The Department of Social Development (DSD) and its entities took the Committee through a comprehensive update on the measures put in place by to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Committee was pleased by the in-depth reporting and appreciated the Department’s honesty when addressing its shortcomings and lessons learned. Members expressed their condolences to the Department and its entities for the officials who passed away due to Covid-19-related illnesses.
Members voiced interest in the Department’s post-Covid 19 plans relating to food-security, the proposed e-vouchers, integrated call-centres, the Social Relief of Distress (SRD) Grant applications and payments,. They expressed concern on the feasibility of the R350 SRD grant and how the Department is going to move forward assisting the ever-growing population of unemployed citizens. They also asked for clarity around the basic income grant.
The Committee asked the Department if it could get the Fraud Unit Manager to take them through the different fraud cases brought to light related to SASSA and SASSA cards.
The Committee welcomed the Department’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) interventions, particularly the establishment of Khuseleka One Stop centres and the interventions it considered in its efforts to curb alcohol abuse. The Committee emphasised the importance of communication between the government and its citizens as an essential tool to create good relations between government and its citizens.
Members raised concern on the issue of alcohol and drug abuse and the prospective interventions. It was suggested that there is a relationship between alcohol abuse, undiagnosed mental illnesses and trauma and the Committee urged the Department to implement interdisciplinary action plans as well as collaborating with others to find ways of curbing alcohol abuse.
The Chairperson welcomed the Committee, Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu and the Department of Social Development (DSD) and its entities.
He said that the Committee has not addressed the pandemic for quite some time and following the President’s address on the proposed Economic Recovery Plan , the Committee will have to go over it, to navigate a response to the aftermath caused by the pandemic. When the country reached alert level 1 the Committee was expected to stay in contact with the progress in dealing with the virus. That is why it is important to continuously meet with the DSD.
He said they are currently busy with the panel put together by the Committee to deal with the Central Drug Authority (CDA,) something that will have to be done before the end of the year.
He said that due to the pandemic the Committee has been unable to complete their oversight roles. There are many issues that need attention such as; people sleeping in front of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay-points to be ahead of the queue; the challenge of communicating the new forms of payments by the Department; gender-based violence (GBV); food security; and the social worker shortage. All these issues should be overseen by the Committee. He said his wish is that before the end of the year if the programme allows, the Committee must have done some oversight on some of these issues. The Chairperson went on to welcome the Deputy Minister and the Department, citing that the Committee has a lovely relationship with the Department.
The agenda was tabled before the Committee.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) moved for the adoption of the agenda.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) seconded the adoption.
An apology was given on behalf of the Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, who had to attend a special Cabinet meeting.
Ms Mvana moved for the acceptance of the apology.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) seconded the acceptance of the apology.
Remarks by the Deputy Minister
Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu greeted the Committee and apologised upfront explaining that she was in the Northern Cape and was busy driving. She said that the Department continues to strive to become more responsive to the issues faced by its sectors. She said that the Department, recommitted itself at the recent lekgotla to continue to provide the necessary resources and intervene to carry South Africans through certain situations. She said that it will strive to create jobs within the different sectors of the DSD.
The Chairperson then handed over to Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting Director-General (ADG), Department of Social Development (DSD)
Update on Measures Put in Place to Respond to Covid-19 Pandemic
Mr Mchunu thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present once again. He took the Committee through the presentation which gave a comprehensive update on the measures put in place by the Social Development Portfolio to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Mchunu said that what the Department wanted to highlight with their contextual analysis, is that the country is on alert level one of the risk adjusted strategy of the National State of Disaster which is still in effect. Committee Members may have heard reports of the possibility of a second wave coming even though the exact time is not known, however it is anticipated that a second wave is coming. He said that the fact that the country is still on level one means that the curfew will remain in place, the restrictions of gatherings including religious and sport events remain in place and restrictions in terms of the sale of alcohol also remain in place.
Mr Mchunu said that the Department is saying that controlled visits to facilities and centres, especially those run by it are allowed but with very strict measures in place. Interprovincial travel remains open and intercountry travel is allowed with countries that have a low Covid19 impact. He said it is important to note that the number of infections has decreased significantly in the past few weeks and that the country is currently sitting on a recovery rate of 90% and that less people are being admitted to hospitals. However there are serious issues of alcohol abuse which is putting strain on the healthcare system. Even though the country is number 11 now in terms of infection rates, it has a significantly high recovery rate and this is because of the various measures that the government had put in place to ensure slow down of the virus earlier on. The country is reaping the fruits of those early measures now notwithstanding that there are still some new cases on a daily basis, which have significantly decreased. He said that the measures that have been put in place are fundamental and are an indication that the country is not as high on the list as it was.
Speaking to how the past few months have been difficult and catastrophic to mankind, Mr Mchunu referred back to a presentation he had previously done, where he had indicated that mankind had stepped into a new world order because the world it had left in March, is a world it will never return to and the world it is currently in now is a completely new world and the human race is being forced to adopt accordingly. In line with some of the measures that government has put in place, the President announced a very progressive support package of R500 billion for both social and economic support which has been going very well.
Mr Mchunu said that the Department provided social relief in the form of grants, food support and psychosocial support to ensure the survival of individuals and families. This was a fundamental point to raise as more people would have been lost without the interventions that the Department had put in place. These interventions speak to essential services around the survival of people particularly from a social perspective. He said that the Department continued to learn valuable lessons and that it has taken guidance and wisdom from the Portfolio Committee and have started to put some of those measures in place. It has been a useful exercise to have that kind of discourse with the Committee. Some Members of the Committee have reached out to the Department on a range of issues and some of those the Department has been able to address through various correspondence.
Mr Mchunu said that the most critical thing to highlight was that Covid19 was as a result of behavioural change and so the Department continues to punt the message of behavioural change, mainly to avoid the second wave. There are a number of key messages that the government has been putting out around everyone playing their part to save lives and guarding against the second wave but importantly that behavioural change is the only way out.
Ministerial Advisory Committee on Social and Behaviour Change
In line with the social behavioural change, Mr Mchunu highlighted that Minister Zulu and Minister Mkhize of the Department of Health (DoH) started a Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on social behavioural change because this was the crux of the problem with Covid19. There were times when one would go into townships or neighbourhoods and see that there were some people who are bluntly ignoring the protocols, where there were mass gatherings in some areas and congestions in other areas with people not wearing masks.
He said that the MAC has been able to give advice largely through virtual engagements but there has also been some community outreach engagements, with strict adherence to protocols.
Re-Opening of DSD, NDA & SASSA Offices
Mr Mchunu said that the Department has endeavoured to ensure that all staff and clients that come into the portfolio are taken care of and are safe and that various measures have been put into place to ensure that staff is protected from contracting Covid. A number of staff members have been affected by and infected with Covid19 and some have lost their lives.
The walk through risk assessment was able to guide and tell the Department which areas were falling short, which were not compliant and which needed to be addressed. One of the areas pointed out, was that the quality of masks was not good and they had to be changed to ensure that the Department got proper cloth masks and it provided those for staff, so that colleagues don’t have excuses of not coming into the office saying that there are no measures in place. Staff members with co-morbidities continue to work from home.
He pointed out that the Department has had to close offices a number of times and this has caused some disruptions in terms of some of the work that it does, but at times it is not necessarily the entire office that is closed but just those areas that may have been affected and it has been able to quickly recover from those closures and communicate accordingly to the public as well.
Summary of COVID-19 Cases in the DSD Sector Recovery Rate: 92%
In this part of the presentation, Mr Mchunu said that the Department just wanted to highlight the number of cases that it has had as far as staff is concerned, because it is the staff that renders the services. While the Department is protecting the millions of citizens in the country when providing services, it is important to understand that the staff is also at risk and so it needs to ensure that it puts measures in place to address that. Unfortunately some have passed on in the line of duty and may their souls rest in peace.
The Department has lost a number of critical staff members both at a national and provincial level and as a result there has been a gap that has been created which is not easy to fill. The recovery rate is at 92% indicating that most employees have recovered quite well and is in line with the National statistics. He said that this attests to the measures that the Department has put in place. All colleagues that contracted the virus were contacted on a daily basis by the Departments nurses, which were specifically employed to assist in that regard and to ensure that it could take the staff members through a wellness programme as well. This is not only done for the officials but for their families as well, because they are also affected.
Re-opening of Social Sector Service Centres
This part of the presentation was to bring to the Committees attention that all centres adhere with guidelines and regulations put in place. Protocols and guidelines had to be issued as majority of these services are still contact services that the Department provides.
Speaking to the point on Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) registration and compliance, Mr Mchunu said that Member Masango may remember that in some instances members of the public indicated that they have come to an office and it has been closed. He said that in those cases offices had to be closed so that decontamination could take place, but eventually the Department was able to assist and Member Masango could attest to that. Those members of society were contacted immediately and assisted with the registration of their NPOs and the team played a critical role in making this happen. Even though the Department still has the NPO desk open for registration purposes there is also an online service that it provides for registration. However, it has noted that the bulk of people that come into the offices, do so to collect their certificates physically as they prefer this over using the online service to register their NPO. He said that the Department maintains all protocols in this regard and ensures that they are followed to the T.
Mr Mchunu pointed out that with international travel being allowed, the Department is able to proceed with international adoptions and they are working through that process accordingly.
Some of the Departments awareness campaigns have continued, although some would normally be held in venues where there would be crowds of people. It has had to indicate that some of the campaigns cannot stop and because of that it has lead to the adoption of having them virtually. Mr Mchunu reminded Members of the Committee of the recent Child Protection campaign which the Department had in May and the International Day against alcohol and illicit drugs which were hosted online. In all provinces that have treatment centres and other centres, the Department ensures that some of the programmes continue under very strict conditions e.g. some of the support that it provides which is done in groups, is done in very restricted groups.
He said that the Department does believe that it can do more in terms of the treatment centres because when service users are taken through various programmes, they then leave the rehab centres and go back to their families. However it thinks that there is more that it can do around introducing service users to services that can assist them to unlock their potential particularly with the skills that they have so that they are able to contribute to the economy and it is working on some of those programme. It is not moving as fast as the Department would like it to but these are programmes that it will ensure it picks up the pace on. Speaking on capacity building the Department indicated that it does do capacity building programmes and in some instances it has trained additional social workers, in trauma counselling who assist particularly with GBV and it has trained departmental staff in its residential facilities on Covid19 measures together with the DoH.
Mr Mchunu indicated that the community based care and support services for older persons are still closed because of the high risk and exposure. The programmes are not taking place in those centres because of the high risk of exposure for older persons. The Department is working on re-opening these and ensuring that measures put in place are also strict.
DSD Food Security Interventions for Covid 19 Pandemic
Mr Mchunu said that the Department has shifted from providing cooked meals as it did pre-Covid due to the congestion and also because of safety. This is what led to the shift of providing food parcels instead. The Department has once again shifted to using a hybrid approach between food parcels and food vouchers. It has started rolling out food vouchers particularly at SASSA through the SRD grant and is still working on piloting some of those. From those that have been rolled out, the Department is getting good responses from recipients who say that it is easier for them to access that.
He said it is important to highlight the involvement of various agents including businesses and private sector who have worked with the Department through the provision of food. There were some challenges around co-ordination in that it wasn’t always clear who was providing what to whom, but over time everyone involved has been able to move past that and it has been important to ensure that the dignity of those receiving food parcels is maintained either by ensuring that the food in the parcels is not expired, it is non-perishable goods that are providing and that long lines and congestion is avoided. The Department has found that in some instances food was expired.
The Department has been able to feed 5 million people with over 1 million food parcels. Gauteng was the highest province that food support was extended to and the North West was the lowest due to population.
Proposed interventions to reduce alcohol abuse
Detailed interventions highlighting availability, drinking and driving counter measures, advertising and packaging, pricing, treatment and brief interventions, and surveillance, can be found in the attached presentation.
Government’s legacy project to curb GBVF as the next unwarranted pandemic
The President declared GBV as the second pandemic.
- Khuseleka One Stop Centre Model: multi-disciplinary approach to respond to victims of GBVF as well as prevention of further victimisation.
- Shelters: temporary residential facility that accommodates victims of GBV (Abused women and children) including victims of human trafficking for the period ranging between a day and six months depending on the need.
- To date, 45 districts have at least one shelter and a total of 136 shelters exist countrywide, with DSD funding 117 GBV shelters.
CARA victim empowerment programme
312 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were evaluated and approved to provide both indirect (awareness) and direct services (shelters and counselling) to victims of GBVF (see attached presentation for more information).
NDA volunteer programme
Ms Thamo Mzobe, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), National Development Agency (NDA), took the Committee through the NDA volunteer programme. All NDA programmes are open under level 1.
- The NDA has developed a programme to deploy 2000 volunteers through 200 CSO’s in 52 districts at a total cost of R32m, including management fees to CSOs and volunteer stipends, to:
- Implement Covid-19 advocacy and awareness programmes in communities.
- Support to Community Nutrition Development Centres (CNDC’s) in distributing food parcels to vulnerable households.
- Support to SASSA in SRD applications and queue management during grant pay-outs; and
- Collect household data for better planning and implementation of interventions.
SASSA processing and payment of covid-19 r350 SRD grant as well as other top-ups
Ms Totsie Memela, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), took the Committee through various points on the:
- Processing and payment of the R350 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grants
- Reconsiderations of declined applications
- Progress on the implementation of top-up grants
- Impact of covid-19 on disability grant
- Disability grant- challenges
(see attached presentation for further details)
Some key lessons and recommendations for the future
Mr Mchunu said that the pandemic exposed high levels of poverty and inequality in the country but even during this pandemic the Department could contribute to bettering the lives of many. He took the Committee through a range of lessons learned by the Department during this time and a list of recommendations for the future in the following areas:
- Social Relief of Distress and Food Security
- Servicing of Social Grants Applicants
- Establishment of Shelters and Khuseleka One Stop Centres
- Applications for registration (ECD and NPO)
- Integrated DSD Portfolio Call Centre
- Enhanced Communication on Behavioural Change
More information on this can be found in the attached presentation.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the in-depth presentation.
Ms B Masango (DA) thanked the Department and its entities for the presentation. She conveyed her condolences to the families of the staff who passed on in the line of duty due to Covid-19. She praised the efforts of the Department in putting wellness programmes in place for the staff as they are the frontline workers who provide the services to the public.
She expressed her excitement in the new call centre initiative as many of the complaints that come through are about the call centre and emails that are not responded to. If this initiative becomes functional it will provide much needed relief to the systems. She thanked the Department and SASSA on being quick to respond to any queries sent their way by the Committee.
She asked how the Department plans to look at the post-Covid effects on social issues such as food security, psycho-social support, CNDCs etc. She asked how far the contract is to help with the data harvesting.
She said social media has been spreading conflicting messages regarding the clearing of ID numbers for people receiving the R350 SRD grant, and some people do not know why they are being refused. She asked the Department to clarify that matter and if the grant can be accessed from retailers.
Lastly, she asked if SASSA would be able to assist people who are still waiting for their grant applications to be approved and who are destitute, with food parcels or food vouchers.
Ms A Motaung (ANC) thanked the Department and its entities for the presentation. She noted the financial constraints of expanding the R350 SRD and the need to provide support to those who are unemployed. She asked if the Department has engaged with stakeholders on prospects. Where will these funds come from? How will they be mobilised?
She asked the Department to report on the progress made in the development of the e-vouchers and how will it work?
Ms L Arries (EFF) said it is concerning that some offices have been closed but none of the offices in the Western Cape were closed when the Western Cape is seen as a hot spot. She said that some of the CNDC’s need an urgent oversight as it is not conducive for people to go and collect food at certain centres.
She asked what assistance is being provided to Non-Profit Organisations (NPO’s) that are struggling but still aiding people during this time. She asked what assistance is being given to the Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) as she saw in the news that the ECDs took the Department of Social Services to court.
It is known that the R350 will be extended to December, but +- 4 million people have since been added to the unemployment list. She asked the Department what plans they have in place to accommodate those people within the set SASSA programme.
She asked how the current financial situation faced by the post office, influences the people who receive their grants from the post office as people queue the entire day only to find out that there is no money and return home empty handed.
In Kwazulu-Natal (KZN), someone was recently found in possession of 495 SASSA cards. Loan shark fraud is a big issue, because SASSA cards can be debited or funds transferred through ewallet services. She asked SASSA is they have any security measures in place to curb such transactions.
Ms Arries asked what SASSA plans to do with regards to the grants received by children in safety houses, as the amount has remained at R970 for a while.
She noted the shortage of social workers and also that the amount social workers are being paid is concerning, especially those who work for the ACVV. She asked the Department to investigate that.
Mr D Stock (ANC) appreciated the comprehensive presentation put forward by the Department. He asked the Department what has come from the engagements with National Treasury on the issue of food insecurity.
He asked what is being done to address the challenges with the food distribution system throughout the country i.e. proposal of the voucher, standardising food parcel etc. He also asked how the backlogs will be addressed and the timeframes for these backlogs in relation to issuing of grants, food parcels etc.
Lastly, He asked the Department how it is going to handle the issues raised by the workers of the ECDs who took the Department to court pleading for better State support.
Ms Ngwenya thanked the Department for the presentation and sent her condolences to the families of the deceased staff members. She asked the Department how the discussions around the basic income grant are going and if there was any progress.
She thanked the Department for looking into interventions to combat alcohol abuse, as it is a driving factor for most of the social issues including GBV. The Committee welcomes the interventions and hope they will all be followed up on and implemented. She said that alcohol abuse is leading to communities losing key moral values.
She said fraud around SASSA is very concerning. She asked if the Committee could get the Fraud Unit Manager to take them through these fraud cases, to see if anything can be done to remedy this. A lot of money is being lost from SASSA through the stealing and fraud cases.
She suggested that the Minister of Police be added to the Ministerial Advisory Committee to assist and provide input on awareness programmes for social behavioural change. She asked if the socially vulnerable groups that form part of the MAC include women and children who were victims of GBV.
She asked how many vouchers have been distributed so far and how people can receive these vouchers.
Ms Ngwenya said that there are not enough shelters yet. It is important to increase the number of Khuseleka one-stop centres in every province. She agreed with the ADG that the goal should be to have fewer shelters due to the decrease of GBV but for now more is needed.
She thanked SASSA for their interventions when called upon for assistance specifically Ms Dianne Dunkerley, Executive Manager: Grants Administration, SASSA, noting the 60 000 requests for the R350 grant reconsideration that have been received. She asked SASSA how long they think this process will take and how many have already been taken through the process and how many have already received a positive response.
She noted with concern that there are a number of Doctors that have withdrawn from their SASSA contracts. The question that followed is how many have withdrawn and what the remedial actions towards that will be.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) said that since SASSA and the DSD have been engaging with the South African Post Office (SAPO), there have been noticeable improvements in service delivery. As a Committee they must make sure the beneficiaries and SAPO staff adhere to the Covid health and safety protocols. She said that it does not seem that the CEO of SASSA is making sure SAPO is adhering to the health and safety protocols, because when looking at the post office queues, people are not adhering to protocols and one asks oneself if Covid is over. She asked if discussions have taken place with SAPO on how its financial challenges will affect the distribution of funds to the beneficiaries.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) thanked the Department, SASSA and NDA for their presentations. She said that it is her belief that alcohol serves as a form of escape for many people and extra measures should be taken to curb the abuse of alcohol. She asked if the Department is engaging with other departments such as the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTI), to discuss issues around alcohol abuse and ways to curb it, taking into account the value chain involved in purchasing alcohol.
She mentioned that a Khuseleka centre in Vryburg, North West was recently found to not have functional CCTVs, no empowerment programmes to upskill the women, and no educational programmes for the children whilst they are not in school. Millions are being spent on these centres therefore the Department should ensure that all of them are functional and servicing the community.
She pointed out that the Committee has requested on numerous occasions a list of the NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who were recipients of the CARA grant and to date have not received a list. Recently money has been handed over to NGOs in KZN. It would be helpful to have the list when someone calls from KZN to then refer them to the CSOs who received State funding.
She asked if the Department reviewed the report by the Department of Police on how they identified the top 30 GBV hotspots. 8 of the Hotspots were found in the Western Cape and Gauteng and 7 were said to be in KZN. But, looking at the allocation of funds, KZN only received R7 million while Limpopo who is not in the top 30, received R16 million. She asked if the different Departments are communicating with each other when there is allocation of resources to combat GBV.
She asked if the emerging CSOs are registered and if they have NPO numbers. Ms Abrahams also asked what municipalities fall under number 31 and 32 on the list of hotspots identified by the Department of Police, so that the Department can ensure they do not rise into the top 30.
She said that the Committee may need a presentation on the basic income grant, as the media have been reporting on how much it would cost based on projections. All this information is coming from media houses and not the Department, so a meeting should be scheduled.
She said that the beneficiaries of the disability and care dependency grants are probably very happy that the grants were extended till December. However, it is concerning how not even one of the regional SASSA offices have a senior manager in the disability unit. The vacancy rate has increased over the years. She asked SASSA to address the challenges they have in terms of its capacity and that they should make it a priority.
Ms van der Merwe thanked the DSD, NDA and SASSA for all the hard work they have done during these trying times. She conveyed her condolences to the families of the staff members who passed on in the line of duty. She thanked the ADG on the special focus placed on GBV.
She said that it is disheartening that the wrong people have been paid. She asked if all the government employees who are collecting the R350 grant, have been tracked down and how many there are. She asked the Department to keep the Committee informed on the progress of these investigations as people who steal from the poor need to be held accountable. She said she believes there is a special place in hell for people who steal from the poor and that everyone who has been collecting money fraudulently should be held accountable.
She asked for clarity around the review and appeal process. Is the review process only starting now and why so late? Has the updated set of data from the UIF been received?
She asked for an update on the status of payments to NGOs in the Eastern Cape. Have all the NGOs that were waiting for their payments, received it? There was a scathing court judgment against the DSD in the Eastern Cape with regards to non-payment of old age homes and that is very discouraging.
She said the presentation mentioned an electronic system for tracking, from supply chain to the distribution of food parcels/grants/voucher. She asked who will be developing this tool. How will it work and when will it be available?
Ms van der Merwe said that there was an open letter by the National Shelter Movement addressed to the Department and other stakeholders addressing the underfunding of shelters. She asked if the Department has responded to that open letter.
She asked for the data regarding beds available for treatment and how many people are seeking out treatment, so that this information can be compared. The common complaints are related to people saying they cannot access these services. The Committee needs to get an understanding of whether these programmes are working or not. Are there enough treatment centres? Are there enough beds and where are they situated?
She commended the Department for their frank assessment on the challenges and lessons learnt. She said that when issues are raised, they need to be addressed when they arrive and not after the fact.
She asked what exploring and piloting the food distribution hybrid model which includes food parcels, vouchers, and a grant, will entail. There are already concerns as e-vouchers cannot be sent on cellphones due to RICA concerns. How will the Department deal with that?
She spoke on the universal DSD number and how many people have tried calling different call centre numbers and could not reach SASSA or the Department during the pandemic. She asked the Department for a time frame as to when this toll-free number will be available.
Ms T Breedt (FF+) thanked the Department and its entities for its clear-cut assessment. They have had many challenges and have also done good work. She said she received many enquires around the basic income grant and how that would work.
She mentioned the SASSA payments that have been made to staff and the R290 million that has gone missing. There needs to be proper consequence management and that the perpetrators are brought to book. She agreed that there is a special place in hell for people who steal from the poor.
She asked for a list of payments made to NGOs all over the country. She informed the Committee and the Department of recent reports involving people who buy drugs from drug houses and the owner in turn keeping their SASSA cards. She stressed that it is the responsibility of the Department to investigate substance abuse.
She asked SASSA if the 60 000 appeal applications will be paid and be made available at the post office automatically. She said that she received complaints from people who have been approved for the grant and received the SMS confirming but when attempting to go to the post office they are rudely refused. Is there a way for these grant holders to get assistance for this?
The Chairperson said that there have been many positive responses from the Committee. He said that the positive responses should intensify the Departments efforts to improve the areas where the Committee has raised concern. The quick responses given by the call centre, SASSA and the time taken to resolve issues, is going to be a defining feature on whether the Department is adapting to the challenges put forth. He said that the beneficiaries need to be educated on the issues that are affecting them. There generally is an agreement in this country to ensure no one is left behind. Even the issue of the basic income grant seems to be agreeable and it needs to be implemented properly. All the things that the Committee wants need to be done within capacity.
He agreed with many of the points made by members such as the oversight roles, the use of SASSA cards illegally and calling a meeting with the fraud unit, list of CSOs receiving funding from the state and the issue of double dipping. He recalled the presentation made on alcohol and said the Committee should engage with that presentation. He agreed with the ADG that the number of shelters is not a good reflection of where the country is at with GBV and the goal should be addressing those underlying issues, whether it is the economy, social infrastructure, housing, water, etc.
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) thanked the Department for the presentation and conveyed her deepest condolences to the families and the Department on their loss. She said the issue around alcohol abuse is due to a lack of psycho-social support and health services to treat psychiatric disorders and grant psychological support to poor communities. The health services in these areas are very poor and it is an issue that needs to be raised. A lot of the issues behind substance abuse lie in the trauma and undiagnosed mental illnesses faced by many people. It has escalated under the lockdown, people made memes about it, but alcohol is not just used recreationally but to numb pain. She said DSD understands this because of their background and it is a gap that needs closing. The Department needs to create interdepartmental intervention to upscale the psycho-social support given to the community.
She thanked the Department for their passion when they presented on GBV. She said preventing GBV ties into strengthening support to vulnerable families. Lack of housing is a major contributor to vulnerable women and children. The Department should consult with provinces to prioritise housing to single headed households, especially women. The Committee needs to look at a long term and holistic solution to address the breakdown of families.
She asked the Department to respond to what the Committee has asked before. Many members have asked for the list and she urged the Department to just respond. The R350 grant is not sustainable in the long term. This points to the capacity of the Department as it cannot fight this battle alone. She emphasized the need for coordination and facilitation to address social challenges. When women and children do not receive maintenance the economic vulnerability of women is exasperated. There must be an advocacy facilitated role that forms part of the fight against GBV.
She said that it is impossible to provide everyone with food parcels. The Department should become part of the community response where land is made available to farm. At this stage innovative interventions are needed to address the matter of food insecurity. She said it is a shame that the Department did not mention the aggressive regulatory measures and how that caused a breakdown between the Department and the people who provided food security to the people.
Ms Mvana asked the Department if it can strengthen its relationship with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), since there are already existing shelters close to police stations to aid GBV not being utilised. Would it not be better to just continue with the already existing shelters that are being underutilised, than starting afresh? She said she understands that the aim was to have one centre in each district, but that has not even been achieved.
She said Centres for Disease Control (CDC’s) are not registering because they are having problems filling in the application forms. Is there any way the Department can publicise how to register for the CDCs?
She said the Department should continue to keep up the good work of reducing congestion in SASSA queues. A clear difference can be seen with receiving grants on the different dates.
The Chairperson said that communication is very important to ensure clarity in society. It is priceless. There is nothing as critical as people interacting with a predictable government, knowing that when they call, there will be an honest response. The Department needs to intensify its communication so that people can be responded to. He said that he adopted a slogan over the years ‘‘timeously and with certainty’’ meaning that there will be a response within healthy time and a certainty that you will be responded to. People get upset when there is no predictability between themselves and state institutions.
Mr Mchunu thanked the Committee for going through the entire presentation and appreciated the comments of the Members. The Department wants to always keep in touch with the communities it serves. If a client comes in and requires a service, the Department should be able to render that service.
Ms Isabella Sekawana, Chief Director: ECD and Partial Care, Department of Social Development replied to the question around ECDs saying that Vhangesali received 53987 ECD programmes that responded to the project and the number aggregated according to the type of programme as well as the different provinces. The Department is in the second phase of Vhangesali and the main purpose is to ensure that the ECDs register. There is currently a plan to expand and there has been progress so far. Each province already has appointed district champions and this month all the districts will be briefed.
She said the Department is planning to launch phase two of Vhangesali before the end of October and is working with IT and the New Leader’s Foundation to ensure that everything can be digitalised. The Department will pilot this initiative in Mpumalanga - this is to ensure that the applications can be tracked through the system.
She said that the goal is to empower ECDs to complete and understand their applications and make it easy to receive and process those applications. After that process, a sight assessment will be done and through the process the lines of communication will remain open, so everyone involved knows what is going on.
She said that the Department supports ECDs by providing them with the necessary PPE.
The Chairperson asked if he could be dismissed as he had another meeting and asked Mr Stock to temporarily chair the meeting.
Mr Peter Netshipale, Deputy Director General: Integrated Development, Department of Social Development, thanked the Committee for their comments. He said that the MAC led by the Ministers of Social Development and Health, consists of 41 members of the civil society, inter-faith organisations, traditional leaders, and traditional healers. The Committee advises the Ministers, including the Minister of Police and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and any other Minister they deem fit, will be requested to join the meeting.
The committee used to meet weekly on Wednesday from 3pm to 6pm. They are now meeting every second week from 3pm to 5pm. He said the MAC advices the Ministers on issues related to Covid19 and the implication of Covid19 within communities and what the government needs to do.
He said the Department has been distributing food parcels since March and is aware of the challenges. He noted that as the R350 grant was distributed, the demand for food parcels decreased. Initially 254 000 food parcels were being distributed per month and now this has decreased to 63 000 and only Gauteng and Limpopo are distributing food. The Department has looked at the system and reviewing the e-voucher feasibility and procurement of all things involved. The Department received food donations and distributed them accordingly.
He said the biggest challenge experienced with the food parcel distribution in most of the provinces was due to the budget of the seven provinces being finished. The Department needs to request more funds from Treasury.
He said that the CNDCs were closed due to Covid, to maintain good health standards and protocols. The Department has requested them to open under level one. They should be ready to operate on a takeaway basis. To date, none of them opened except the ones in the Western Cape. He noted that under level one many schools, old age homes and centres have opened, and the burden on the food security programmes have been reduced, except the added number due to increasing unemployment.
Ms Siza Magangoe, Chief Director: Families, Department of Social Development (DSD), replied that the Department has developed a GBV hotspot emergency response plan with all the nine provinces to ensure that all the issues are responded to. The Department will return and share the plan with the Committee.
She said that there are serious challenges around sheltering services. There is an integrated-intersectional policy in development to ensure the Department responds comprehensively to issues of funding, issues of LGBTQI and issues with families within the shelters. This policy provides a quick way to respond to all the challenges and the policy will be finalised within this financial year.
She said that the Department is aware that funding received by shelters is not enough. The provinces are funding the shelters, but the Department is assisting by funding through CARA and many other resources. The Department is also consulting with Treasury to make it aware that the Department is not receiving adequate funding, which makes it hard to meet all the requirement needs by service providers.
She said that some of the Khuseleka centres are not fully functional according to the model followed by the Department. The Department will increase funds to make sure they renovate and improve the CCTVs and most importantly that they work around skills development as this is what makes the Khuseleka centres unique.
She said that NPA infrastructures are different from Khuseleka centres. The NPA is leading the TTS, which is a medical model in a hospital setting and survivors are not allowed to be there for more than 48hours and that does not allow for comprehensive solutions. Khuseleka forms part of the solution to that problem, as a Khuseleka Centre can accommodate women and children for up to six months.
She said that there are measures proposed to various structures and that these measures are what is needed to curb the abuse of alcohol. Proper legislation is needed to ensure implementation of all the proposed measures. Without proper legislation, there is no way to curb the abuse of alcohol.
Mr Mchunu said that the Department has responded to the letter from the shelter’s movement. The Department is engaging the shelters movement and with National treasury for additional financial support. He said the Department is aware of the seriousness of these matters.
Mr Anthony Bauer, Manager of the CARA programme, National Development Agency (NDA), said that the CARA list is available and will be provided to the Committee through DSD. He said that there was an open call for proposal, and the proposals received were assessed and then recommended for funding. CARA should not be a programme on its own but note that even looking at GBV in other provinces, it should be noted that there is support given from other provinces.
Ms Memela thanked the Committee for the support they have always given and said every bit of advice and guidance given will be seen to and applied. She said that she understands the frustration around the appeals and how long it has taken. The Department needed to make sure that the correct data is being pulled because the applications came through via email and it proved to be a challenge.
She said that it is important to highlight that there are two different stages. The first urgency is to provide an interim call-centre for SASSA to be able to deal with customer queries and complaints as numbers have increased drastically. Then, create an integrated call-centre to be used in future with DSD and respond to all the issues presented. It is a work in progress but something that is important to explore.
She said that SASSA has investigated the procurement process for vouchers and is going through the procurement processes for the e-vouchers. The Department has engaged some of the regions, and some of them currently have a manual voucher they have used in the pass, that is being considered as an option whilst waiting for the e-vouchers. It should be able to be rolled out as soon as possible. The idea is to not revert to food parcels but to only use e-vouchers in the future, as food parcels present with many challenges.
She said that the Post Office has been extremely challenged in areas of leadership for a long time but hopefully the Minister has resolved most of the issues. Both Ministers have engaged on an operational level and allow for engagement once a month to report back on issues that have been resolved. It is a huge challenge that the Post Office faces. But SASSA can not be the only entity that saves the post office for them to be able to deliver all the services they need to provide.
The money is paid into the account upfront before the client goes to retrieve the money and in some instances, there was no money available. It has been agreed upon that in some instances the post office should communicate as to how many beneficiaries it can accommodate at a particular time. It is a work in progress and with the intervention by the Minister is should be resolved quickly.
She said that SASSA will report back to the Committee on the issues regarding the fraud. SASSA cards are being issued by the Post Office through their relationship with Post Bank. There have been several arrests on the side of SASSA but also instigation on the side of SAPO.
Ms Dunkerley said that the October direction signed allowed the Department to do reconsiderations by looking at the inflow of money in applicants bank accounts. The directions signed in August introduced the legal framework to allow for appeals. It is work that has been done subsequently to the August directions.
She said that there are currently 60306 requests for reconsideration. These have not been dealt with and are going to be dealt with now. These requests will be dealt with by looking at the applicant’s bank account and comparing it to the updated data provided from UIF. She said getting the refreshed data from them was challenging but will be received soon. She said that in August the means test was applied, and 1.9 million people were declined. These people have already been reconsidered and put into payment.
She said that looking into reconsidering everyone who has applied is just not affordable at this stage. It is important for people to challenge their application and put in a reconsideration request, to make sure they become a part of the process and dealt with. The time frame to deal with all of the reconsiderations is end of October to mid -November.
She confirmed that six doctors exited the contracts and three doctors died.
Mr Mchunu said that the Department is aware of the many discussions around the basic income grant. They are looking into some policy work with the relevant government departments as well as within the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) space. They are looking at modalities, phasing in of various processes and financing options. This will be an expensive venture.
He recalled the presentation done by Dr Harrison from the DG Murray Trust. He said that the Department took some of those guidelines and embedded them into some of the programmes. The Department has also been engaging with Dr Harrison and the DG Murray Trust and discussing various issues regarding issues of substance abuse and significant advances are being made.
He said that the status of NGOs being paid in the Eastern Cape has increased drastically. They were at 37% and are now on 74 % in a space of three weeks, which is a considerable leap in terms of payments to NPOs.
He mentioned that the alignment of support of CFOs in specific hotspots. He picked up the issue as soon as the hotspots came up. He tasked his team to determine where the Department is supporting CSOs if they are in the hotspots and if there is a correlation. Once that is concluded the Department will share the findings with the Committee.
He said that the Department could have gathered more data from the recipients who have applied for the R350 grant. That data would have assisted the department with a range of things and in understanding what the status is of unemployed people. He said the President is about the announce the economic recovery plan and it is a plan about people. The social cluster should find themselves within this plan. Some people who applied for the grant are skilled people and artisans but do not have access to work. There should have been a detailed data set around the people who applied for the grant. This would allow the Department to plug them into jobs when opportunity arises.
He said the Minister recently launched a programme that allows members of the clergy or interfaith leader to start talking and create conversations around GBV of women and children. The Department would like to create awareness not just within faith groups but into all communities.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Fourth Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2019/20 of the Department of Social Development (DSD)
Ms Masango said that when she went through the Reports and they covered all the areas discussed and they said that the Committee can go back to the action steps as the programme allows. She was impressed by how the Reports were written.
The Report was adopted without amendments.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Second Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2019/20 of the Department of Social Development (DSD)
The Report was adopted without amendments.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Third Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2019/20 of the Department of Social Development (DSD)
The Report was adopted without amendments.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the First Quarter Performance and Expenditure Report for 2020/21 of the Department of Social Development (DSD)
The Report was adopted without amendments.
Committee minutes dated 26 August 2020
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Committee minutes dated 2 September 2020
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Committee minutes dated 6 October 2020
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Adoption of draft forth term Committee programme
The Committee Secretary took the Committee through the fourth term programme.
The programme was adopted without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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