Department of Social Development Annual Report: discussion with Western Cape MEC

Social Development (WCPP)

10 December 2020
Chairperson: Mr G Bosman (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Committee Meeting

Western Cape Annual Reports 2019/20 

The Committee engaged with the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) on its annual report. Members wanted to understand how DSD measured the success rate in its focus area of strengthening and preserving family; the activities DSD embarked on for its 365 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign; if DSD has engaged with Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on the transfer of Early Childhood Development to that department; what measures are in place to meet the increasing demand for DSD services; about the Child Murder Reduction Plan and its outcome; progress in filling its vacancies, about the under-expenditure; if DSD has programmes to address food insecurity and if it had a partnership with the Agriculture Department on food gardens; the type of assistance provided to the non-profit organisations (NPOs) that partnered with DSD. Questions were also asked about missed targets, the number of homeless adults and children and why only 58% of foster parent applicants were accepted.

Meeting report

Introductory remarks by Western Cape Minister for Social Development
Ms Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Minister for Social Development, stated that what is reflected in the Annual Report was prepared when the world has been upside down. DSD had to re-invent the way it has been conducting its business. It has tabled a comprehensive report reflecting on the commitments made at the start of 2019/20. The focus has been on cohesive and safer communities, empowerment of people, strengthening of youth, gender based violence and substance abuse. These have come through in the report, with gender-based violence being the biggest challenge. The challenges encountered have led to opportunities. There are focus areas that did not achieve the desired outcomes. There are mitigating factors. DSD was relying heavily on funded NPOs partners that are its foot soldiers, especially in areas the Department has no offices. The DSD social workers were collaborating with those of the WCED when the need arises. In all DSD offices there are NPO partners that assist DSD in the strengthening and preserving of families. She thanked the Committee for these deliberations on the Annual Report. She thanked also all the foot soldiers of DSD, the social workers and auxilliary workers because their contribution has resulted in the development of the Annual Report.


Mr R Mackenzie (DA) asked how DSD measured the success rate in its focus area of strengthening and preserving family in 2019/20. Second, he asked about the kind of activities DSD embarked on during its 365 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. Third, he asked how disabled people are going to access the transportation service provided by the recently modified vehicles to suit disabled people. He wanted to understand DSD's vision for the Youth Cafes because it appears to him the Youth Cafes have not been active, especially in his constituency. He asked if they would be expanded.

Minister Fernandez replied that the 365 Days of Activism involved all the stakeholders when launched at Lentegeur SAPS offices in January 2020. The second activity could not happen due to Covid-19. DSD established a gender desk unit in each provincial department. Once a week these units meet to discuss GBV issues. This has continued until September 2020. A template of what every gender desk unit would do has been developed.

Dr Robert MacDonald, DSD Head of Department, added that a GBV national strategic plan has been developed. The provincial department has been mandated to implement this with stakeholders. The implementation plan is due early next year and would be discussed with stakeholders. The four modified vehicles were as a result of a court ruling that the government across the board should step up delivery of services to children severely affected by disability to access daycare centres. The service is exclusively for children with severe intellectual disability and other disability disorders. The service is not meant for the broader sector of disability. The vehicles would be given to some NPOs to assist DSD in this matter. There are no plans to expand the Youth Cafes in the next financial year due to budget cuts.

Mr Mzwandile Hewu, DSD Chief Director: Community and Partnership Development, further confirmed the attendance of the youth at the Youth Cafes has decreased due to the prevalent gang fights in the communities. The Youth Cafes started to be creative by going directly to schools to reach the youth during the after-school programmes and went to other centres as well where there is low gang violence to deliver these services to the youth.

Dr MacDonald replied that DSD was employing a broad range of initiatives for the strengthening and preserving of families. The interventions depend on the circumstances of each family and on identifying children at risk. These interventions are ordered by the Children’s Courts. Interventions range from preventive measures, re-unification of the child with the family, tracking the number of families assisted, looking at the rates of child abuse and neglect and divorce. That information is captured by social workers and NPOs assisting DSD. The evaluation of this programme is a cumbersome activity that would require an in-depth qualitative study with the families and would take a year to undertake. Programmes that are implemented for strengthening and preserving families are evidence-based to ensure they are correctly implemented.

Ms R Windvogel (ANC) asked if any help is given to school children who have babies.

Dr MacDonald replied DSD was seeing the need to provide a supplementary role even though the Education Department is the first point of call to contact Social Development. DSD was looking at strengthening linkages with WCED, especially schools that have high drop-out rates to make meaningful interventions. WCED has psychologists as well who assist with this. In some instances the referrals from Education work, but in other cases they do not work.

Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) asked if DSD has engaged with WCED and other stakeholders on the transfer of Early Childhood Development (ECD) to the Education Department. She asked about the impact of Covid-19 on the functioning of DSD in places for the elderly and what measures are taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in places for the elderly. She wanted to know what measures are in place to meet the increasing demand for DSD services.

Minister Fernandez replied that the ECD migration process would take place during the next period, not the year under review. DSD gets weekly briefings about the impact of the pandemic in residential facilities for the elderly.

Dr MacDonald added that the MEC had engagements with WCED. The National Department of Social Development has had consultations with the NGOs running ECD facilities. The transfer function is a process because there are statutory requirements that have to be fulfilled. Western Cape has a centralized ECD Unit. The transfer will not be much of a big problem. It would require a formal organizational process which would require meeting bargaining council requirements, finances, basic conditions of employment, and a proclamation from the Premier. DSD is ready and would have a smooth process.

Dr MacDonald replied that Covid-19 had a significant impact on DSD because it had to find new ways of doing things. The DSD workforce was reduced to a skeleton staff. Only emergency cases were brought before the courts. This caused bottlenecks in foster care. DSD worked remotely but continued to fund NGOs to assist with food parcels. This affected the budget because money had to be shifted to Covid-19 related matters like PPE. The second wave of Covid-19 had brought new infections to old age homes. There are plus minus 120 cases in old age homes. DSD is putting in place procedures and safety measures in old age homes just as in the first wave. The province has recommended that old age homes should limit visits. During the lockdown period there has been an increase in psycho-social services provided for assessing relief given to people. Electronic systems are in place to assist staff to work more quickly, but it has not been easy for social workers to do their work because they need to deal with the courts and visit the affected families and foster care placements. The ongoing impact of Covid-19 will affect supply and demand.

Ms W Philander (DA) asked how DSD was encouraging a multi-sectoral approach because GBV is on the increase. She asked about DSD's drive in reviewing legislation related to GBV.

Dr MacDonald replied that there is a GBV multi-sectoral forum led by DSD, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Justice Department. It meets on a weekly basis and involves the NPO and business sectors. It receives feedback and unlocks bottlenecks on crime prevention and ensures cases are prosecuted. Academic institutes are also involved. Hence DSD has been able to respond to the Covid-19 challenges. On the legislation amendments, DSD has been lobbying for amendments to legislation especially those related to GBV.

Ms Windvogel asked how rural communities were benefiting from the GBV campaigns.

Minister Fernandez pointed out that DSD has continued to use webinars during lockdown to maintain contact with the GBV sector even in rural areas. There are MOUs with municipalities, specifically for establishing drug committees and gender forums. Many of these initiatives are incorporating GBV related issues. The MOUs include the setting up of shelters in rural areas. DSD has started to educate male employees in other departments about gender sensitivity. It has created partnerships with civil society groups on the ground to work on GBV issues.

Dr MacDonald added that DSD is working on the GBV implementation plan and it will involve all the municipalities. The forums set up within municipalities will be involved in the monitoring and implementation of identified hotspots in the municipalities. The plan will involve all role-players. DSD has a presence in rural areas for GBV. It has been appointed by Provincial Cabinet to lead GBV efforts at local level once the implementation plan has been developed and approved by stakeholders.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos asked for details of the Child Murder Reduction Plan and how it has helped children. She asked about the content of the Integrated Family and Children Programme. She asked if homeless people have been integrated with their families or sheltered. She enquired about the number of GBV cases reported during the #Enough Campaign, and if there are plans to build shelters in hotspots areas for victims of GBV.

Dr MacDonald replied that the Child Murder Reduction Plan is aimed at sharpening the response of the province to child murders. Many stakeholders were consulted about it. It has led to the establishment of the Child Death Review Panel which follows up on cases of murdered children. An inspectorate has also been introduced to address areas where the system has failed these children.  The Plan includes early warning systems for children at risk.  It is part of the Safety Plan project of the province. It’s a multi-pronged approach, put in place before the Safety Plan was developed. Child murders in the province are mostly gang-related, involving under 18s. The Departments of Justice and Correctional Services and Police are key stakeholders. It is a focused approach.

Mr Charles Jordan, Chief Director for Social Welfare: Western Cape DSD, replied that the latest figures on homeless adults have not yet been released by the City of Cape Town. The last figures indicated that the City has 4800 homeless adults, while the province has registered 8000 homeless people. The sheltering of people is the responsibility of DSD. Private shelters not registered with DSD are also given support. 700 people have been re-united with their families. The process is led by social workers who work closely with the shelters. Some of the homeless do not want to be reunited with their families due to certain reasons. He stated 3000 bed spaces would be added - even in rural areas - and more social workers would be employed in this programme.

The statistical information on the #Enough Campaign would be sent to the Committee. He pointed out an MOU was signed on six properties for shelters. Some are in need of further work in order to be used. DSD has involved certain organisations to operationalise these shelters to ensure they are habitable. He indicated it is not desirable to have a shelter in a hotspot because the victim has to be away from the perpetrator. There have been incidents where the victim has been found at a shelter by the perpetrator and been hurt.

Mr Hewu noted that additional emergency beds have been activated during lockdown. Five shelters during lockdown were earmarked to absorb victims before they were moved to other services. Before lockdown, 365 beds were available. All the GBV hotspots are in the metropolitan area. There is no need to build other shelters because most of them are in the metro area. He said the #Enough Campaign exceeded its target by 362%. The increase was a result of the work done by social workers, which is a combination of the work done by DSD and civil society.

Ms Windvogel asked about progress made by DSD in filling vacancies, and about the 2019/20 under-expenditure. She asked if there were plans to increase the number of African people in senior management.

DSD replied that the under-expenditure is R29m. The Compensation of Employees (COE) underspending is mainly due to the search to find suitable candidates for resignations and promotions. Finding a suitable candidate can take up to six months. The COE budget is unpredictable because sometimes you fill a vacant post with an internal person and thus you also create another vacancy as well. Another underspend was research on substance abuse which started late as DSD had to find a suitable provider. DSD had to advertise twice for the Sanitary Dignity Project because it struggled to find a suitable supplier. Another underspend was for modifications done to vehicles. Some of the funds had to be shifted to food parcels during lockdown.

DSD was working towards the target set on employment equity. DSD has targeted interventions to reach these targets. DSD has an over-representation of females. It had a bursary programme for males, but it was not successful. It is a struggle to find males in the profession, but efforts are in place to increase the targets.

Ms Bakubaku asked if DSD has programmes to address food insecurity, She asked if DSD could partner with the Agriculture Department and food garden projects. She asked the reasons for the high drop-out rate for children under 16 in schools. She asked for clarity on the upgrades to properties that will be shelters.

Dr MacDonald replied that DSD was leading on food security. As a result, it is collaborating with the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Education to reduce malnutrition. It is also working with large NGOs which call themselves Food Forum.

A DSD official added that there are community and nutrition centres it works with. Food is provided to children in attendance in the ECD programme. Youth centres and old age homes are also provided with food. DSD is partnering with relief aid NGOs to procure food parcels. Community-based kitchens are also supported by DSD. Programmes are being implemented to assist youth in the development space. DSD funds NGOs that provide skills to youth who are not in employment in all six districts in the Western Cape. DSD has 12 Youth Cafes where young people are allowed to interact and share challenges. They are also trained in computer and digital media. Some Youth Cafes provide hard skill courses like training in plumbing, carpentry. They work in collaboration with Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

Dr MacDonald indicated that the WCED is responsible for dealing with the high drop-out rate. DSD is responsible for behavior change. A full analysis could be provided by WCED. 50% of boys and 20% of girls drop out at schools.

He said DSD has received full custodianship of the six properties from the Public Works Department. They are being refurbished to serve GBV hotspot areas even though they are not physically in the hotspots.

Mr Hewu noted that the new shelters are in the Karoo and West Coast to cater for the rural areas. The shelters are in need of funds to be operationalised. They need zoning certificates from municipalities; they need to be renovated and get staffed. The shelters would start in January to take in people. Some of the shelters servicing hotspot areas are already in operation. The metro area has 15 operational shelters. DSD has also empowered three unregistered shelters to register so they could start providing a service to it.

Mr Mackenzie asked why NPOs were not complying and if there are measures to correct that. He wanted to know why only 58% of parents pass for foster care and if there plans to ensure Western Cape has enough foster care parents. He asked what happened to the children who were in the NPO closed down by DSD.

Ms Dreyer, Director for Institutional Capacity Building: Western Cape DSD,  explained there are various types of corrective plans for the NPOs. Some NGOs do not have capacity to manage government funds and were not adhering to legislation. Members of the public are invited to register or register online for their service areas. DSD is mentoring 12 NPOs per year on finance management, taxation and project management. DSD has identified those that are needy.

On vetting of foster care parents, she indicated the main reasons for not passing the test are about finding the home circumstances are not right for the children, criminal records of parents, and administration. Sometimes forms are not submitted in time. DSD is trying to work on the backlogs caused by the lockdown. Some magistrates' courts would accept those that have been cleared of criminal records.

Ms Windvogel asked what was meant by the "decentralisation" of Community Nutrition and Development Centres (CNDCs). She enquired why social workers are employed on a contractual basis.

Ms Dreyer explained that "decentralisation" refers to the transfer of funds to the province from Treasury to support CNDCs. DSD is running and supporting the CNDCs. The decentralization process involves 20 CNDCs in the province. DSD is targeting to have 72 CNDCs, using the same standard of funding and same menu. The CNDCs are scattered around the six districts.

Ms van Reenen, Director for Operational Management Support: Western Cape DSD, explained that social workers who are on contracts are those graduates that had a bursary from DSD. They have to be on a four year contract. 96 of them are in contract. Of the 96, 13 have got permanent positions in DSD. They are spread across the 16 regions to help with Social Work Services.

Ms Windvogel asked for the reasons for missing the targets on the elderly programme.

A DSD official replied that death within the facilities was the reason. People die of natural causes. It takes a month before that space is filled because the room has to be cleaned and made ready for the next person.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos asked for the number of homeless children and reasons for not achieving the target in this programme. She wanted to know the number of children in funded NPOs and reasons for achieving less in the programme. She asked how the referral process was working. She asked for clarity on the earmarked R15m and what the plans were to increase GBV interventions in the province.

Dr MacDonald replied that there are very few homeless children in the province. The vast majority of homeless children have homes, but in many cases they get sent by their parents to get money. In other cases, they turn to the streets to avoid a toxic home environment. The biggest challenge is that they get exposed to risks such as sexual predators, drug dealing and criminal elements. He also pointed out the reunification of children with parents is a long process. It is not always successful, but it depends on the family if it wants to be reunited with the child in the home environment.

He informed the Committee about requirements for ECD facilities. Conditional registration takes two years, and to get a certificate takes 5 years. DSD has 2000 unregistered facilities, but the Minister came up with plans to conditionally register the facilities. The Western Cape has asked National DSD to review ECD legislation as some ECDs are in less formal areas. National DSD has indicated it is willing to consider this.

On achieving fewer targets on childcare centres, DSD is stretched for bed spaces due to the increasing number of children needing care. Annually, DSD looks at available funding in relation to what was in demand the previous year. The referral process for substance abuse is usually determined by the social worker to see if rehabilitation is needed. Not everyone goes to a formal drug rehabilitation centre. Some attend support groups that provide non-residential treatment programmes. The referral can be voluntary or involuntary, and sometimes it is determined by the courts. Not everyone who has a drug problem is willing to come forward for help. At this stage, DSD is sustaining only what it has due to the budget adjustment. NPOs are funded to provide assistance in 29 schools. The R15m has been earmarked for GBV. The plan is to increase the budget next year. Some funds have been shifted to cater for the six properties from Public Works.

The Chairperson wanted to understand how over-achievements in some programmes had an impact on DSD and asked for clarity on the type of assistance that is frequently provided to NPOs.

Dr MacDonald replied that it is difficult to look at impact quantitatively because this is a longitudinal process. This is putting pressure on DSD as well. It also puts more pressure on social workers, especially on the administrative work they have to do with the courts. DSD wants to see more increase, and it has doubled its intake so that it assesses children before they are on a placement. It is the courts that decide where to send them. DSD has not built additional places for them.

Ms Dreyer explained that most NPOs request to be assisted on how to comply with NPO Act and Companies Act. Support is given on how to comply with SARS employee tax regulations and with fundraising. Training is also provided on innovative fundraising efforts and financial management.

The Minister thanked the Committee for its honest and robust engagement with DSD.

The Committee resolved:
- All MOUs with municipalities in the Western Cape should be forwarded to the Committee;
- DSD provide updated documents on the Child Murder Reduction Plan;
- DSD provide documents detailing how information filters from municipalities to the province.

The meeting was adjourned.


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