The Department of Social Development in the Western Cape appeared before the Committee to deliberate on Vote 7 of the Appropriation Bill, and answered wide-ranging questions on the funding allocations for specific projects and programmes.
The questions from Committee Members included the strategic and communication plan for youth cafes, the allocation of funds, and the various projects to deal with violence against women and at-risk children (including the maintenance of children). They wanted to know about the performance management tools for the non-governmental organisations which received funding from the Department, and also the proceedings surrounding foster care management.
Concerns were raised regarding home-based care and old age services, as well as the financial means test used by the Department which determined the outcome of funding for such services. There was a specific focus on projects concerning the empowerment of women and Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and the corresponding budgets which were allocated for this purpose.
The Department justified its expenditure on the Sanitary Dignity Project, saying it was aimed at reducing the absenteeism from school of female learners when menstruating. It had found that the project was largely effective, but acknowledged that there had been a significant amount of wastage.
The question of the transportation of children with intellectual disabilities was also discussed.
The leasing of property for different services from the Department of Public Works was discussed, along with the difference in funding for maintenance and new infrastructure being clearly defined.
The deployment of, and budgeting for, social workers evoked several questions, as was the recruitment of educators. Other issues raised included the digitisation of the Departmental filing systems, the nutrition projects the Department had embarked upon, shelters for victims of gender-based violence, the employment of psychologists, human trafficking shelters, the high increase in bursary funding, and Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme funding.
Committee proceedings were also opened to the public, one member of which asked questions regarding draft legislation, the funding of community development degrees, the neglect of children, and the perceived unevenness of funding in a particular area.
Vote 7 Western Cape Department of Social Development: Deliberations
The Chairperson opened with an apology from the Minister of Social Development in the Western Cape, and advised the Committee that he was tabling the Budget Vote 7. He asked Members to state the pages to which they would refer.
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) raised a question concerning youth cafes. At one point, there had been two of them in Mitchell’s Plain, but now there was only one. He pointed out that the cafes did not seem as active as they once were. He queried what the Department’s communication plan was for the youth cafe and more specifically, what kind of advertising had been procured to attract more youth, since it was becoming obscure.
Mr Mackenzie then queried the Department’s actions concerning violence against women, and child maintenance. He asked whether there was a coordinated programme within the Department which looked at how the policy concerning these two issues was being enforced. Did the Department play some coordinating role, or were these issues merely left up to the courts?
He asked what enforcement tools were in place for the Western Cape’s Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). He had referred to a Saldanha Bay situation where there had been allegations of fraud in recent years. He wanted to know if there had been an update of the performance management tools for some of the NGOs to which funds had been allocated, including any monitoring tools to ensure no irregularities were recurring. Instead of merely looking at the Annual Reports of organisations, how was it being ensured that the funds transferred to these organisations were actually spent on the items for which they were allocated?
He said foster care management usually involved a protracted legal process, where child care and applications for fostering a child were concerned. Had the Department considered any measures for addressing the backlog of cases due to prolonged litigation?
Regarding the home-based care services, was there any coordination between the officials working for the City of Cape Town, and those working for the Department of Social Development?
Mr Mackenzie brought up services to old age persons. He wanted to know what kind of financial means tests were performed to ensure that those who applied for old age homes were financially qualified for the service. Even though the service was meant for the financially needy, he was aware that some who had successfully applied had the requisite resources, and did not meet the affordability criteria.
Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) pointed out that the biggest problem provinces faced was gender-Based Violence (GBV), family separation, the abduction and murder of children, gangsterism and substance abuse. She asked the Department to supply examples of how they intended to respond to these challenges, both on their own account and in coordination with the affected communities.
In prior engagements with the Department, the ANC had been clear that an increased budget allocation was required to tackle GBV, and that they wanted more for victim empowerment, especially in poorer communities, not only in the urban areas where she observed the Department had concentrated. The Committee had been told that these demands would be met. She therefore wanted the Department to walk the Committee through how they had addressed these demands.
She also wanted to know how the budget responded to the rate of child murders, which the South African Police Service (SAPS) had concluded was among the highest rates in the country. What additional programmes in this regard had been funded? Had any additional funds been allocated in the budget for this purpose?
Ms Bakubaku-Vos referred to the high dropout rate of young learners -- especially those younger than 16 years of age. She wanted to know what programmes focusing on youth employment were in place to address the high dropout rate, especially in poorer and rural areas.
She then addressed the earmarked allocation of funds to shelters for abused women and children, and wanted to know if there was going to be additional funding for such shelters, and if not, why.
Dr Robert Macdonald, Head of Department: Western Cape Department of Social Development, responded to Mr Mckenzie’s question on the youth cafes in Mitchell’s Plain, the Department’s communication plan and how they advertised to promote such cafes. He advised that there were accessibility issues regarding those sites.
He said the youth cafe issue was a problem for the Department. One of the major factors deterring accessibility remained the issue of gangsterism in the area. Working with the City of Cape Town, the Department felt that a different location for the cafes was necessary for young people to feel protected. For this reason, a new site had been identified in the Town Centre, Mitchell’s Plain. This site had the added advantage of being near public transport sites. As it happened, however, this did not make much difference, as the Department realised that the new cafe site was also a “crime spot” where young people remained afraid to access the youth cafes. The Town Centre site was a good site, except for the fact that young people were afraid to access it. The Department was therefore in consultation with the City in order to identify alternative solutions. A better spot could be found only when communities “stand up like they used to do in the past.”
As regards the communications strategy, methods of online and social media were used -- for example, Facebook and WhatsApp -- in order to promote the visibility of the cafes among the youth.
The Department had observed that when budget cuts occurred, the relationship between the community and the government deteriorated. When this happened, criminals and gangs seize the opportunity and enter the communities. This impeded the rollout of important government developmental programmes, and thus beneficiaries suffer.
Dr Macdonald reiterated that the question of youth cafe locations remained a tricky problem due to the pervasiveness of gangsterism. In addition to Mitchell’s Plain, this was also found in Crossroads and Rocklands, for example. An outreach programme was therefore needed in order to find suitable locations, including but not limited to libraries and schools, and to attract youth from satellite communities. The youth cafe programme had been in operation for several years, and what the Department was concerned with now was distinguishing what worked from what did not work, and then implementing strategies accordingly.
He addressed the question of the Department’s role in the enforcement of maintenance orders. The answer was that, in respect of child protection work, the role of the social worker assessment was key to establish whether or not the father was paying maintenance in any particular case. However, this was only the assessment, not enforcement. The enforcement role fell under the mandate of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
With regard to the updating of performance management and monitoring tools to ensure that allocated funds were used for their intended purposes, the Auditor General was responsible for the verification and audit of the information received in this regard, preceding which the Department also did preliminary checks.
Mr Charles Jordan, Chief Director: Social Welfare, Western Cape Department of Social Development, said the Department had developed a monitoring evaluation framework which they used in conjunction with various monitoring tools, including a rapid assessment tool. These were used to analyse the finance and governance systems on-site, but also to ensure during implementation, adherence to accepted norms and standards. Only once the applicable NGOs had been deemed to have met the relevant performance standards would they be considered for funding.
If a red flag had been identified, the Department would dispatches an on-site emergency evaluation unit for rapid assessment.
The Department also had a normal Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) plan, which was comprised of scheduled times for the on-site visitation of all 2 300 NGOs. This could take the form of an ordinary monitoring and evaluation process, or a quality assurance process. The latter consisted of a self-assessment and a follow-up on-site visit for comparison.
There was also reporting on the income and expenditure of the Department, for which procedures were in place to ensure compliance and balancing of budget amounts and consequent payouts.
When the Department did on-site inspection, one of the first things done was the analysis of the accounting records, up to and including the source documentation, and whether or not the Constitution had been adhered to in terms of the internal policy. The operation of social workers themselves was also analysed.
If any fraud or potential fraud was detected, the Department had a special unit comprised of three officials, who look specifically at financial concerns and would do a deep analysis -- up to three years -- into the accounting records. If any irregularity was detected at this point, the Department would initiate a special process to deal with the mitigation or resolution of such an irregularity. If any serious misconduct was detected, the matter was reported to the SAPS.
These regular monitoring and evaluation procedures did not only include financial concerns, but also issues of incapacity. In cases where inadequate technical capacity was identified, the Department would embark upon a training process for the relevant officials concerned in order to capacitate them.
The Department also employed a dedicated team which performs a detailed evaluation of the financial statements of all 2 300 NGOs annually.
There were about 60 evaluation and monitoring officials, of whom approximately 30 did financial analysis, and the remainder oversee the training and development of social workers.
As a financial measure for on-site inspection, the Department cross-checks private individuals in the system, and confirm that they correspond to the records on file by cross-checking national identity numbers. This constitutes the first level of spot checks, where a sample is drawn and analysed, after which the Auditor General does the same, which constitutes the second level. This was to prevent and detect any irregularities -- for example, any duplication of names of the more than 140 000 young persons within the system.
Dr Macdonald indicated that the Department had picked up a few irregularities, and that when serious misconduct was identified, such matters were referred to the SAPS. However, prosecutions did not appear to be forthcoming.
As regard the foster care background, there was legislation before the National Parliament which aimed to improve things as they stand, and also to approve a top-up grant for children who were in the care of family members but had not placed through the court. Ideally, this would assist somewhat with a decrease in the number of persons appearing before the courts. The magistrates were taking a harder line to prevent abuse of the foster grant system, where cases had increased from 100 000 to 500 000 nationwide when the system was opened up to family members.
There were 650 social workers within the Departmental foster care system, and 37 000 children. The Department had been able to keep apace of the work, but had made clear to the National Standing Committee that a backlog had been identified.
Mr Jordan said that the Department did not have its own facilities to see to children with intellectual disabilities, but rather community-based groups through the Department of Health, which provide home-based carers. What the Department had recently embarked upon, however, was home-based care for older persons through NGOs. This was being tested in Khayelitsha, due to the lack of facilities in this area.
Dr Macdonald added that the Department shares information with the City of Cape Town in order to avoid duplication. The City’s social development fund was fairly small, so that they focus on key projects such as the Foreshore Safe Space. The Department and the City tended to work in a complementary fashion.
Regarding the Sanitary Dignity Project, the Department had placed a tender, and the products had been delivered a week ago. These constituted individual packs of ten sanitary pads, which were warehoused in the Winelands. In conjunction with the Department of Education, more than 200 high risk schools had been identified for distribution of these products. The premise of the Sanitary Dignity Project was to promote attendance at school by female learners who, because of a lack of such products, had shown an increase in the incidence of school absenteeism. The Department would be responsible for delivery to the schools, while the Education Department would responsible for the distribution within them. There was, however, some wastage of these products due to some learners’ dislike for the particular product itself. The Department was therefore looking at means for efficient distribution, in order to reduce wastage.
Dr Macdonald commented that this had been a very difficult project, since the Department had been supplied with the fund allocation before a plan could be formulated, so all the money had not yet been spent, which had been expected. However, the Department expected an increase in the budget for this project so that it could continue in the upcoming year, this time with more structure and greater project management.
Mr Jordan addressed the question of service to older persons and the means test. He said it was usually individuals receiving another grant who would apply to the Department for funding. There was a means test involved, which originated in the old age home itself. Not everyone within the old age home was necessarily funded -- the rate was about fifty percent of residents. The means test, after it had been conducted by the home, was then verified and the applicants categorised into one of three categories, the third being “frail” and the first being “very healthy". Social workers were dispatched to sign off on a screening certificate, as well as to check up on the applicant for verification of the particulars declared in the application and screening.
Dr Macdonald replied to Ms Bakubaku-Vos’s question regarding children at risk and GBV. The Department provided several services to address these concerns. He made the Committee aware of additional funds received in the form of earmarked allocations for the victims in these circumstances. With regard to GBV, there was an earmarked allocation of approximately R60 million for another 30 social workers, who would be focusing specifically on this. The recruitment of additional social workers was under way, and the Department expected to make the 30 appointments in April, and they would then be deployed into identified high risk areas. There was an additional R5 million allocated, over and above the budgeted value, to rollout initiatives to address GBV. This additional amount had no conditions attached. The Department would therefore use these funds in areas where there was a great need for shelters, particularly rural areas such as the central Karoo, the southern Cape, the West Coast and the southern Peninsula. There was further funding earmarked for GBV which the Department would utilise for trauma support and counseling. In addition, there were funds earmarked specifically focusing on at-risk children.
Additional properties had also been made available by the National Department of Public Works, which had been in the media in the preceding week. In principle, these properties were being made available to the Department, but clarity in this regard was still being sought.
Regarding the safety plan, the Department had a range of services for child protection in the metro areas, where priority locations had been identified. There was also a rural safety plan, where the Department had opted to use a district approach, which involved Departmental coordination with the municipalities. With regard to the safety plan areas, where social workers were introduced to schools, the ratio was about one social worker to every two schools, as well as an accompanying array of services which the social worker could render. For this, the Department was coordinating with the Departments of Education and Health. The idea was that the boots-on-the-ground approach was the first wave, which was critical to preventing community violence.
Mr Mackenzie resurfaced the question of the promotion of, and access to, the youth cafes, and whether appropriate signage was used. He acknowledged the response from the Department, but emphasised that he wanted to know what they were doing differently.
As regards the safety plan for child protection, he argued that a key factor was the “hot spots.” He conveyed his hope that the Department used the same hotspots as indicated by the Premier. He referred to a discussion the preceding day, where it had been indicated that funds would be retracted from rural areas. He said that the Department had to conform to what the Premier had been saying.
The Chairperson reminded Mr Mackenzie that there were hot spots in the rural areas as well, which Mr Mackenzie acknowledged.
Dr Macdonald assured the Committee that the Department had a sound relationship with the City of Cape Town. He said the issue of signage was a matter that the Department had “never thought of,” but that the Department was now aware of its importance.
As regards the issue of hot spots, that was a continuous challenge which the Department had, and this would be integrated into their efforts going forward.
He reiterated that the Department was doing a review of the youth cafes, and that they would continue to publicise them. The review would look at whether the issue of the youth cafes concerned the problem of advertising and promotion, or whether it was a problem of accessibility. This would be done through comparison with other youth cafes which were performing well, where accessibility was not an issue, as well as the use of an outreach model which was used by other more successful cafes.
Regarding fraud in NGOs, he said that although there would always be some irregularities in any large organisation, the Department had systems in place designed to detect such irregularities, and so far they appeared to be effective.
Ms W Philander (DA) asked about the Department’s coordination with other departments. She quoted the Department’s mission statement, and then related it to the issue of old age homes, and particularly one in Draakenstein, where a need had been expressed for a care facility, but the request had been directed to the Department of Transport and Public Works. She wanted to know how the different departments communicated with each other when such a need arose, and how requests could be communicated with the relevant departments automatically to ensure a streamlined service.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) quoted a sentence which specified that the Department would redeploy its social workers to deliver services wherever they arose. She wanted to know whether this included schools where learners and teachers alike were traumatised by gangs. If so, how many social workers would be deployed.
She asked how many social worker posts were vacant and when they would be filled, since this had a direct impact on service delivery, and also on the overworked conditions under which workers laboured.
The Chairperson asked Dr Macdonald to address the question of what mechanism the Department had in place to address the question of alternative facilities when liaising with the Department of Transport and Public Works, since there seemed to be no movement.
He also asked about the provisions to be made for transport for persons with intellectual disabilities. He reminded the Department that in their last engagement, the Committee had been informed that vehicles were being procured, so he wanted an update in this regard, and whether it would be finalised before the start of the new financial year.
Dr Macdonald, responding to the question on old age homes, said that the Department did engage with the Department of Public Works on property-related matters, especially regarding the use of buildings or properties for the purpose of old age homes. Public Works had their own processes which they were bound to follow. If Public Works elected to use a given property for some purpose other than that required by the Department, then there was little it could do to remedy the situation.
He said one option available to the Department was to lease property from Public Works, and then sublet it. This was quite risky, however, since sometimes the properties suffered from mismanagement, as had happened before -- for example, the Geneva House in Eersterivier. Here the property saw an influx of persons not authorised to occupy it, including an incident of prostitution, all of which had led to illicit profiteering. In the end, Public Works had had to seek an eviction order. General speaking, the property used by the Department was made available by Public Works for the former’s general use for official activity, but the Department was not the only one requesting services from Public Works. There were other departments doing the same, and it was therefore subject to availability.
Regarding Ms Windvogel’s question about the deployment of social workers, the first thing to mention was that 30 new social workers were being sought to deal directly with victims of GBV and other trauma services. Second was the fact that the Department wished to introduce social workers into schools. The Department was working on a ratio of one social worker to two schools, and aimed to reach 30 schools in the first financial year. This would be ten schools in the first three safety priority areas, which in turn would amount to fifteen social workers and fifteen supervisors. Subsequent years would see an increase in the number of social workers. The total number of schools the Department was aiming to reach was 95, resulting in the appointment of approximately 47 social workers. Regarding the vacancies which must still be filled, that process was currently under way, as the first round of adverts had been placed, but no suitable candidates had been identified. The Department was now in its second round. The Department had created more posts than had actually existed previously. He maintained that it was quite difficult to find candidates who had the requisite qualifications and experience needed in social development.
The Department often dismissed social workers due to the rough environment in which they worked. Because of the rough nature of the environment and the children with which the workers dealt, sometimes they would lose their cool and assault the children in their care. More than 60% of children in the system were under 18, many of whom were violent offenders, and they continually challenged the social workers. Unlike the prison system, where officials had equipment to deal with violent incidents, social workers did not. This seemed to expose the youth care workers to increased strain, which sometimes could result in the assault of the child, which resulted in turn to a criminal offence and hence their dismissal. The Department therefore had a high turnover. There were some precedent-setting cases addressing these incidents before the courts.
Mr Jordan then addressed the Chairperson’s question regarding the procurement of vehicles for persons with intellectual disabilities. He advised that there were two Volkswagens which had been delivered to the Department of Public Works and Transport in Cape Town. They were now awaiting two Nissan vehicles, which were the final two vehicles receivable.
The Chairperson queried the recruitment of educators. He asked what the Department advertised to attract new educators to the child care centres. He had visited the Clanwilliam facilities where they struggled to find appointees, since the benefits differed.
Dr Macdonald replied that two factors militated against the easy recruitment of good educators in these facilities. One, which had just been mentioned, was the difficult environment. Second was the fact that the appointment of educators, as compared to the Department of Basic or Higher Education, for example, was governed by different Acts. The Department employed persons based on the Public Service Act, and not the Education Act. Thus compensation would naturally differ.
There were two alternatives to ensuring a high compensation for potential educators. One was outsourcing, and the other was to recruit through the Department of Education. However, this latter option was abortive due to the fact that possible appointees were not willing to enter into the social development space, given their current financial packages and less strenuous environment.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos raised two questions. The first concerned a certain (unnamed) boy who did not want to go home from the facility where he was kept. She wanted to know what intervention the Department had taken, and why he did not want to leave. Her second question pertained to the separation, or rather the lack of separation, of different classes of offenders. She was concerned that the Department was combining petty thieves with murderers, for instance, which was conducive to recidivism and thus not rehabilitative. She wanted to know if it was not better to separate these different classes of offenders.
Dr Mackenzie informed Ms Bakubaku-Vos that the child in question was in fact well behaved, but due to the fact that he did not want to leave the facility to return home, where the conditions were “terrible”, he had committed a “crime" in order to remain at the facility. He said that where one had an individual case where a child was acting out, the case had to be dealt with on an individual basis by a social worker. In the above case of the child who allegedly had committed a crime to remain in the facility, that may not be true so the case was subject to a social work process. He clarified that the child was already in the system and that because he did not want to leave, he had burnt the room either on the day, or the day before, he was due to leave.
Mr Jordan confirmed that the child had indeed returned home.
Dr Macdonald repeated that each case, especially those subject to tricky circumstances, would have to be dealt with on an individual basis.
Mr Jordan said that the child’s parents were part of a gang as well, or at least involved with gangs.
Dr Macdonald said that sometimes social workers and the courts made mistakes, and conveyed his frustration when a child got admitted to the facility for a crime as petty as stealing a pair of jeans, and such like.
Mr Jordan referred to the separation of classes of child offenders, and said that minor offenders were now separated from offenders with more serious records.
Dr Macdonald added that once one put a child into the facility, it was a very tough environment. Moreover, it cost the state about R20 000 per child per month. On the other hand, the way the Children’s Act was set up was for the reintegration of children, so that the isolation of any one child was not always entirely possible. Children were moved within the system, depending on the nature of their case.
As regards the filing system -- which Dr Macdonald described as a “tricky one” -- what the Department wished to do this year was to migrate the child database on to a digital platform. This would start with all new children coming into the system, particularly foster children. There had been national systems available, but they were not functioning optimally. The Department wanted to implement a very simple and cheap platform to allow for the tracking of children within the system. The legacy of the filing system would take a while to phase across to digital, and would probably never fully disappear. The reason was that social work and court notes were paper-based. There were various electronic systems in place, but most of them remained “fragile.”
The Chairperson then opened the Committee for a second round of questions.
Ms Windvogel asked why the Sanitary Dignity Project had not been rolled out to all disadvantaged schools, particularly in rural areas.
She then referred to the shelters required for victims of GBV. She asked why the infrastructure budget was not addressing such needs.
Mr Mackenzie queried the earmarked allocation for food and nutrition programmes. He wanted more details about how the food relief and nutrition programmes worked, and how it differed from what the City and other organisations were doing. He also queried details regarding access to such programmes.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos welcomed the additional grant for early childhood development. She also wanted a breakdown of the fund allocation to the Sanitary Dignity Project, how much was earmarked for GBV, and how much for programmes dealing with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In this regard, she wanted to know what the R5 million would be used for, and what programme the Department would rollout to combat GBV.
Regarding the earmarked allocation to sustain the deployment of social workers in areas with a high prevalence for GBV and at-risk children, she asked about the approximately R16 million allocated for this purpose. She wanted to know how many more social workers would be deployed, and what exactly this funding allocation would be used for.
She queried why there was a decrease -- and in some cases a discontinuation -- in the transfer allocation for goods and services for households.
She asked how many social workers would be appointed, and when would they be appointed.
As regards victim empowerment, she asked why the Department had not learnt from other provinces, such as Gauteng, which had earmarked “hundreds of millions” against GBV.
She queried whether there were any crime prevention and support programmes that the Department would run in partnership with the entities for community safety. On the question of community safety, particularly regarding youth at risk, she asked whether the Department was satisfied with the progress of the programmes in place.
Concerning women’s development, what was the point of including a line item for women’s development when it was not budgeted for?
Dr Macdonald, addressing Ms Windvogel’s question on the Sanitary Dignity Project, advised that the project would indeed be rolled out in rural areas. Schools were targeted by the Department, based on absenteeism rates according to the Education Department’s data.
With regard to the question on infrastructure payments, a list of funded Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes had been published. This was for infrastructure which the ECD centres were interested in due to deficiencies with existing facilities.
Dr Macdonald clarified that the infrastructure allocation referred to was specifically related to the earmarked allocation received from the national government to expand the infrastructure grant for ECD facilities. The Department did not fund infrastructure for other projects, nor did it fund fixed assets for ECDs, but rather only for safety and security fixtures like fire extinguishers and the like, which may be barriers to a facility being registered.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos queried whether this pertained only to maintenance.
Dr Macdonald answered in the affirmative, and clarified that it was not for new infrastructure. The Department of Social Development did not build any new infrastructure -- all new infrastructure was done by Public Works.
In respect of Mr Mackenzie’s question concerning the difference between what the Department did in relation to the City and other entities regarding food and nutrition, the Department had in the past funded soup kitchens, but had realised that it was insufficient to merely provide food. It had then introduced conditions under which people could access the food. It had renamed the soup kitchens, “Community Nutrition and Development Centres,” and in conjunction with the Department of Health in the Western Cape, attempted to identify the nutritional value of each meal. What the Department provided in fact did differ from the programmes pursued, for instance, by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the City of Cape Town. Whereas the former provides meals to persons affected by disaster for a maximum period of 30 days, the latter provides meals on the premise of disaster relief – for example, where there has been a fire. In contrast, the Department provided meals specifically to alleviate hunger and poverty where the was undue hardship.
Dr Macdonald then addressed Ms Bakubaku-Vos’s query concerning funding allocation. There was R23 million in total funding for the Sanitary Dignity Project. The Department was satisfied with the allocation, because when they had ordered a million sanitary pads, the cost of purchase had been much lower than expected, so the allocation had therefore been appropriate. Initially, the National Treasury had allocated more than needed since they had been uncertain of the cost. This would allow for the distribution of sanitary pads for every female child in the province, but the question was whether this was the right thing to do, due to the massive wastage. He added that the Department provided a brand that was not suitable to some girls, and that they would buy and use their own products if they could afford to.
Regarding the question of the earmarked allocations to sustain the employment of social workers, he said he thought this was related to the social workers’ graduate fund. It was confusing, since the Department had received an additional amount relating to this where graduates, after having received funding, would have to work back their four years to pay off such funding. That total allocation was R14.9 million.
Dr Macdonald raised the problem which the Department had with its expansion of the number of employed social workers, and that was that there was no concomitant expansion in the number of supervisors, so that the ratio currently stood at one supervisor to six social workers. An additional problem was that the Department now had 30 extra GBV social workers, and 50 (or more) bursary-holders as well, so the number of supervisors needed to be increased.
With regard to the R5 million queried, this would be used for additional shelters, as well as to increase bed space in existing shelters.
The R16 million was merely the increase from the preceding year in the earmarked allocation for victim empowerment services. In the preceding year, the allocation was R13 million had been increased by R3 million, for a total of R16 million. This increase would allow for an inflationary increase allocated to existing services, and also for capacity expansion of existing facilities and services.
Mr Jordan indicated that the Department was looking at psychologists (as opposed to social workers) for the rendering of specialised services, such as GBV trauma support. The Department would increase the funding allocation for shelters dealing with human trafficking. There would also be funding pushed into the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs), which included services for both adults and children. There was also an initiative for the training of lay counsellors in the TCCs in order to provide them with a qualification, and the connection of supervisors and social workers to the TCCs.
Dr Macdonald then addressed the decrease in transfers to households.
There had been a decrease of goods and services year-on-year: The Department in-sourced services, and this in-sourcing allowed for a cost decrease due to internal sources. The household expenditure was related to the Department’s leave gratuities, where people who retired were paid out. It would be seen that there were provisions for planned retirement.
With regard to the victim empowerment programme, the Department had had 23 GBV social workers appointed in the preceding year by the national department. These workers were on a four-month contract, from December 2019 to March 2020.
Concerning the item on the development of women, this was in the budget structure. Although the Department did not have any funds reflecting for that particular item, it was included elsewhere in the budget structure. The funding for this line item was reflected in a different budget, and this was because of the structure of the Department itself. The Sanitary Dignity Project allocation, for instance, was reflected as a community development line item, since the community development section was concerned with that project. Thus the services were still being rendered, but the budget was being “parked” elsewhere. This was due to an integrated process that the Department followed, because if one looked at the definition of the women’s development programme, it was related to building competencies and the skills of women. However, if one looked at the Department’s substance abuse programmes, they were all integrated. There was difficulty therefore in extracting specific line items and separating them from the integrated allocations.
Regarding whether the Department was satisfied with the way programmes had been implemented, the Department was of the view that the programmes were effective. In this respect, it funded a therapeutic programme and also programmes for interns once they graduated.
The Chairperson then opened the Committee for a final round of questions.
Ms Windvogel asked why the budget for youth development had decreased. She conveyed her disappointment in this regard, since the youth were the leaders of tomorrow. If the country did not invest in this, what kind of society were they creating?
She added that in the education annual performance plan (APP), the Department had raised concerns about gangsterism, drug abuse and violence in some schools, as that had a social and emotional impact on the wellbeing of learners as well as on their academic performance. She queried how the Department was assisting the Education Department to respond to these issues, or if they were working in silos.
She queried what the reason for the high increase in bursaries was.
Mr Mackenzie wanted to know whether the surplus funds allocated to the Sanitary Dignity Project project would be rolled over, or whether they would be returned to the National Treasury.
With regard to the ECD funding, he asked whether funding was readily available for ECD centres, or whether there was still an application or registration required. He also wanted to know what the terms and conditions were for the funding.
He asked Mr Jordan regarding the factory families in Mossel Bay, and wanted to know what the Department could do to start buying up their intellectual property.
He also asked what had happened to “the doctor from Beaufort West with the blue containers.” This was an interesting project, because it kept children busy after school.
His final question related to the process of applications. He queried how families could apply if they required funding -- what was the procedure; and how did people access those services?
Ms Bakubaku-Vos raised a further question related to GBV. She wanted to know whether the Department could provide up-skilling as part of its training policy to assist NGOs.
Dr Macdonald addressed the question as to why the youth development allocation had decreased. The projects which used to be in the youth budget had shifted elsewhere in the budget, since it was integrated with new projects to be initiated. He agreed that youth needed to be invested in, but it was tricky since it was a cross-departmental initiative. The Department had a limited role in these initiatives, since the major players were the Department of Education and the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, and these were being driven by the economic sector as opposed to the social development sector.
On the question of working with the Education Department to address the issue of gangs and at-risk children, Dr Macdonald advised that the Department was indeed part of the safety plan initiative. As mentioned before, the Department was of the view that social workers needed to be brought into schools to work with students directly. However, principals at various schools were concerned that allowing social workers into their midst would attract negative attention, so they were not very swift in referring at-risk children to the Department. Moreover, there were 50 school social workers for the entire province, which was not enough to assist with the province’s 2 500 schools. This ratio of 50 schools per social worker was untenable, especially when considering that certain social workers were “territorial”, indicating that new social workers should not easily be included in schools under their supervision. The Department was attempting to break down these boundaries.
The Department aimed to bring in a much more comprehensive set of services, focusing not only on substance abuse, but also on misbehaviour, particularly at primary schools and “identifying children early.” Misbehaviour was more easily remedied when identified at an earlier age. He commended the Department of Education for their forthrightness in allowing NGOs and Social Development to come into the schools to assist. Previously they had been cautious about allowing NGOs into schools since they had a concern about disrupting teaching time.
Dr Macdonald commented on the question about the increase in the budget for bursaries for specialisation in substance abuse treatment. This fund allocation was previously under the substance abuse office, but had since been moved over to the bursary line item, since it was now managed through a central bursary office. This was purely for the rationalisation of the management of the bursary process. Bursaries, however, had always been provided for, and included programmes at the universities of Cape Town, the Western Cape and Stellenbosch. Internal staff were also provided with bursaries where appropriate.
Mr Jordan addressed Ms Windvogel’s question regarding the signing of Transfer Payment Agreements (TPAs) with NGOs. All NGOs had signed their contracts for the last financial year. As soon as the budget speech was finalised, the Department would introduce the new TPAs. NGOs were given a few months to sign the TPAs. April, May and June were months which were afforded to NGOs for negotiation with the Department for funding, targets and outputs which were to be included in the contracts. He said that funding was not stopped in these negotiation months, but rather was extended from the preceding year to allow for continuous funding and minimal disruption to services. These extensions were then reconciled with the new values at the end of June, and the difference was then disbursed.
Dr Macdonald indicated that any unspent funds would be returned to the National Treasury.
Mr Jordan responded to Mr Mackenzie’s query regarding the terms and conditions of the ECD funding for infrastructure. The conditional grant was dependent on very specific criteria, and was related to maintenance, and not to capital, new buildings or extra rooms. The organisations which received infrastructure funding were conditionally (not fully) registered. That was due to the fact that the health and safety conditions were not as they should be, or it could be that they were not zoned. In the City of Cape Town, the zoning issues had yet to be finalised, specifically in the townships, after the finalisation of which there would be a re-registration. Funds for maintenance were disbursed immediately. The Department also had a quantity surveyor who did the required checks and costing, and who had to follow up before the funds were disbursed. Once all criteria were met, final registration could occur. The Department did not fund privately owned properties. With regard to the intellectual property purchases, Mr Jordan advised Mr Mackenzie that the Department was working “very hard” on this issue.
Dr Macdonald addressed Mr Mackenzie’s question regarding the Beaufort West after-school project (concerning the blue containers). He requested a follow-up question about this to provide the Department with more detail. If it was an after-school programme, it may be something that the Department was already funding, although the Department was not the only organisation which funded such projects.
Regarding Ms Bakubaku-Vos’s question on the provision of training for assisting NGOs, Mr Jordan indicated that the Department did perform a certain amount of training and assistance to NGOs, which was funded by the Department.
Dr Macdonald said that the victim empowerment legislation was primarily around the criminal justice sector at the moment. The legislation which pertained to the Department of Social Development was still before the National legislature in draft form. The Victim Support Services Bill would bring a certain formality to the victim empowerment space.
The Chairperson then opened the proceedings to questions from the public who were present at the meeting.
A member of the public said there were three pieces of legislation that were currently in draft form, of which the Domestic Violence Act was open for public comment, and was a critical piece of legislation which required change. She said that she had liaised with some of the NGOs, who had conveyed that they were a “bit lost,” and asked the Department to look into that.
She asked about the funding of the community development degree. She maintained that the money allocated for the degree was minimal, and that if the Department was serious about community development, then the budget allocation was a bit of a “slap in the face”. The question was, did the Department allocate specific budgets to specific women’s empowerment programmes, or was it cross-cutting, where programmes needed to identify women to be empowered?
Her second questioned related to the TCCs, specifically as regards children. She maintained that within the hotspots which had been identified, she was not certain whether the neglect of children was taken seriously. She pointed out that the data on the abuse and neglect of children in the first quarter of the year showed that more than 1 000 children had fallen victim, specifically in the Elsies Rivier and Goodwood areas.
Her third question concerned the Dignity Sanitary Packs. She pointed out that these were specifically targeting schools. Her question was therefore about the provision of this service to the female learner who was not in school. Were these cases picked up, and if so, how was the service rendered?
Her final question related to the Langeberg area. She wanted to know how it was that the Department funded a network which did not really provide a service, yet denied funding to an organisation within the area which provided a service for substance abuse.
Dr Macdonald took up the remarks concerning amendments to legislation first. The consultation process was usually embarked upon through the National legislature, and the Department did partake in those processes. Thus it did provide guidance and input to the Standing Committee and members of the public. The Department was also part of a number of forums within the sector, where the Department engaged with NGOs on new legislation.
The community development degree funding was quite a new academic qualification, as there had not been such a degree until very recently. In terms of the Department’s budget at the moment, and also considering the services that the Department was mandated to render as opposed to those which it merely wished to render, he indicated that there was very little available to allocate to such funding at present.
On the question of whether specific budgets were allocated to specific women’s empowerment projects, he indicated that the Department did do so, and cited the example of shelters where skills training programmes, as well as reintegration projects concerning women’s empowerment, were rendered. There were also grants which were issued for this purpose. These were reflected in the budget, but they were not disaggregated.
The issue of childhood abuse and neglect was at the very centre of social development, and constituted one of the Department’s biggest budget allocations. The childhood protection service was the Department’s primary statutory mandate, reflected by the almost 37 000 children in alternative care. Regarding the cited cases in Elsies Rivier and Goodwood, the Department was keen to obtain any relevant information which the public had available.
Dr Macdonald said that the whole point of the Sanitary Dignity Packs programme was to keep girls in school. The menstrual cycle of female learners, combined with an inadequate supply of sanitary products, contributed to absenteeism from school, thus the provision of these products aimed to remedy such absenteeism. Therefore the primary target was girls in schools who would potentially miss school or drop out. He acknowledged that the issues of girls who remained at home needed to be brought into the spotlight and be addressed. He pointed out that there were countries which had provided these products to every female child in the country, but questioned the affordability of this option in the context of South Africa.
Mr Jordan said that the Department funded any NGO, trust or non-profit company that applied to the Department though a formal process. What he had picked up was that certain NGOs would send in their own unofficial applications, and not follow Departmental processes, which were available on the social development website. A call for proposals was opened every three years, and would be advertised in the news media. The Department received between five and six thousand applications from NGOs, and it had specific criteria about how, and what, it funded.
Dr Macdonald adding that when applications were made during the three year cycle, funding could be granted only if there were funds available.
The meeting was adjourned.
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