms Tsolei stated that maybe there needed to be clarity that the appropriation of the budget for the Council was from Parliament and would go through the Department and not directly to the Council. The Council was a statutory body and Parliament could not directly allocate funding to the Council. This meant that when government money is given to the Council, it had to account for every rand and cent given to it in each financial year.

She explained that it was the responsibility of the Department to make decisions on whether it withdraws the money or gives more money based on its observations of the Council’s behaviour.

Ms Tsoleli explained that before the presentation by the DSD she was asking herself how it was that a body would be developed by the government and not be given funds. However, she realised that the onus was on the Council to clean up its house in terms of accounting for the money it receives from social development.

Ms Tsoleli thought that the Committee should engage the DSD further on the manner. There needed to be a detailed account of the challenges the DSD encountered with the Council.

Ms Tsoleli was disturbed that the Department would treat the Council as an NPO. She thought that the Acting Director General in the Department should have been present at the meeting to respond to some of the concerns that the Committee was raising. She did not think that the body should be treated as an NPO. She requested that the Committee apply its mind on trying to change the NPO status of the Council. It should be treated at the level of all other entities and Councils. The Committee needed to look at the disparities between how the DSD treated the Council and how other Departments like the Department of Basic Education treat their Councils, for example the South African Council for Educators (SACE).

Ms Tsoleli expressed concern about the disparities in pay between the provinces in relation to child and youth care workers. This was one other matter that the Committee needed to look at. It cannot be that the provinces pay differently. There should be one standard starting salary across the provinces, regulated as per remuneration laws in South Africa. One would imagine that provinces that are rural and poor need these services more. The fact that the workers in these provinces were the least paid just because they were poor was a problem. She reminded the Chairperson that the division of revenue was not the same across the provinces. She pointed out that in her province - the Free State - the population was decreasing every day because people would move to Gauteng to look for employment opportunities. She thought that the disparities should be addressed because they will move to Gauteng, everyone will move to Gauteng. The rural provinces would end up with no child and youth care workers.

In respect to the matter of the access to universities, Ms Tsoleli wondered where the Council was accounting for the work that it had done because it should be accounting to the DSD. Further, she stated that in terms of the council of ministers, the Minister of Higher Education and the Minister of Social Development should be meeting to discuss these challenges.

Ms Tsoleli stated that the University of Free State had about five satellite campuses and was worried that such an institution did not offer the child and youth care degree. Even the FET colleges should be providing the course. She requested that the Chairperson raise the matter when she meets with the Minister and see how best to move forward in ensuring that almost all the universities provide the child and youth care degree.

Lastly, Ms Tsoleli was concerned with the statistics on the cases of misconduct by workers. The presentation by the Council stated that there were no misconduct cases reported in the Free State. She asked if this was a true reflection because as far as five years back she knew of two or three cases of social workers who had turned paedophiles which would qualify as misconduct. She asked for clarity on what year the statistics were reflective of. 

Ms Abrahams thanked the presenters for comprehensive presentations.

Ms Abrahams asked how the 5000 unemployed workers that were mentioned in the presentation can be integrated into the system because the Committee always hears that there is a shortage of social workers.

Secondly, what was the reason for the workers being unemployed?

Out of the 19 000 students enrolled at university, how many are retained as professional social workers once they are qualified?

Ms Abrahams found it concerning that there were workers who still breached client confidentiality even after having gone through the ethics training.

Ms Abrahams stated that the timing of the fit and proper assessments was very critical. She thought that the assessments should be done in the interviews for entry into university as this would immediately eliminate any student who is not a potential social worker. If the fit and proper assessments are not done at the beginning of university, what was the reaction of students when they are told that they are not fit for the programme at second year level? Is there any counselling for the students?

Ms Abrahams also asked if there was any counselling done for social workers while studying and as professionals.

Ms Abrahams asked for clarity on the Council’s budget.

With regards to the professional conduct, she asked why the Gauteng had such a high number of misconduct cases compared to other provinces.

She asked for clarity on the staff of the secretariat. Where there any vacancies or was that the full staff on the presentation?

Ms Abrahams stated that the employment equity was not very balanced in terms of race. She asked if there was any reason why there were no white social workers in the Council. The Coloured and Indian representation was also not good. She stated that if the aim is to transform South Africa, the equity balance has to be right.

Ms Masango stated that she was already covered by her colleagues on most questions. She wanted to follow up on the question of the Council being funded as an NPO. She asked if the Council accounted as an NPO or it was funded as an NPO but accounted as a Council in terms of it qualifying for the next funding.  She was also concerned that the Council was being funded as an NGO. Had this been the case throughout the life of the Council?

Ms Masango asked whether the NDP targets corresponded with the need on the ground. One could be excited that the target was achieved but was the target corresponding to the need because maybe the target was understated.

With regards to the membership fees paid by social workers and child and youth care workers, do the unemployed workers also pay the membership fees? Where would they be getting the money from? She asked for clarity on the validity of the membership of those people who are qualified but were unemployed.

Ms Masango asked if there are other social workers that the Council is not aware off and that were not registered.  She understood that it was the social workers who were meant to approach the Council to register.

Ms Masango noted that one of the presentations had stated that it was in the constitution of the Council that there should be social workers, three representatives and so on. She asked if the Council was currently made up as per the constitution.

Lastly, Ms Masango asked why the unemployed social workers are not used in disaster and emergency deployments. Where are the social workers who are deployed in areas of disasters - like fires - taken from?

Ms K Jooste (DA) remembered that the Committee had dealt with some of the problems raised in the 2013/2014 financial year but she was sure that she had read in an article that money was again being withheld from the Council by the Department. She asked for clarity on the matter if she understood it correctly and why it had happened again.

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