The Portfolio Committee of Social Development met for a briefing from the Department of Social Development on the Second and Third Quarter Financial And Non-Financial Performance Report for the 2018/19 financial year as well as the draft organogram of the Department. However, the draft organogram was not available, having been halted owing to the moratorium on the filling of vacant senior posts and because the department had been awaiting the State of the Nation Address when the President’s intention in respect of government departments would became clearer. The Committee ran out of time for the briefing on the Second and Third Quarterly Reports.
The Minister of Social Development briefed the Committee on the way forward following the State of the Nation Address, the new approach to government, especially regarding social protection, and the Amendment of the Children’s Act. The Minister stated that there would be changes in the Fourth Quarter report which would guide the Sixth Administration. The Annual Performance Plans would reflect some of the policy shifts. Cabinet had determined the need to develop a Social Development policy or White Paper which would be embracive, or become a framework for social development. The new White Paper on Social Welfare would talk about inclusive and integrated social protection for the people. Social protection was not just about grants; it encompassed various issues such as human settlement housing, free education and free water. Social protection security was a major issue in the country, and would be the focus of the Department during the Sixth Administration.
The Minister explained that the review of social development would address the SASSA Act, and she would report back on the progress of the restructuring and transformation of SASSA, SASSA’s new collaboration with the Post Office. The structure of SASSA was a work in progress. The Department had advertised the post of Deputy Director-General: Corporate Service as that was the person who would drive the restructuring process.
The Minister stated that with regard to the Amendment to Children’s Act, the Department had followed the processes for the Amendment. Fees had been scrapped as per the court order and as per the Committee. The Amendment would also address the issue of social workers and make sure that more social workers were brought on board. The Amendment had been approved by the state law advisor and by Cabinet. The Department had tabled the Amendment in Parliament, and it hoped that the Speaker would address the matter shortly. The Amendment would also be tabled with the courts within the next week. The Minister was comfortable that she and her Department had been able to comply with the court’s decision that the Department should table the Amendment by 27 February 2019.
The Minister assured the Committee that all the issues arising from the State of the Nation Address and the review of social protection would be presented much more clearly in the Fourth Quarter Report of the Department of Social Development.
The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the progress in respect of the Social Workers’ Employment Grant per province. Representatives from the provincial Departments of Social Development gave input from a provincial perspective. The briefing focussed basically on the status of the conditional grant. Since the initiation of the scholarship in 2007, 10 929 scholarships had been awarded and out of that 7 578 graduates had since been employed by the Department of Social Development. The challenge of absorption had started in 2013 when provinces did not have funds to appoint new graduates, and there was an issue with the restricted percentage of the cost of employment.
There was currently a backlog of 3 969 of social workers who had been given scholarships but had not been appointed. Over five hundred social workers not accounted for. Some of them were in internships or appointed on contract basis by NGO’s. Cabinet had identified the fact that the shortage of social workers was not just confined to the Department of Social Development, and it had been made a government-wide programme. Provincial representatives reported on the situation in each of their provinces.
Members asked for greater clarity and more accuracy on the actual backlog of appointments of social workers. What was the backlog in relation to? Was the backlog in relation to what was needed or in relation to social workers that the Department had trained? How was absorption done? Did it begin with the first people who had been sent for training or was it just at random? Members expressed great concern that some social workers were working on contracts and not on a permanent basis. Members asked why different provinces were using different models.
The Chairperson opened the meeting and stated that the Committee would not deal with the Department of Social Development organogram. She said that that the provinces had been asked to attend the meeting because the matter of social development and social workers was becoming unbearable. Social crime was increasing like wild fire and the Department did not seem to be adequately structured or have enough capacity in the form of specialised professionals to assist with the crisis.
That was why the Committee had asked Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, National Department of Social Development to brief the Committee on what would happen and how to respond to those challenges. That was the focus of the agenda.
The Chairperson was also informed that the Minister would address the Committee on the way forward and inform the Committee of how much the Minister would be able to put into programmes that year.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members and the representatives from the provinces. She assured the provinces that the Committee and the provinces were interlinked and operated together which was important when understanding where the Committee came from when exercising its role of oversight. People from all levels of government, national or local, would sometimes descend on provinces and work with them in the villages. It had become a critical issue to integrate work, which meant coming together time and again and interacting with the provinces.
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister to the Committee. She had delayed the start of the meeting in order to accommodate the Minister. She noted that the Minister had a busy schedule with many important responsibilities and was therefore happy to accommodate the Minister.
The Chairperson gave the provinces as well as the Members the opportunity to introduce themselves in order for the provinces to know who the Members were when they visited the provinces during the exercise of their role of oversight.
The Chairperson explained that item number two on the agenda, the presentation of the draft organogram had been delayed as there had been challenges and would not be presented. The Committee was aware of the challenges that had led to the delay of the draft organogram.
The Chairperson expressed concern and disappointment that the Eastern Cape had not sent a representative as there were a lot of problems in the Eastern Cape. She asked Ms Nxumalo whether it was possible to ask her colleagues as to why the Eastern Cape did not have a representative present. The Committee needed to know where the country was as regards Social Development.
Remarks by the Minister of Social Development on the Government’s view of Social Protection and the Amendment of the Children’s Act
Minister Susan Shabangu thanked the Chairperson, the Committee Members and the representatives of the eight provinces. The Minister shared the concern and disappointment of the Chairperson at the absence of the Eastern Cape.
The Minister said that, as per the request of the Portfolio Committee, her Department would brief the Committee on the MTEF conditional grant allocations for social workers, while the provincial departmental representatives would add to the briefing by presenting the experiences in the provinces. The Department would also brief the Committee on the Second and Third Quarter Financial And Non-Financial Performance Report. She would brief the Committee on the situation regarding current challenges and share issues at the end of the Fifth Parliament.
The Minister raised issues in light of the end of the fifth term, but also in relation to the State of the Nation Address (SONA). She highlighted where the Department was in terms of the Second and Third Quarters, but stated that the Committee would have to conclude its business with those two Quarterly Reports as the Fourth Quarter would only conclude at the end of March and would probably only be presented to the new administration. The Members might not be the same in the Sixth Administration.
The Minister stated that there would be changes in the Fourth Quarter Report, going into the Sixth Administration. A lot of issues would be reviewed when it came to the Annual Performance Plans (APP’s). Whilst reflecting where the Department was currently, the Fourth Quarter Report would also inform the Sixth Administration and reflect on the amendments to the programme to deal with some of the challenges of the people. The Fourth Quarter Report would inform the Sixth Administration where it should be going and how the government would be able to do service delivery in the Sixth Administration.
The Minister stressed that when the Department brought its Fourth Quarter Report, there would be a clear reflection of those amendments to the APP and the shift to make sure that the Department was able to deal with the challenges faced by all the people. It would also reflect some of the policy shifts.
One of the issues taken on by Cabinet was the issue of social development and the need to develop a Social Development policy or new White Paper which would be embracive, or become a framework for social development. The new White Paper on Social Welfare would talk about social protection as it would be inclusive and integrated.
The Minister stated that social protection was not just about grants; it encompassed various issues such as NSFAS, human settlement housing, free education, free water, the UIF (Unemployed Insurance Fund) and the Road Accident Fund. All of those forms of support were actually social protection. Often those issues were not talked about, but there was a move forward to be more inclusive when talking about social security. In the next Administration, those issues would be approached in a much more inclusive way. The issue of social protection security was a major issue in the country, and would be the Department’s focus during the Sixth Administration.
The Minister indicated that the review of social development would also address the SASSA Act, and she would report back on the progress of the restructuring and transformation of SASSA. SASSA’s new collaboration with the Post Office and the progress on that working relationship would also be reflected in the Fourth Quarter Report to the Committee. The Fourth Quarter Report had to be able to reflect all those issues in an integrated way.
The Chairperson asked whether the Department had been true to the comprehensive social assistance approach. For a long time during its term of office, the Committee had been unable to move forward because of the disagreement at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) about the broad issues that had been raised.
The Minister replied that it was a work in progress. Those disagreements, or rather debates, had been neglected. The Department was not strong, but it wanted to look at the neglected aspect of societal representation. Social protection did not just involve the Department of Social Development but also the Departments of Labour, Health, Basic Education and Transport. Together they had to clarify the way forward. That was why in the Fourth Quarter Report, the Department had to be able to bring those issues and say how it was going to move forward. Integration was the key to ensuring that the policy of social security truly reflected the needs of the country. Instead of the Department of Social Development doing it alone, other departments should be engaged to show that the departments were integrated.
The Chairperson thanked the Minster for clarifying the matter, as the Members were looking to hearing why the Department had been taken to the CCMA. The Committee needed that clarity for the legacy report to the incoming Committee. The Chairperson asked if the Members had any questions for the Minister.
The Chairperson then asked the Minister to brief the Committee on the Amendment of the Children’s Act.
The Minister stated that with regard to the Amendment to Children’s Act, the Department had followed the processes for the Amendment. The Amendment had been approved by the state law advisor and by Cabinet. The Department had tabled the Amendment in Parliament, and it hoped that the Speaker would be able to table it in the House. The Amendment would also be tabled with the courts within the next week. The Minister was comfortable that she and her Department had been able to comply with the court’s decision that the Department should table the Amendment by 27 February 2019. As soon as Parliament tabled it, the Committee could take it forward.
The Chairperson stated that it was helpful to know that the Department had complied with the court’s instruction.
Ms V Mgotsi (ANC) suggested to the Chairperson and the Minister, on behalf of the Committee, that it be put on record that the Committee had played a role in the Amendment to the Children’s Act so that even if the Amendment was adopted by the Sixth Parliament, it had been recorded that it was the work of the Fifth Parliament. It had to be recorded that it was that Committee that had pushed for the Amendment and the day that the Amendment was adopted, it would be noted that it was that Committee’s legacy.
Dr Q Madlopha (ANC) said that her colleague had covered what she had wanted to say with regard to the Amendment to the Children’s Act. She asked the Minister, with regard to her statement about the Fourth Quarter Report, whether the changes to what needed to be done would take into consideration what the President had said at SONA.
The Chairperson asked the Minister for clarity with regard to what had been said at SONA in relation to Social Development.
The Minister said that she hoped that the Department had aligned itself with the Committee when it came to the Amendment of the Children’s Act. One of the issues that had been addressed was the scrapping of the fees, which had been scrapped as per the court order and as per the Committee. The other thing that would be strengthened by the Amendment was the issue of social workers and making sure that more social workers were brought on board. The Committee would have to assist with resolving that issue. Ms Nxumalo would be able to brief the Committee better on that aspect and how it could be addressed. That would be the work of the Sixth Parliament.
With regard to SONA, the Minister said that Department was already looking at how it could improve the social welfare work of the Department, which would strengthen the work that the Portfolio Committee had wanted to see. All the issues arising from SONA would be included, and would be presented much more clearly, in the Fourth Quarter Report.
The Minister thanked the Portfolio Committee for making sure that the Department was able to align its services and deliver services to the people of the country.
Presentation on the Draft Organogram
The Chairperson proceeded to the second item on the agenda: the presentation of the draft organogram for the Department. She has been informed that, due to all the processes leading up to SONA, there has been a moratorium with regard to the vacant senior posts. When the organogram was presented, the senior posts would be aligned to the newly restructured social development approach that would be seen in the Sixth Parliament. The organogram was being drafted in line with the restructuring. For example, Early Childhood Education would move away from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education. The Chairperson was thinking of the health issues relating to young children and she hoped that the Department of Basic Education would address the health issues and protect the lives of the children.
Ms Mgotsi stated that, with regard to the draft organogram, it would be important, if the Department had some plan, to see that plan. Even if the draft organogram took time to finalise and integrate with the new approach, she wanted to see it. Social Development was a multidisciplinary branch of social protection, but it was important to check up on it. It was that Committee that had raised the issue of the ten, or one hundred, organograms the Department had. In order for the Committee to close the chapter as part of their legacy report, it would be important to get a document to see the timeline relating to the organogram. Members did not necessarily want to engage with it, but they wanted to see that there was a plan on paper to complete the organogram. The Committee was there to exercise its role of oversight.
The Chairperson asked whether it was possible to tell how far the Department was in the drafting process. She asked who was responsible for the drafting. It would help if that person could give the Committee some orientation or direction in respect to the process, before the new Committee came in. There had been a lot of issues relating to the organogram, like the Committee’s reluctance to approve the budget without knowing where the engine was that would be driving the expenditure and implementation of the programmes of the Department. She also mentioned the instability at Director-General (DG) level and other important positions in the Department. The Committee wanted to know how much the Department had been able to do, so that could be included when the Committee was writing its legacy report. The Committee wanted to advise its counterparts in the Sixth Parliament that something had been drafted and to instruct the next Committee not to allow the drafters to go back on the work. The Committee was concerned about the lack of senior management.
The Chairperson stated that it was not acceptable to use the budget to train social workers, but when it came to employment, those social workers ended up in other departments and positions in government. That had led to a shortage of social workers in the Department of Social Development. That should be taken into consideration and the Department had to consider that when developing the budget to educate new social workers because their training was unique to the Department. The Department had to be jealous of its budget.
Ms P Sonti (EFF) asked the Minister, in Xhosa, a question about the issue of old SASSA cards and new cards and people not being able to access funds on their old cards.
The Chairperson asked the Minister to answer regarding the matter of the old SASSA card and new card and people not being able to access their money on their old card.
Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) requested that SASSA presented a comprehensive report, and that if that was not in the programme before the 20th of March, that it be put in the Legacy Report that SASSA needed to make a presentation.
The Chairperson stated that the Committee’s legacy report would contain a chapter dealing with the SASSA programme. That chapter would be finalised by the Committee upon receiving the report on the SASSA transformation and where things stood at the time.
The Minister agreed with the Chairperson and the Member that SASSA should make a presentation to clarify issues and also to inform Members of Parliament of the current progress and issues such as the old card versus the new card, which was no longer problem.
The Minister informed the Committee that the Department was still in court with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). She wanted to brief the Committee on what the Department would do with regard to SASSA as it was a big and complex project.
The Minister stated that the structure of SASSA was a work in progress. The Department would have to go through a process of restructuring and part of the delay was that just when the Department was about to employ a DG there had been a moratorium on DG appointments. What the Department had done was to advertise the post of Deputy Director-General: Corporate Service as that was the person who would drive the restructuring process. SONA had also caused some uncertainty as the President had announced that the government would be trimmed, so the Department was unsure about hiring people. Therefore, it would be the responsibility of the Sixth Administration to make sure that the Department of Social Development became a department that could effectively implement its mandate. The Department did not have the right skills to do the work. The Department should do a skills audit and make sure that the organogram aligned to that. Because certain posts had not been filled, if there were cuts to the Department, it would be possible to rationalise properly and then get the right people.
The Minister stated that there were still serious problems with SASSA, and she indicated that a new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) would be hired to drive SASSA.
Ms Tsoleli said that the Minister had answered her questions. She was happy that the Minister had clarified the issue regarding the structure and had stated that the Department was using the old structure. When the new Committee came in, it would be able to look at the structure and draft a new one, or perhaps if one had already been drafted, to compare the two.
Ms Tsoleli said that a lot of people on the outside knew the Department as the Department of SASSA, yet the mandate of the Department was much broader than just SASSA. Maybe now that some of the units had been taken away from the Department and had been given to other departments, the Social Development Department would be able to function the way it was supposed to function, because it was one of the core departments in the country.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) complimented the Minister on her honesty, outlining that things are not perfect, but that it is a work in progress. Hopefully in the new dispensation the President would not cut the Department of Social Development, but rather make it bigger. She asked for clarity from the Minister with regard to the court case with CPS.
The Chairperson said that it would be better to leave that question as it would be addressed when SASSA made a presentation. The Chairperson’s secretary had already made a note that SASSA needed to be asked to present a report.
Ms B Masango (DA) welcomed the SASSA closing report. She also reminded the Committee that once the old challenges had been dealt with, new challenges arose, but the fact that the Minister acknowledged that was comforting as it meant that some work was being done. She welcomed the fact that SASSA would present a last report for that Parliament.
The Chairperson stated that the Department and SASSA had to be up to looking after the vulnerable in the country. She suggested that if the Committee was done with that item, it could move on to the provinces.
Ms Tsoleli asked for clarity on the approach to the presentation of the report. Would Ms Nxumalo present and the provinces would just add to her report?
The Chairperson said that Ms Nxumalo would present the status of the entire country in her report and then each province would zoom in and report on its status. However, they might wish to do it another way.
Ms Tsoledi cautioned that time was short and if the Committee allowed each province to report, one by one, it might take a long time.
The Report on the Social Worker Employment Conditional Grant Per Province
Ms Nxumalo said that she had one presentation that spoke to all the provinces and then the provinces would assist in answering questions.
Ms Nxumalo said that the report focussed basically on the status of the conditional grant. She briefly outlined the background of the scholarship in order to recap for Members. Since the initiation of the scholarship in 2007 in response to the needs of the country, 10 929 scholarships have been awarded and out of that 7 578 graduates have since been employed by the Department of Social Development. The challenge of absorption started in 2013 where provinces did not have additional funds to appoint new graduates, but also had a problem in that the entire organogram could not exceed a particular percentage of the cost of employment (COE).
There was currently a backlog of 3 969, considering the scholarships that had been awarded, the numbers appointed and the current backlog. It was clear that there were over five hundred social workers not accounted for. Some of them were currently in internships or appointed on contract basis by NGO’s.
Cabinet had identified the fact that the shortage of social workers was not just confined to the Department of Social Development, and it had been made a government-wide programme. A report had to be submitted to Cabinet on how many social workers each department needed. The backlog of 3 969 did not take into account social workers who had paid for their own training. It only accounted for the social workers that had been funded by the grant. The Department was pleased to report that it was going to request all social workers to register on its database, even if they were funded by other means.
When looking at the numbers it was clear that certain provinces, such as Limpopo, had gone beyond what was required and had hired more than the set targets.
The Western Cape’s social workers were currently on contract, but the national Department has been engaging the Western Cape Government with a view to the Western Cape employing their social workers permanently.
Most of conditions as indicated in the had been complied with in the First and Second Quarters. It was acknowledged that provinces were lagging behind in implementing the Induction Programme for Social Service Practitioners due to preparatory processes that had to be done post approval of the programme In March 2018. However, progress had been made with the implementation of generic Department of Social Development Induction and Orientation Programme in respect of all employees not reached during 2017/18. The introduction of non- compliance letters to affected provinces will improve adherence to reporting requirements in respect of both programme and financial performance by provinces. Procurement of office tools and tools of trade was generally not being implemented as expected because there were no savings from expenditure.
The Chairperson asked whether the provinces would like to add anything or whether they would rather just answer questions specifically addressed to their provinces.
Ms Tsoleli welcomed the report made by Ms Nxumalo, although she had been a bit quick. She thought that the country was moving in the right direction. Although, perhaps the Committee would have wanted more social workers, because there were 54 million South Africans and everyone needed a social worker, even Ms Tsoleli needed a social worker. However, Members were aware that there were budget constraints.
She reminded the Committee of the President’s commitment to have one social worker per ward. She highlighted the backlog of 979 social workers in KwaZulu-Natal and was concerned that when the Committee had done its oversight in that province, different figures had been presented to them. The province had stated that there was no backlog, but suddenly there was a backlog of 927. She was confused. The Committee had even applauded the KwaZulu-Natal Department for having no backlog. Members had even said that other provinces should observe KwaZulu-Natal and learn from them. How could there be a backlog of 979 in less than a year?
Ms Tsoleli asked whether the backlog of nine in Northern Cape was a true reflection of the situation. What really disturbed her was the issue of social workers on contracts. She asked why the social workers were on contract. It was government policy that someone could not be employed on contract for more than six months. Therefore, the Western Cape was not respecting the law of the country. She wanted an explanation as to why the social workers in the Western Cape were on contract. She also asked why graduates in KwaZulu-Natal were on one-year contracts. Those working on contracts were losing out on benefits that they should have been getting.
The last point Ms Tsoleli raised was the issue of disparities between provinces. Different provinces were using different models. There should be unity; there should be one model for the whole country. Sometimes when the Committee conducted oversight, Members heard that there were social workers that had not had a counselling session in over a year. The disparity on an issue as serious as the counselling of social workers had to be addressed. The Department had failed to ensure the well-being of social workers and was not making sure that they were taken care of. That was a serious issue that urgently needed to be corrected.
The Chairperson asked what the ratio was in terms of citizens per social workers.
Ms Masango thanked Ms Nxumalo for her presentation. Ms Masango asked for the context of the backlog. What was the backlog in relation to? Was the backlog in relation to what was needed or in relation to social workers that the Department had trained? While one was happy that there were provinces like Limpopo, where, although the backlog was high, they seemed to have pushed for absorption in terms of numbers as they are beyond the targets. However, was the absorption driven by budget or by the need on the ground? Also, a question for Limpopo, and the Eastern Cape, which was sadly not there: How was absorption done? Did it begin with the first people who had been sent for training or was it just at random? She was asking because there were problems with people who had been trained in 2013, but they were still waiting to be hired.
With regard to communicating with other Departments in terms of absorption of social workers, Ms Masango recalled seeing a letter that the Department had written stating that other departments would also absorb social workers. All departments that needed social workers would facilitate the absorption of more people.
Ms Masango stated that the Chairperson had said, the previous week, that the report presented that day would inform the Committee about what the Department had done in terms of the Social Work Indaba that had taken place in 2015. There seemed to be a lot of unhappiness when it came to social workers and the conditions under which they worked. Social workers were not happy with the way they were being treated. She asked whether it would not be better to have a clear outline that stated: These were the resolutions or commitments of the Social Workers Indaba in 2015 and this is how far we have gone in responding to those and this is how far we still need to go.
Lastly, she was also concerned about the issue of contract workers. Many of the provinces had had social workers on contract for more than six months and she agreed with the sentiments that had been expressed regarding the contract social workers, especially knowing that money had been made available and that it was no longer a conditional grant.
Ms B Abrahams (ANC) reiterated what had been said by colleagues. What was the purpose of having the social workers on contract? When working on contract one felt less secure and it did not build confidence. She asked whether there had been any discussion with the private sector on whether there was a possibility that social workers could be absorbed into the private sector. She asked for some clarification on the procurement of office tools.
Ms T Khanyile (DA) welcomed the report and asked for some clarity on the criteria used by the Department to absorb social workers because, looking at the presentation, the Eastern Cape had the highest rate of backlog and was also the area with the highest rate of poverty. She had a question regarding social workers in schools, especially considering the high rate of violence in schools.
Response by the national and provincial Departments of Social Development
Ms Nxumalo welcomed the Members’ input in response to the presentation. She clarified the issue of backlog: the backlog was informed by number of graduates paid for by the scholarship programme. The grant was supposed to deal with the backlog, but was unable to deal with full extent of the backlog because it was a minimal amount of R 591 million.
In terms of the contract workers for the conditional grant specifically, Ms Nxumalo clarified that it was only the Western Cape that had contract workers. All other provinces had appointed the social workers on a permanent basis. The contract workers in some of the provinces came about when the provinces had embarked on their own initiatives over and above the grant appointments.
On the issue of KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Nxumalo stated that clearly the representation at the oversight meeting had not been a true reflection. In reality the province still had a backlog, but it had come from a huge backlog. The province had also gone above and beyond and had introduced some of their own initiatives.
In response to the Chairperson’s question, Ms Nxumalo said that the current ratio between social worker and citizens was 1:3 000. What should be kept in mind was that there were areas which were rural and areas that were clustered, and so the ratio should not be the same for different locations. The Department had come up with a supply-and-demand model. The biggest challenge was not the appointing of new social workers but to appoint those who had not yet been appointed. Before talking about the need for more social workers, the Department needed to address the current unemployed social worker’s situation. Every year the Department went to National Treasury to ask for more money to appoint social workers.
Ms Nxumalo stated that the issue of social workers in schools was becoming a non-negotiable matter. The Department was working with the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Correctional Services to go to Cabinet by May 2019 to say that Basic Education needed a certain number of social workers and that was how much it would cost the Department. The Department of Basic Education did not have funded posts for social workers. The Social Development Department used its current pool of social workers to work in clusters of schools and then informed a social worker that they needed to visit so many schools as part of their mandate. But that did not work as social worker were already too overloaded.
She declared that the country needed more social workers. South Africans had the wrong perception that only the vulnerable needed social workers. As Ms Tsoleli had said, everyone needed social workers.
Ms Nxumalo stated that her colleagues from each province would zoom in on specific questions pertaining to each province.
A representative from the Northern Cape Department of Social Development spoke to the issue raised with regard to the low rate of absorption. She said that that had always been the challenge due to the low population in the Northern Cape, but what was not taken into account was the spatial realities of the Northern Cape. The Northern Cape had a backlog of 37 social workers, but had managed to accommodate 34 social workers.
The problem in the Northern Cape was the rural nature of the province and social workers resigned because they would rather go to the big cities. The other major issue was that social workers refused to do generic social work; they preferred to specialise. However, the Northern Cape simply could not accommodate specialisation.
On a positive note, the representative from the Northern Cape said that, as of April 2019, there would be posts available, which would reduce the backlog. The Department had liaised with its sister departments to absorb social workers, but they, too, were still struggling to do so.
The Chairperson understood the Northern Cape’s difficulties as the Committee had been in the province on an oversight visit not too long ago.
A representative from Gauteng Department of Social Development highlighted the fact that the presentation reflected only the social worker graduates who had been absorbed through the conditional grant, which did not give the full picture of the social workers that had been absorbed through other means. In the current financial year, the Gauteng Department of Social Development had been able to absorb 61 social workers and in 2019/20 it would be able to absorb 171 social workers. The Department had turned to Treasury for funding for social work supervisors, because currently the ratio was one supervisor to 45 social workers. That was a major area of concern because social workers were not properly supervised.
The Gauteng representative also talked to issues of employee health and wellness. The Gauteng Department of Social Development had a unit that dealt with employee health and wellness. However, employees did not feel comfortable when they were being attended to by people in the same office, so the Department had an arrangement with an independent company.
A representative from the Limpopo Department of Social Development said that the reality was that the Department was not able to appoint the number on the backlog. Currently Limpopo needed 1 897 social workers. However, Limpopo did not have a challenge with the commitment of one social worker per ward. The real challenge was that, when looking at the population, some wards needed more than five per ward. Some social workers were placed in hospitals and they were not able to get the communities. Since the introduction of the scholarship, the Department had already appointed 1 160 social workers. The problem was that the more social workers they employed, the more problems they encountered. When the Department appointed more social workers, it needed more supervisors, more co-ordinators and more managers. There was also the problem of funding of office space. She asked the Portfolio Committee for help in asking other departments to appoint their own social workers. All departments needed social workers but did not have them, which caused the Department of Social Development to be overstretched.
A representative from the Free State Department of Social Development stated that, from the grant, the Department had appointed 29 graduates. The Department also had a challenge with getting sufficient supervisors and managers, and in the current financial year the Department had appointed 12 social work managers and 40 supervisors. However, the Department also struggled with rural areas as young social workers wanted to go to the cities. The other major problem was office space. Even if the Department wanted to appoint more social workers, there simply was not enough office space. However, the previous day, during the State of the Province Address, the Premier had committed to appointing more social workers and more supervisors.
The Free State Department representative concurred with the fact that social workers did not feel comfortable being debriefed by other social workers. The Department had identified that it needed to beef up the debriefing sessions and that would be done in the next financial year.
The Chairperson stated that as the Committee had been briefed directly by the provinces, it would assist the Members with the legacy report and recommendations for the incoming Committee. The issue that related to the Western Cape and those social workers, could not be answered by the Members. It was a policy matter. The Minister should inform the Committee who was responsible for that policy and who should be approached.
The Minister pointed to the broader position. Social Development was a concurrent function and the provincial Departments had to take responsibility. Recently the court had ruled that people could not work as temporary workers beyond six months. One could not have a one-year contract and hire new people to the same contract the following year. A contract was there to fill a temporary position. The Western Cape could not continue to employ new people in the same position on a new contract. That was not be in line with the labour laws of the country.
A representative from the Western Cape Department of Social Development stated that in order to understand why the Western Cape employed social workers on contract, a brief history was necessary. In 2010, the Department had undergone a modernisation project. It had moved away from a district-based model to a service delivery area model with 45 service delivery areas. The structure was updated in line with the latest census. That had led to a huge increase in recruitment. From then until the 2017 conditional grant, the Department had funded many of the social workers. When the conditional grant came, the Department of Social Development did not have 37 vacant posts to appoint social workers permanently. One could only appoint a person in a permanent post if there was an approved post on the organogram. That was why the Department appointed the social workers on contract for the duration of the conditional grant.
Provincial Treasury had recently made additional funding available for more social worker posts. From the 37 contract workers, quite a number of them had been successful in securing permanent posts. In terms of benefits being lost, a contract worker gets an additional 37% with their salary. The law did allow for someone who was working back bursary obligations to be on contract while working back those bursary obligations. Once graduates had been on contract, they were not keen on becoming permanent. Another issue which had also been raised by one of the other provinces was the problem of location. Most social workers wanted to work in and around the cities and did not want to work in remote areas.
Lastly, through other funding the Department had been successful in securing tools of the trade. In the Western Cape there was an up and running wellness programme as the Department also found that social workers did not want to be debriefed by another social worker. The Department organised quarterly sessions where social workers came together with officials from the Departments of Health and Education to ensure that social workers really were debriefed on the things that had an impact on their work.
The Chairperson stated that there was a very short time before Parliament rose and she suggested that the Committee had a meeting with the Chairperson and Committee of the Western Cape Portfolio Committee to understand the situation properly and to ensure that all the provinces operated in a uniform way.
Ms Tsoleli agreed with the Chairperson that they should have a meeting with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of the Western Cape. The Western Cape could not function differently from other provinces. They could not go against the law of the country. The employee could not tell the employer what to do.
The Chairperson stated that those people on contract would be a burden on the government when they ere older because they had not accumulated benefits like pension. However, the Committee should not jump to conclusions. The Committee needed to have the meeting and get clarity before making recommendations.
The Chairperson remembered her experience when exercising oversight in De Dorings in the Western Cape. There had been a language issue and there had been no integration. She stated that every aspect of one’s life required social workers. The young people that were in the rehabilitation centres in De Dorings were being rehabilitated, but was the Department aware of the environment to which they were going back?
The Chairperson suggested that the Department of Social Development Quarterly Performance and Expenditure Report be moved to the next meeting, as she did not want to rush through it at that stage and it did not affect the provinces. The responses from the provinces had helped the Committee to plan further.
Ms Mgotsi said that there were many issues that existed in the Northern Cape, especially around the rural areas and the social issues in those areas.
The Chairperson highlighted the dire situation in the Northern Cape. She urged the Minister to make the Northern Cape a priority.
The Chairperson concluded that the legacy report should be comprehensive and informative to the incoming Committee. The Chairperson thanked the provinces for their input which would enable the Committee to perform its task of oversight better and to operate in an integrated way.
The meeting was adjourned.