DSD on turnaround strategy to address backlog in the Foster Care System & meet North Gauteng High Court deadline, with Minister

Social Development

18 September 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Department of Social Development - Foster Care Progress Report

Social Development Committee Concerned about Ability of Department to Meet Court Deadlines on Foster Care Orders

Research Unit - Legislative Provision and Challenges

Research Unit - Overview of the Foster Care System in South Africa

Foster Care System backlog: progress report; with Deputy Minister

The Committee was briefed on the turnaround plan for the management of foster care by the Department of Social Development and the Minister. The meeting had been scheduled in response to the presentation of the status report on the management of foster care orders affected by the North Gauteng High Court Order.

In response to the court order that deemed the Departmental delays in foster cases as unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid, the Department had complied with the requirement of the court order to put a comprehensive legal solution to foster care in place. That had been accomplished through the Children’s Amendment Bill submitted to Parliament on 19 February 2019. With limited resources and no additional budget, the provinces had to eradicate all foster care cases that were due to lapse by 28 November 2019. The North Gauteng High Court had provided provinces with an interim regime, that allowed for extensions of all cases that are due to lapse until 28 November 2019, which secured them as valid until that date.

The Department had strategies in place to support provinces and also the commitment of each province and its plans to deal with the backlog of cases. Monitoring would continue on a weekly basis and reports would be shared with the Committee. The Minister recommended that the Members of the Executive Councils (MEC’s) worked collectively, to share best-practice and to ensure uniformity in progress. She also recommended that the Department and Committee should refer to previous reports that dealt with the current issues of foster care. The Committee requested a detailed explanation of the Court Order before the Department was able to conclude its presentation of strategies in place to address the outstanding foster care cases.

The Committee raised concerns that the interim regime would allow the same challenges within the foster care system to persist. Members had several other concerns about the court order that required clarity from legal services. A Committee Member questioned whether the court order deadline would be met. There had been ample time since the court order. Why had the Department only realised at the last moment that the court order deadlines might not be met as there was a lack of capacity?  Were the social auxiliary workers the equivalent of the social workers? Where the money was coming from to fund the backlog or did it mean that other services would suffer? What was plan B for when the provinces failed to meet the targets that they had put in place?



Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed all present and requested that the Members of the Executive Councils (MEC’s) and accompanying officials of each province introduce themselves. Each province was represented. Apologies were also noted for the Deputy Minister, Ms Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu; Free State MEC, Ms Mamiki Qabathe (ANC) who both attended other work engagements and Committee Member, Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA).

The meeting agenda was adopted by Committee Members.

Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said that apologies on behalf of the provinces and, in particular KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), was because such meetings coincided with Cabinet day, which was why some MEC’s were not able to come to the meeting. It was not because they wished to undermine the Committee meeting.

The Chairperson commented that those were credible apologies and accepted as long as the MEC’s were able to send a representative.

North Gauteng High Court Order (NGHCO)

Minister’s remarks

The Minister stated that before they came to the meeting that she had had a briefing with all the MEC’s to have a sense of where they are, in terms of the implementation of the court order. The meeting was also to ensure that the Department and its agencies would take responsibility of the tasks ahead of them and to share with the MEC’s the view which was increasingly cemented by government’s own approach of integrated work that needs to be done by all government departments, particularly in the three spheres of government, and to emphasise that they are not three separate spheres of government, but one government with three spheres of governance which showed the importance of working together as national, provincial and local.

The Minister said that the MEC’s would explain their strategies as they went through their strategic plans from a coordinated approach as national, provincial and local. It was not right that the Department of Social Development (DSD) was pushed by either the court or other institutions to do its work. The Department had to do the best that it could to implement the plans and strategies without being forced by court decisions. She emphasised that unless MEC’s worked closely together they would never be able to deal with the issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Foster care found itself in that space, as could be seen in the DSD’s own reports on foster care children, the caregivers and what goes on in terms of whether or not fostering or caring is done as it should be. It was not about the DSD but about the children that the Department was supposed to serve.

In preparing for the meeting, the Minister was realised that there was a previous report by a previous Minister which dated back to 2014. That report should be referred to because it had findings by that Minister’s committee on foster care and had reported on progress through engagement with provinces, interviews, review of data collection, etc. it also had relevant themes such as: nature of foster care placement, nature of foster care service provider to foster family, foster child circumstances, systemic elements, living circumstances of foster children, foster care circumstances, nature of foster care placement, etc. and dealt with what DSD was currently encountering. DSD needed to take a step back to look at what decisions around foster care had been taken, what recommendations had been made, and how far they had been implemented. The document also noted that in some provinces social workers were not aware of some of the services that are available to foster children. It was important to update community profiles regularly. Such reports should have been taken into account to prevent instances where now the DSD was taken to court based on its own decisions regarding implementation. DSD could not say that policies were good and that the problem lay with implementation, because it was DSD’s responsibility to implement all key interventions. The issue of foster care was a very sensitive issue where the children in foster care should be the centre of concern. Those children could potentially be Presidents, Ministers etc. in the future if a suitable environment was created for them.

The Minister informed MEC’s that there needed to be more uniformity so that lessons could be learnt across provinces. They should share best practices collectively as that would help to improve systems. The portfolio approach would ensure that DSD improved its systems. Previous reports that were relevant to the current discussion should be taken into account, especially reports that discussed elements such as, social structure collapse, psychosocial problems, social ills, unsuitable foster parents, single parents with dependents who abused the system, misuse of the foster care system, fraud, and children with special needs. Part of what government launched the previous day in Lusikisiki was the district-centred model to appreciate and understand the district itself and the challenges that occurred within those districts, therefore zooming down to what was relevant to DSD but also interconnected to other departments. All other departments were of major importance to DSD and its agencies to ensure that they delivered services as agreed upon.

The Chairperson stated that the focus of the meeting should be a concrete picture with deadlines that the Committee could believe would be met. The term ‘turnaround’ was quite a big word and that many times a “turnaround” was not as it seemed. The remarks by the Minister were highly appreciated and the Committee looked forward to the district-centred model that placed government closer to the people.

Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Welfare Services: DSD, said that she took the presentation as read and would therefore only present on key areas of the turnaround.

The Chairperson said that the agenda was to deal with the concrete steps of implementation and requested that Ms Nxumalo help the Committee to understand the document presented to them.

Ms Nxumalo agreed that she would present slide by slide.

Presentation by DSD on the Turnaround plan on the management of Foster Care
Ms Nxumalo addressed the following:

• Introduction
On the 4 September 2019, the Department of Social Development presented the status report on the management of foster care orders affected by the North Gauteng High Court Order to the Committee.
Upon presentation of the status report, particularly the challenges which were mostly on the systemic issues such as human and financial resources, as well as tools of trade required for effective management of foster care programme, the Committee was not convinced that the Department would manage to deal with those cases affected by the North Gauteng High Court Order.

The Department was requested to go back and develop a turnaround plan to deal with foster care affected by the North Gauteng High Court Order (NGHCO) and to present it on the 18 September 2019.

The turnaround plans from provinces outlined the situational analyses of provinces, process flows to be followed by provinces to manage provincial baselines, set targets, and key strategies to manage the court orders for the period September till November 2019.

• Situational Analysis
In managing foster care programme; the department complied with the paragraph 2.1 of the Court Order in providing comprehensive legal solution to foster care. The Department had submitted the Social Assistance Bill, 2018 to Parliament on 16 March 2018. The Department had developed a Child Care and Protection Policy and the Minister had submitted a Children’s Amendment Bill to Parliament on 19 February 2019.

Provinces are making progress to eradicate all cases that were due to lapse in November 2019 although the resources available were limited. To provide tools of trade, some provinces bought cars and computers, and some had appointed social workers and supervisors. There was no additional budget allocation to implement the court order. Provinces were implementing the interim regime provided in paragraph 5 of the NGHCO that deemed all the affected foster care orders to be valid. Furthermore, the provinces were taking the matters to the Children’s Courts for an extension of those orders beyond 28 November 2019.

• Total number of foster care grant beneficiaries
There was a total population of 416 441 foster care grant beneficiaries (SOCPEN 8 September 2019).

• Current status of foster care orders in provinces affected by the NGCO
As at 3 September 2019, the number of children in foster care was 416 441.The baseline of court orders affected by NGHCO on 2 December 2017 was 43 985. Current cases at the end of August 2019 was 89 538.  

The provincial breakdown on dealing with the 89 538 cases:
Gauteng: 9 932 cases would be dealt with by 350 social workers over a period of 8 weeks, each social worker taking 5 cases per week. 
Free State:  6 465 cases; 207 social workers over a period of 10 weeks, each social worker allocated 3 cases per week.
Limpopo: 5 313 cases; 1481 social workers. The ratio is 1:4 cases each social worker, 66 supervisors are directing cases to ensure quality before they are submitted to court for finalisation.
North West: 8 652 cases; 650 social workers, each social worker allocated 5 cases per week. The province will deal with 3 250 cases per month.
Eastern Cape: 18 065 cases; 562 dedicated social workers to complete cases by 15 November 2019.
Northern Cape: 1 181 cases; 196 social workers available.
Mpumalanga: 929 cases; 245 social workers. The province will deal with 310 cases per month.
Western Cape: 9 517 cases.
KwaZulu Natal: 29 484 cases; 2 292 personnel inclusive of 1 582 social workers and 185 social work supervisors dedicated to foster care management.

The Chairperson paused the presentation to request clarity on what exactly was being done about ‘lapsed cases’. The court case spoke about paying those cases. The presentation mentioned the number of cases that would have lapsed by the end of November which coincided with the deadline. He raised his confusion about the ‘prayers’ (i.e. paragraphs/contents of the court order) that were addressed in the previous presentation dated 4 September 2019. He referred to prayer 5, in particular 5.3:

Prayer 5: During the period of suspension referred to in paragraph 3 and notwithstanding section 159(1)(a) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, the following interim regime will be in place:
5.1) Any foster care order which, as at the date of this order, is in existence or has lapsed due to non-extension as at the date of this order will remain valid for 24 months from the date of this order or until the child subject to the order turns 18, whichever comes first;
5.2) Any foster care order which has lapsed due solely to a failure to obtain an extension in terms of section 159(1)(b) of Children’s Act shall be deemed to be validly in place for 24 months from the date of this order or until the child subject to the order turns 18, whichever comes first; and
5.3) Notwithstanding the terms of this order, nothing shall prevent a Children’s Court during the existence of this order and/or after it has lapsed, from hearing a matter and making an appropriate order in terms of the Children’s Act regarding a foster care order falling within the ambit of this order, which may include extending, terminating or varying the foster care.

The Chairperson interpreted 5.3 as a response to the crisis where children whose orders had lapsed, were not paid, where 5.3 poses a process that can take place to ensure that they get paid. He questioned if 5.3 is a status quo that extends the terms of the court order. It seemed to imply that even if a child’s case had lapsed that it would not affect their right to be paid, but that the requirement for the case to be renewed had to be continued. What was implied by 5.3 was what had put the DSD in the position of having court challenges, and which subsequently affected the children whose cases had not been reviewed due to the DSD’s lack of capacity and alignment with the courts. 5.3 had led to those delays which were considered by the court as unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid. However, 5.3 had to continue and so the very same problem that had put the DSD in court would continue. The High Court ensured that invalidity did not stop the beneficiary from getting the money. However, the need for correcting the invalidity (in terms of 5.3) was not precluded. That meant that it required DSD to meet the requirements that had led to the problems that had landed DSD in court. He requested that the presentation not just speak about figures but to actually discuss the substance of matter, to see if the turnaround could be achieved or not.

The Minister commented that the Department should respond to the substance of the matter as requested by the Chairperson, and then the Department could proceed with the content that they had prepared.

Ms Nxumalo stated that her legal team could also answer questions that she did not clarify but that in response to the Chairperson’s request, she would discuss the ‘prayers’ (discussed in the previous presentation, dated 4 September 2019) so that everyone could move forward with the same understanding.

Ms Nxumalo addressed the prayers
Prayer 2 - It is declared that:
2.1 The delay by the first respondent in preparing and introducing before Parliament amending legislation to produce a comprehensive legal solution in respect of the foster care system is unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid; and
2.2 The delay in putting in place the necessary mechanisms, structures, resources to ensure that the foster care system operates in a sustainable and effective manner is unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid.
Prayer 3 - The declarations of invalidity in paragraph 2 are suspended for 24 months from the date of this order
Prayer 4 - The first respondent is directed (i.e. directions to the Minister), that within 15 months of this order, to prepare and introduce before Parliament the necessary amendments to the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and/or the Social Assistance Act 13 of 2014, to produce a comprehensive legal solution regarding the foster care system.
Prayer 5 (prayer 5.1, prayer 5.2, prayer 5.3 see above)

Under normal circumstances the Children’s Act had a provision under section 159 for court orders to be renewed every two years. The court stated that DSD had failed to implement that section as insufficient mechanisms and resources (e.g. social workers) were in place. Prayer 3 meant that the court order extension of 24 months provided an interim regime in which any foster care order that had lapsed due to the DSD’s delays in extending the care order would remain valid for the period of 24 months from the date of that order. The 24 months expired in November 2019. The care order was also valid for those children who turned18 years old before the court case, whichever occurs first. Prayer 5.3 meant that irrespective of the interim regime posed by the High Court, in the instance that there was a failure to meet the extension of 24 months, nothing prevented those care orders from being further extended by the High Court, even if those court orders had already been extended.
Across the provinces there were currently 89 538 cases that required the implementation of 5.3. That meant that those 89 538 cases were protected and deemed valid until the end of November, but beyond November there would not be any relief and therefore all provinces would need to ensure that those 89 538 court cases were extended through the provisions of the Children’s Act, Section 159 or 186.

Discussion about the Court Order
The Chairperson stated that the response did not answer his question. In the presentation Ms Nxumalo said, “which may lapse by the end”, when she spoke in that manner, she did not address those care orders that had lapsed during the period of extension. Prayer 5.3 was addressed in the manner as Ms Nxumalo explained but her articulation implied something else. During the extension period of 24 months, care cases could lapse at any point in time, and whatever lapsed within the extension period was considered as valid, but not those that lapsed at the end of the deadline. It was the language that was worrisome.

He added that the second worry was that when 5.3 stated that “notwithstanding the terms of this order, nothing shall prevent a Children’s Court during the existence of this order and/or after it has lapsed, from hearing a matter and making an appropriate order”, the worry was that it could mean that the requirements that the DSD was executing before the court order would be executed in the same way, although the advantage would be that the payment to recipients would not be affected. The problem was that the same process of execution was in place as before and the lack of capacity remained the same. In other words, the problem that led to the situation had not changed in those 24 months. He asked if there was an option that could prevent the DSD from implementing 5.3 because if there was no other option, the same issues would remain.

Mr Luyanda Mtshotshisa, Specialist in Legislative Drafting and Review at DSD, confirmed that the understanding of the Chairperson was correct. However, Prayer 5.1 implied that despite the fact that there was a backlog in the system that needed to be addressed in terms of the court order, there were also new applications that might need to be dealt with if the court order did not exist. It was within the context that, despite the court order being in place, the new applications could also be processed as if the court order was not there. It asserted that the court order itself did not take away from the provisions of the Children’s Act.

The Chairperson commented that in the previous meeting, the narrative of the Department was that the Children’s Act as it existed, together with South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), etc. had created a lot of pitfalls that had led them to court for having unlawful delays. The challenges that had sent the Department to court could have been dealt with. However, the current legal requirements complicated the problem instead of resolving it. The situation that led to the problem had not changed and if the DSD was not able to meet the requirements of the court order, then on what basis did they commit to meet the deadline?

He said that the Committee was not convinced that the turnaround was implementable. Besides the relief of those beneficiaries whose care orders had lapsed, DSD’s work had not changed and the capacity and processes remain the same. Implementation took a long time. The use of the word “turnaround” implied that one should discuss upfront, the capacity and changes required to change the situation. He requested that the presentation should indicate something different to what was committed two weeks ago, because unless it had been misunderstood the Committee was not comfortable with the proposed turnaround discussed previously.
The Minister requested that the Department be allowed to continue with the contents of the presentation because some questions might be answered through the presentation, which would prevent misunderstanding.

DSD Presentation continued
Ms Nxumalo continued with the prepared presentation.
Overall challenges
- Insufficient human resources - social workers, supervisors and canalisation officers
- Financial and technical resources which impacted on office space, network connectivity, cars, computers, copy machines and scanners. 
- Implementation of Regulation 56 which required advertisement for abandoned and orphaned children which caused delays in finalisation of cases. Limpopo indicated that they might not meet the deadline due to that requirement as 1490 cases were affected.
- Delays and costs to obtain unabridged birth certificates from Home Affairs, which some caregivers could not afford impacted the finalisation of cases.
- Some provinces cited delays by the courts in terms of court dates and issuing of court orders.
- Provinces experienced challenges of timeous issuing of Form 30 to fast track court processes although currently compliance was within the 21 working days as prescribed in the Children's Act.

Key Strategies
National strategies to support provinces

- Issue Form 30s within seven days of receipt of requests with dedicated capacity at national for the next three months
- Weekly visits to provinces scheduled to provide support and monitoring.
- Engagement with Department of Home Affairs to waive fees and reduce timeframe for foster care cases.
- Support provinces to negotiate with the judiciary for cases to be brought to court, and for issuing interim orders while awaiting documents for finalisation of court orders
- National to mitigate the risk of implementing Regulation 56 that might affect compliance to NGHCO, by engaging the judiciary to accept the proposal for issuing interim orders.

Key provincial strategies
All Provinces had tried to implement tools of trade. Provinces had declared certain days to be “foster care days”. For example, Limpopo had dedicated every Wednesday to foster care; the Western Cape monitored foster care cases on a weekly basis and had meetings with the other key stakeholders, such as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of Home Affairs, to expedite those individual complex cases that required intervention by specific departments. The Free State ensured weekly monitoring reports and meetings with key stakeholders and SASSA in order to monitor and reconcile data. North West had embarked on the Letsema approach where social auxiliary workers supported the social workers and worked with the judiciary and other stakeholders. There was also weekly monitoring. The Northern Cape planned to finalise all investigations for cases lapsing from September to November 2019 by 20 November 2019. Gauteng had declared both Tuesdays and Wednesday as “foster care days” and would implement the Letsema approach. Mpumalanga would implement a similar strategy by declaring both Tuesdays and Wednesday as “foster care days” and by implementing the Letsema approach. Eastern Cape would also monitor affected cases on a weekly basis. Similar to the Letsema approach, the “Ilima” approach was implemented across districts to support the cases within a particular district. DSD Eastern Cape had also engaged with cluster heads within the Department of Justice. KwaZulu-Natal would monitor cases, employ social auxiliary workers and engage with other stakeholders.

- Provinces were committed to deal with all cases that are due to lapse.
- The National Team would monitor and support scheduled provinces on a weekly basis.
- Reports would be submitted to the Committee on a monthly basis, commencing the end of September 2019.
- Submission to the Committee would be within seven working days after end of the month.
- All provinces, except Limpopo, had indicated that they would be able to deal with all cases affected by November 2019. Limpopo committed to addressing the 1490 cases by March 2020.
- Legal services would try to find a legal solution to the Limpopo situation before the end of September 2019.

Discussion about the Departmental Strategy
The Minister commented that she acknowledged some of her responsibilities in terms of engaging with other counterparts in areas that needed her direct intervention.

A Committee Member questioned whether the court order deadline would be met. There had been ample time since the court order. Why had DSD only realised at the last moment that the court order deadlines might not be met as there was a lack of capacity?  Were the social auxiliary workers the equivalent of the social workers? She questioned whether DSD would meet the deadline for compliance.

A Committee Member questioned the timeline around the turnaround plan. What was the estimated numbers of the foster cases that would expire after the end of November and how would that be dealt with going forward? How many social workers did the country have exactly? During the last meeting it was stated that the foster care backlog project takes away from other work that needed to be done.  She questioned if the DSD are actually solving the problem.

Ms A Abrahams (DA) requested clarity on the wording of key provincial strategies, such as “3G cards will also be allocated” and “scanners will also be allocated”. She questioned whether the social workers already had those tools of the trade or if they still had to be procured. With regards to no additional budget being allocated to the backlog of the foster care system, she requested the Department to give an indication of the budget allocated per Province. Where the money was coming from to fund the backlog or did it mean that other services would suffer? What was plan B for when the provinces failed to meet the targets that they had put in place?

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) thanked the Minister for the overview. She had spoken like a leader and a caring mother. The bible said that a wise woman built her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. She hoped that the Minister was able to share her spirit amongst her team within the Department. She raised concern about the budget issue, because with there had been so many promises made and strategies that each Province planned to implement to meet the deadline of 28 November 2019. Without adequate funding, it might not happen. She was doubtful but hoped that the strategy to engage with the Department of Home Affairs to waive fees of unabridged certificates and reduce the timeframe for foster care cases and for the Committee to receive regular reports would help. When comparing the last presentation with the current presentation, she questioned why the Free State had a lower number of foster cases within the span of two weeks and if it meant that the backlog was decreasing. She also questioned the number of social workers per Province in that it had increased. Where had those additional social workers come from?

The Chairperson asked the legal advisor about the causal legal linkage between clearing the backlog and the Bill.

Mr Mtshotshisa responded that the backlog had been caused by various issues identified, which had led to the court order to offer interim relief. Despite the court order, it was suspected that there would still be challenges in the future. The linkage between the Bill and the clearing of the backlog was that the Bill itself had provisions to alleviate future backlogs. The current legislation had challenges with how it dealt with the foster cases.

The Chairperson commented on the specific backlog with the deadline of 28 November 2019. He asked about the legal implications of the deadline not being met.

Mr Mtshotshisa responded that if the Bill was not in place then the same situation would persist that had led to the backlog.

The Chairperson stated that the 24-month extension implied that the Department was legally expected to correct the backlog through the Bill. The Department had given itself the deadline of 28 November 2019. He therefore questioned the legal linkage between the Department clearing the backlog and putting the Bill in place since the backlog was meant to be balanced by the implementation of the Bill. The court order did not specify that the backlog needed to be cleared by the deadline.

Mr Mtshotshisa responded that the court order implied that the Department had to come up with a comprehensive solution to deal with the backlog, and part of that legal solution had been suggested by the court - the Department was required to come up with the Bill. The comprehensive legal solution lay within the Bill which should have been passed within 15 months of the date of the court order. The Bill had been expected to be introduced in Parliament at the end of February 2019, because despite the interim relief in relation to the backlog there would still be challenges in the future due to the shortcomings of the legislation. The linkage between the Bill and the 24-month extension period was that by 28 November 2019 there would be more provisions in place to assist the Department in clearing the backlog.

The Minister indicated that the Chairperson’s question was clear. She, too, had enquired about the issue. She suggested that the Committee and Department go back to previous reports that dealt with the current matter, where a previous Minister of Social Development, Ms Susan Shabangu, had submitted a Bill. She requested an opportunity and timeframe for the Department to go back and put in place a comprehensive and specific response to the Committee because legal issues were complicated.

The Chairperson agreed that the legal matters need to be clarified.

Ms Nxumalo responded that social auxiliary workers were qualified to do the work they did, e.g. visiting families, collecting information etc. They were meant to support the work of social workers. In terms of the projected timelines, it had been mentioned in the last meeting that a total of 8 471 foster care orders were due to lapse in December 2019. In response to the question of the turnaround plan, she said that it had been agreed upon in the last meeting that the Department would brief the committee on their strategies to clear the backlog by the deadline. However, there was a bigger project plan that dealt with issues of foster care moving forward which would be submitted to the Committee. In terms of the need for social workers, she mentioned that the costing in the report on the Children’s Act indicated that there was a need for 16 000 social workers, just to implement the Act, but there are fewer social workers than that within the DSD.

The Minister commented that the question of what happened when the Department did not meet its target had not been answered.

Ms Nxumalo responded that if the Department did not meet the deadline of 28 November, DSD would be the contempt of court.

The Chairperson commented that all the court order stated was that those with beneficiaries in existence or those that had lapsed within the period of 24 months were not invalid for payment. Anything else that the court order is said to have mentioned had to be explained to the Committee.

Ms Siphokazi Lusithi, MEC for Social Development, Eastern Cape, responded in terms of the tools of trade and procurement. All the tools of the trade, in addition to what had already been there, had been secured, and additional 3G cards and laptops had been distributed within the Province. There had also been an engagement with the Department of Health on arrangements on their rental options for motor vehicles and the ongoing sharing of resources with SASSA. There are agreements already in place with the Department of Justice and Department of Home Affairs for the prioritisation of the foster care cases.

Dr Robert Macdonald, Head of Department for Social Development, Western Cape, stated that in the Western Cape there were 572 social workers dealing with the cases that needed to be extended before the deadline. The cases had been reduced by 1 000 since the last presentation, so there were currently 8 500 cases. The biggest concern was the courts as a number of courts in the Western Cape were refusing to extend orders, saying that the orders were valid until the 28 November 2019 and therefore they would not give attention to extensions. That concern had been raised with the Chief Magistrate and he had also asked the Department to intercede on the Department’s behalf. If the deadline arrived and there are outstanding cases, then it would not be because of the shortages of resources within the Department, but rather the shortage of resources in the courts.

Ms Nonhlanhla Khoza, MEC for Social Development, KwaZulu-Natal informed the Committee that KZN had committed itself to dedicating Tuesdays and Wednesdays to weekly reports for monitoring. The Department also had trained auxiliary social workers within the Department.

The Minister explained that she had gone through the provincial reports and had met with the MEC’s prior to the meeting to ensure that they were all on the same page. When the meeting adjourned, it did not mean that the engagement stopped. She and all the provinces would need to take responsibility for monitoring the reports from the different provinces because the current reports showed that the provinces were not at the same level. The focus should be on the provinces that were worrisome, but the MEC’s had indicated what strategies were in place. She requested that the Committee noted that the Department should share Provincial reports one week and the following week the Department should brief the Committee to ensure that reporting was done timeously. She appreciated that oversight would ensure that the Department accounted for its actions. The Department should also plan to engage other Ministers such as the Minister of Finance, to understand the challenges of the country in terms of budgets etc. Some of the questions that had been raised were questions that she herself had asked the Department.

She added that, in the presentations, sometimes there was an issue with the language used and the Department and the provinces would need to take note of the language that they used as it either built confidence or made people confused. The spirit with which they worked continued to be the spirit of South Africans across the board, regardless of political affiliation. They knew what the policies were and they knew that the issue was to deal with the real challenges. She looked for gems in the children who were fostered. She also trusted the Department and all relevant stakeholders to deal with corruption and to deal with those who claimed to be foster parents when they were not. The Committee should note, for oversight, that the problems did not just sit within the Department, but the problem also lay with the citizens who misused the money.

The Chairperson concluded that he hoped that the Department would ensure that the money went where it should go, to the children. He thanked the Department officials for their commitment.

Committee business
The minutes of 10th July, 21st August, 4th and 11th September, as well as the Committee programme, were adopted by the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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