Foster Care Progress Report on High Court Order; DSD 2019/20 Quarter 2 Performance

Social Development

20 November 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Gungubele (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Portfolio Committee on Social Development engagements with Department

The Department of Social Development (DSD) told the Committee that the human settlement policy was still a draft, as it had not been approved or implemented. Once it was passed, it would solve most issues pertaining to the sheltering of gender-based violence (GBV) victims, as the Department of Public Works (DPW) was currently identifying houses which could be used for shelters, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would have access to them. Housing for people with psychiatric needs was being dealt with by the Department of Health.

The DSD was waiting for joint consent papers to be signed by the Cabinet, to approve the process and terms under which the early childhood development (ECD) programme would be moved from the DSD to the Department of Basic Education. Treasury had allocated funding for ECD to the DSD, and services could not be disrupted, so until a formal process had been carried out, the DSD would be responsible for ECD grants.

The Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) Act had fallen by default within the DSD for implementation. However, the development of the NPOs and their oversight was performed by the relating bodies, such as the National Development Agency (NDA). The Department was developing policies and guidelines for the funding of NPOs. Although transformation of these organisations was necessary, the services they rendered could not be disrupted in the name of transformation.

The Committee was briefed on the Foster Care Progress Report, and heard that the Children’s Amendment Bill was unlikely to be processed and finalised by November 28 in terms of the order of the North Gauteng High Court. Although it had been approved by Cabinet, it needed full certification from the State Law Advisor, and this had been delayed due to the national elections. The Department had tried to revive the Bill, but it had required fresh approval from Cabinet, as it had not been processed through Parliament. The Minister had sent a letter to the Deputy President, as a Leader of Government Business, requesting him to intervene in the impasse, but the Department was still awaiting a response. The Committee was given details of the situation in the provinces, indicating the number of foster care court orders that would lapse.

Meeting report

Department of Social Development (DSD) 2019/20 Quarter 2 Performance

Mr Thabani Buthelezi, Chief-Director: Department of Social Development (DSD), presented the Department’s 2019/20 second quarter performance report. He said that the regulations to the Social Assistance Amendment Bill had been drafted, and they were awaiting promulgation of the Bill. These regulations include provisions for the extension of the child support grant, as part of the contribution to the comprehensive legal solution to address the challenges in the foster care system. Provision had been made for a reduction of the timeframes for adjudication of social assistance appeals, from 180 days to 90 days.

The Minister had written to Parliament to request prioritisation of the Children's Amendment Bill, which would contribute to the comprehensive legal solution to address the foster care challenges. The inter-sectoral protocol on the Management and Prevention of Violence against Children, Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation, could not be presented due to a postponement by the Heads of Social Development Sector (HSDS). This work would be concluded in the subsequent reporting period.

A number of initiatives were undertaken during the reporting period towards reducing the incidence of social crime and substance abuse, as well as to provide support services to targeted groups. A total of 30 practitioners, including provincial coordinators, centre managers, child and youth care workers, nurses, educators of Secure Care and supervisors from the districts had been trained on the anti-gangsterism strategy in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The training equips DSD officials on the threat and risk factors, the general signs, and assessing and profiling children with signs of involvement in gangsterism. The training also included developing interventions, techniques and systems in line with the ethos of the social services profession and that of other support professionals working with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other government departments. This was ongoing training, targeting all provinces, which had started in 2018/19.

The National Disability Rights Machinery (NDRM) plenary meeting had been held. The plenary provided a platform for social participants to engage on disability inclusion priorities for the 2019-2024 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), and was followed up by a meeting of the Inter-Provincial Forum meeting of the NDRM in August 2019, to ensure that national priorities were informed by provincial contexts. The disability inclusion priorities for the MTSF would lay a sound foundation for interventions which would meaningfully change the lives of persons with disabilities and their families in the next five years.

The DSD had also participated in a number of international events, such as the European Union (EU) study tour to Ireland, Spain and Belgium in September 2019 in respect of the designation of the Independent Monitoring Mechanism (IMM), as per Article 33(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

One of the responsibilities of the Department prescribed by the Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) Act was the provision of capacity to non-profit organisations. This programme contributed towards delivering on the DSD’s mandate of implementing programmes to support to NPOs in their endeavour to voluntary register, and ensuring that their standards of governance were maintained. The programme provides capacity building programmes to NPOs in order to strengthen their capacities and develop into accountable and credible organisations by complying with NPO related legislations.

Mr Fanie Esterhuizen, Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DSD, presented on the financials for the DSD. He said that the Appeals Tribunal had reached 31% of its spending target. The underspending on consultants mainly related to the underspending on the payment of panel members, as the number of appeals received by the Tribunal had been far less than estimated as a result of delays in the processing of the Amendment Bill, which would allow direct access to lodge an appeal with the Tribunal without first approaching the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
 

Discussion

Ms M Sukers (ACDP) asked why Western Cape officials had not been included in the presentation, in terms of the drug master plan. What provision was the DSD making for learners with special needs in schools? Did it have a vision for providing housing for women that were victims of gender-based violence (GBV) and people with special needs, such as psychiatric needs?

Ms B Masango (DA) asked what plan the DSD had for rural provinces that were in greater need of services, but had fewer operating NPOs? When would the SETA function be completely taken over by the DSD? It seemed like the process was becoming as lengthy as the case involving Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). The DSD presentation had mentioned early childhood development (ECD) grants that were funded by the DSD -- when would ECD be fully taken over by the Department of Education? The grants that were being given, were they a continuation or an exit grant, as the President’s speech had mentioned that ECD would not be in the jurisdiction of DSD at all? Was the national DSD overseeing local service points for the SASSA? Was the Social Development Information Case Management System being piloted, or was it fully implemented? If it was in the pilot phase, what trends were being found?

Ms A Abrahams (DA) asked the DSD to include a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) analysis showing NPOs’ performance of operations on the ground. How often did households that had been identified as in need, receive food parcels? If there was a great need for food relief, why had some provinces reported that they had not issued SASSA vouchers or the accessing of food relief in three months? Was the DSD holding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) accountable, as payments not being made to students had come into question?

Mr D Stock (ANC) asked how NPOs that had received funding were meeting the transformation agenda as per the National Development Plan (NDP).  There were cases of NPOs that had received funding from the DSD for many years, and it had later been found that they were using the funding to pay salaries rather than performing ground work. How was the DSD preventing this? How far was the DSD with their proposal of the NPO Bill to the social cluster?

Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) expressed concern that NPOs in the sector of education, research and health only accounted for 2% of existing NPOs, as these sectors would result in growth for communities. She asked if any NPOs were philanthropic and how it was determined which sector an NPO fell into. What were the figures for nutritional relief in KZN and the Eastern Cape, as these were provinces with high levels of poverty? The budget for the appeals tribunals had a reported 31% spending -- was this attributed to the use of a middleman? What was the DSD prediction on spending after the middleman was cut out of tribunal appeals? Lastly, were there any underwriters for Comprehensive Social Security?

Ms L Van der Merwe (IFP) asked the DSD to provide a timeframe for ECD to be completely handed over to the Department of Education. She highlighted that Slide 7 of the presentation referred to unwarranted social ills, including GBV, but the report did not mention any impacts or interventions for this. She asked the DSD to provide the number of social workers that were being trained, the number that were employed and those who were unemployed? The DSD had trained 30 practitioners on anti-gangsterism -- how was the number determined, as more were surely needed? She acknowledged that provisions were being made for people with disabilities, but their needs were so vast, and most government departments did not employ even 2% of people with disabilities. At what point did the Department move away from plans for people with disabilities and actually challenge departments to hire them? What findings had been derived from the International United Nations Convention in which the DSD had participated? How many people were reached by youth and community development workshops in the various programmes?
 

DSD’s response

Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting Director-General, said that information technology (IT) and SETA contracts had been officially taken over, and the DSD was working directly with service providers.

Ms Conny Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, said that child and youth care centres (CYCC) in the Western Cape had benefited from the anti-gansterism training. More training was needed in the Western Cape, and they had written to the national Department requesting more training. Only 30 practitioners had been trained, which was a manageable number as there were only two training staff at a national level who could conduct this training.

The Human Settlements policy was still a draft, as it had not been approved or implemented. Once it had been passed, it would solve most of the issues pertaining to the sheltering of GBV victims, as NGOs would have access to these shelters. The Department of Public Works (DPW) was currently identifying houses which could be used for sheltering GBV victims. Housing for people with psychiatric needs was dealt with by the Department of Health (DoH).

The DSD was waiting for joint consent papers to be signed by the Cabinet approving the process and terms under which ECD would be moved from Social Development to Education. Treasury had allocated funding for ECD to the DSD, so services could not be disrupted and until a formal process had been carried out, the DSD would be responsible for ECD grants.

The social development case system had consolidated silo systems. There were three systems in progress -- Probation Case Management, Victim Empowerment and Child and Youth Care System. The DSD was looking to integrate all these systems. Training was being rolled-out in this regard. The Department was still driven by the GBV mandate and at least one slide at every meeting pertained to GBV. It had been presented on extensively a month prior to the meeting.

Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director General: Community Development, DSD, said that the NPO Act had by default fallen within the DSD for implementation, so registration of NPOs was the primary responsibility of the DSD. The Department used the UN 12 classifications for NPOs. The development of the NPOs and their oversight was performed by the relating bodies, such as the National Development Agency (NDA). There were various reasons why there were fewer NPOs in rural and smaller provinces, and the Department attempted to curb this by encouraging and assisting communities to register NPOs. There were 224 000 NPOs registered, according to the UN classification -- 82 000 were registered under Social Services and 21 000 were funded by the DSD, with a total of R7.6 Billion being spent to fund this. This funding was provided by provinces. The role of national DSD was to develop policies and guidelines for the funding of NPOs.

Although transformation of NPOs was necessary, services rendered by NPOs could not be disrupted in the name of transformation. Instead, the DSD allocated services to areas that were in need. Monitoring was done through policy and guidelines -- provinces monitor the funding, and they then meet on a quarterly basis. Monitoring the actual services provided by NPOs needed to be monitored by provinces.

Food security was monitored quarterly in respect of the number of people that received food relief. Based on data collected, the Department was reaching only 7% of the people that were determined to be vulnerable to hunger. SASSA would provide a breakdown of why there were no reports about food assistance in some provinces.

The NPO Bill was supposed to be sent to the cluster before Cabinet, but the costing took longer than expected. The cost of the decentralising function that required offices to be set up in all nine provinces had been over-looked, causing the delay. The Bill should go to Cabinet within the next quarter.

Ms Diane Dunkerly, Executive Manager: Grants, SASSA, said that not all provinces utilised social relief vouchers. However, this was just one way of providing social relief, and these provinces used other methods such as food parcels and cash. This was because in provinces like the Eastern Cape, the Department was unable to find suppliers that were willing to accept social relief vouchers. Social relief was provided over different timeframes, and was determined by the application and need of the applicant.

Mr Esterhuizen stated that the low spending on the appeal tribunal would remain until the Social Assistance Bill had been passed. All social grant applicants could internally make an appeal within SASSA. After the Bill had been passed, appeals would go directly to the appeals tribunal. There were currently 3 000 applications per year, and if the Bill was passed, it would go up to 8 000, which would result in a drastic increase in expenditure.

Foster Care Progress Report

Ms Nxumalo presented the Foster Care Progress Report on the Implementation of the North Gauteng High Court Order: Turn Around Plan. She said the Department had developed a legislative process plan which was being implemented and monitored. As of 4 November 2019, the figures had dropped down to 41 609, from 90 634 cases.

The Department had taken a decision to approach the court jointly with the Centre for Child Law (CCL) on an urgent basis to make an application for an extension of the period of invalidity.  A letter to that effect had been sent to the office of the State Attorney to brief Counsel who had previously dealt with the matter. No response had been provided by State Attorney so far, and the Department was working tirelessly to finalise the matter with the office of the State Attorney.

The Minister had also written and sent a letter to the Deputy President, as a Leader of Government Business, requesting him to intervene on the impasse regarding the certification of the Children’s Amendment Bill, 2019, to ensure that the Bill was processed and finalised in terms of the order within the period set out in the North Gauteng High Court Order (28 November 2017). The Department was still awaiting a response from the office of the Leader of Government Business on the requested intervention.

The Social Assistance Amendment Bill was being considered by the Committee, and briefing had been done on the proposed amendments in the Bill.

As of 15 November, 2019:

  • The Eastern Cape reported that 1 852 cases had been extended, with 3 525 cases outstanding. The judiciary had been assisting with the extensions.
  • The Free State reported there were 2 576 outstanding cases. The Mangaung Metro was where the province was struggling the most. SASSA was assisting with transport for visits. Delays had been due to incorrect details documented in court orders.
  • Gauteng reported that there were 3 342 outstanding cases. It was clear that the province may not be able to finalise all cases by 28 November, as approximately 1 556 cases still needed to be investigated. A firm commitment would be made on how many cases would be finalised by the deadline.
  • KwaZulu-Natal reported they have 9 500 outstanding cases -- a drastic improvement from the 31 000 initial cases. SASSA and Home Affairs offices had been set up in district and head offices where there was capturing and submission of portfolios of evidence.
  • Limpopo reported they had 3 360 outstanding cases. 1 328 cases were still in court, and this was the greatest challenge. 880 cases were bound to lapse, and the judiciary could not commit to seeing to these cases before the 30-day lapse period. There were a few cases that still needed Form 30, with the remaining forms being collected in the subsequent days.
  • The Northern Cape reported 221 outstanding cases, which were all under investigation with the court. The province did not follow Section 48. There was a possibility that all cases would be completed on time.
  • The North West reported 2 243 outstanding cases. It had been agreed with the judiciary that Section 48 would be applied, giving 30 days to finalise cases and submit a final report. There were 921 cases at court, and the court was assisting greatly by working over weekends
  • The Western Cape reported 5 803 outstanding cases, with 4 888 cases in court. 332 cases were under section 186, and 496 cases were under section 176 orders, where children were over the age of 18 but studying. The parents of these children needed to apply for an extension in these cases themselves. There were 83 grant cancellations, where children were reunited with their biological families. The Cape Winelands court was holding up progress, as they were struggling with capacity and had declined to extend. Thus, there was uncertainty as to how many of the 4 888 cases would be resolved by the deadline. 

 

Discussion

The Chairperson said that everyone involved was trying hard to process legislation that should have been done long ago. Despite this, it was unlikely that all the cases would be finalised by 28 November 2019. He asked for clarity regarding the reasons it had been certified, as it had never received a referral.

Mr Luyanda Mtshotshisa, Specialist: Legislative Drafting and Review, DSD, said the Department had received an opinion which stated that the Bill was constitutionally in order, which served as a preliminary certification by the State Law Advisor. It had then gone to Cabinet, where the Bill was approved. The State Law Advisor had stated that for the Bill to go to Parliament, there needed to be full certification in line with rule 271 and rule 159. The Bill had then needed full certification from the State Law Advisor, but this had been delayed due to the national elections. The Department had tried to revive the Bill, but the State Law Advisor had required a fresh approval from Cabinet, as it had not been processed through Parliament. The Department disagreed with this, as Parliament had received the Bill and had allocated it to the Portfolio Committee, which could be proven by a paper trail.

The Chairperson asked if Parliament had received the Bill, even though it did not have full certification.

Mr Mtshotshisa confirmed that this was true, according to his understanding.

Ms Lindiwe Ntsabo, Secretary: Portfolio Committee on Social Development, said that there had been a referral towards the end of the fifth Parliament. However, it had not been discussed by the Committee or programmed for its consideration. It had been referred in terms of rule 159, but not fully certified.

The Chairperson stated that in the workshop hosted by the DSD, it was said that in terms of rule 159, the Bill could still go ahead depending on a few things. There was a record that the Minister had written a letter to the Deputy President to pursue the final certification. If the Bill was in terms of rule 159 in the fifth Administration, did it not qualify for revival?

Mr Mtshotshisa said it was immaterial whether it was in terms of rules 159 or 276, as the wording of both were more-or-less the same. Parliament took a resolution to ensure that rule 332, sub-rule 2, and rule 251, sub-rule 2, that bills before Parliament could not lapse. There were no specifications if the Bills were in terms of rules 159 or 276. Thus, it fell under revival.

The Chairperson suggested that these technical aspects should be clarified at another meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.


 

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