The Department of Social Development (DSD) reported that it had achieved a clean audit for the ninth consecutive year during the 2020/21 financial year. Briefing the Standing Committee in a virtual meeting on its performance, it said that during the year under review, it had had to adjust to budget cuts that were imposed by the national Department, which had resulted in funds being shifted to other urgent requirements.
The Department had been mandated by the provincial cabinet to coordinate an intergovernmental forum with municipalities, provincial departments and other agencies to discuss and develop proposals around homelessness. There was a broad transversal strategy being put together around homelessness, and the Department had come up with interventions. There was a lack of legislative policy on homelessness, and that was why it had developed roles and responsibilities for itself to tackle this problem, because there was disagreement between the national Department of Social Development, the Department of Cooperative Governance, and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), over who should be doing what.
To address poverty during the pandemic, the Department had been allocated funding amounting to R80m for food relief. The funding was made available to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to distribute food parcels and food ingredients to community kitchens across the province. The provision of feeding resources to targeted NGOs and nutrition centres was increased. Funded early childhood development (ECD) facilities had provided food to children they were servicing on a take-away basis. The Department also worked on humanitarian relief schemes, which pulled together other provincial departments and municipal representatives of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to include the Covid-19 grant to continue with the school feeding programme, even though children were not at school. Poverty relief work during the year under review had been up-scaled, for which additional resources were secured, and human resources were reallocated.
Members asked how the Department had prioritised its budget for its essential services, seeing that there had been budget cuts, and what the impact on the budget had been. They asked the Department to elaborate on the national support it received for its gender-based violence (GBV) strategy and victim support programmes; enquired if the Department did not see it as beneficial to have public/private partnerships to fund some of its programmes; wanted to know if there were plans to increase the number of drug rehabilitation centres in the province; wanted to find out who the service provider for the Sanitary Dignity Programme was, and why sanitary towels were not delivered, just like the feeding schemes had operated when the schools were closed; asked for clarity on the under-expenditure of conditional grants; sought more details on asset shortages, disposals and usability; and enquired about the absorption rate of social work interns in the Department, and their high turnover.
Discussion on the 2020/21 Annual Report of the Western Cape Department of Social Development
Ms N Makamba-Botya (EFF) asked how the Department had prioritised its budget for its essential services, seeing that there were budget cuts. What was the impact on the budget?
Dr Robert Macdonald, Head of Department (HOD), Western Cape Department of Social Development, said that during the year under review, they had seen budget cuts imposed by the national Department. Bigger budget cuts were coming next year, and that would be a challenge. During the year under review, the Department had received additional funding, and some funds were shifted to address homelessness, using some savings from early childhood development (ECD) facilities that had closed down during the lockdown, including other organisations that could no longer function. There were also some savings from other operations or services that could not be delivered during the year under review. These savings were redistributed to other requirements. Other incurred savings were shifted to personal protective equipment (PPE) and homes for the aged and disabled. Savings from the Sanitary Dignity Programme were also shifted to other requirements. In the new financial year, some big savings would come from the programmes usually funded by the Department. There would be reductions in funding to some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in certain areas, but this was being carefully managed.
Ms W Philander (DA) asked the Department to elaborate on the national support concerning the gender-based violence (GBV) strategy and victim support.
Dr Macdonald said the national cabinet had approved national strategic plan (NSP) for GBV, and the provincial departments had to develop implementation plans. The provincial department had developed its implementation plan, which had been approved by the provincial cabinet. The plan addressed the work the Department had been doing in the province, including other departments it had been working with.
Ms Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Provincial Minister for Social Development, informed Members that on 25 August, the provincial cabinet had convened a meeting on GBV, where all stakeholders were present. On 9 September, the Western Cape Government Transversal GBV Forum was established. All provincial departments were represented in that forum. Representation also came from the provincial South African Police Service (SAPS) unit dealing with GBV, and advocates sharing information on legislation. All the members of the forum had contributed to the implementation of the NSP implementation document. The implementation plan had been signed off, and there was a spreadsheet that detailed what each department would be doing. There were 300 activities across the provincial government, and this had given them a view of where the activities would be done, working closely with the municipalities while focusing on GBV and human trafficking. All 80 000 employees of the provincial government had to understand the GBV programme.
The Department had a great working relationship with the Western Cape Women's Shelter Movement, which had helped it to operationalise six properties belonging to the Department of Public Works and Transport within nine months. The second phase of the strategy was focusing on outreach and facilitating dialogue. The Parliament would be informed of the programmes taking place.
Ms R Windvogel (ANC) wanted to know what the obligation of the Department was in supporting and criminalising homelessness. She asked what other forms of humanitarian relief had been put in place, besides food provision for Covid-19.
Ms Leana Goosen, Chief Director: Social Welfare and Restorative Services, explained it was important to understand how the provincial government responded to the pandemic and its impact. Initially, she had led the communication team. During March 2020, the provincial cabinet had approved the recovery plan, which had four components: covid-19, safety, jobs, and well-being and dignity. The well-being and dignity work stream had representation in the form of heads of departments (HODs) from the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Arts and Culture, and Health.
Regarding homelessness, the technical team the HOD led includes officials from the City of Cape Town (COCT) and five municipal districts. The focus was not limited to the metro only, but all over the province one would find issues of homelessness. The technical team had had four meetings already and there had been consensus. From the well-being and dignity team, there were faith-based organisations, a GBV transversal work team, mental health and wellness, and a youth forum headed by the Department of Arts and Culture. That’s why there was a blurring of the lines. One thing they would be improving on was communication with the citizens, especially in remote little towns. The Department had a booklet to share with councilors, and there was a memorandum of understanding which the Department had introduced tp councillors which covers a whole range of topics on GBV, drugs and substance abuse, strengthening of family, etc. This was a transversal approach. In the metro, there were 11 area-based teams, and each of the five districts had got an area-based team.
Dr Macdonald added the work was conducted jointly. The Department was not the leading agent, but participated and coordinated with other stakeholders like Justice, the SAPS, etc. who were leading on matters related to crime. It was important to get the Department of Education on board in its messaging through the SAPS and Justice. Kidnapping was something that would be coordinated jointly, for example.
He noted that legislation was not clear on obligations regarding homelessness. There were human rights principles that were applicable, but there was no legislation that defined homelessness or street people in SA law -- it was limited to municipal by-laws that addressed such matters. The city’s by-laws were similar to other cities’ by-laws. The ongoing issue was the balance between the rights of the residents and the homeless, and it was not an easy thing to address. The Department was mandated to reduce harm and create the capacity to provide shelter to people. It was a multi-faceted issue.
Other forms of humanitarian relief included the Department providing a significant increase in job opportunities through public works, allowing people to earn an income. It was also involved in trauma support to families who had lost loved ones to Covid-19, and to Covid-19 survivors. There was also the provision of shelter space, especially for children whose parents were admitted in hospitals for Covid-19.
Ms A Bans (ANC) asked the Department to provide details on the content of the food parcels that were distributed to vulnerable households, such as whether these parcels included cooked or raw food, the costs incurred, and the number of feeding sites. She also asked the Department to provide its findings and recommendations of the study done on children living on the streets.
Dr Macdonald said more details on food parcel distribution would be provided to the Committee in writing, but commented that food parcels were provided to the households of four members, and more was provided on bigger ones throughout the lockdown. Hot food was provided on food sites and other Community Nutrition and Development Centre (CNDCs), including community kitchens that were given food material.
Concerning children on the streets, he said the Department of Education was doing research on the number of children who dropped out from schools. The Department did not have the findings and recommendations of the research yet, but they would be shared with the Committee once it receives them. He said that lots of children on the streets were there because of alternating school days. When the Department dealt with street children, it took them to places of safety or returned them to their homes, and they were given opportunities at institutions of further training. Most of the children who had been in the streets for some time needed to be taken to a special place before being released to ordinary safekeeping places, or child care youth centres. It was a challenge to take care of them in large numbers because of the limited space at these centres.
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) wanted to know if the Department had a strategy in place for homelessness in the province. How was the Department addressing poverty during the pandemic? How was it publicising its services and how people could in get contact with it; and what its plans were on human trafficking, because sooner or later it was going to reach the Western Cape.
Dr Macdonald said that the provincial cabinet mandated the Department to coordinate an intergovernmental forum with municipalities, provincial departments and other agencies to discuss and develop proposals around homelessness. There was a broad transversal strategy being put together around homelessness, and the Department had come up with interventions. There was a lack of legislative policy on homelessness. The Department had developed roles and responsibilities for itself on this problem, because there was disagreement between the national Department, the Department of Cooperative Governance and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on who should be doing what. During the level five lockdown, the Department had implemented an approach to increase bed spaces in shelters, increased funding for bed spaces, funded a family shelter in Somerset West, and worked with the Department of Public Works and Transport to establish nine shelters in the central business district and Drakenstein Municipality. The City of Cape Town (COCT) had increased funding for the accommodation of the homeless. The strategy also talked about addressing law enforcement issues, evictions, and land invasions. It was a multi-faceted approach requiring attention, and was a phenomenon happening around the world. Lockdown regulations on evictions had made it possible for illegal land invasions and the erection of informal structures. Once the regulations were removed, the affected departments needed to be prepared on how to deal with illegal occupations.
On addressing poverty during the pandemic, he said that during the year under review, the Department was allocated funding amounting to R80m for food relief. The funding was made available to NGOs to distribute food parcels and food ingredients to community kitchens across the province. Feeding resources to targeted NGOs and nutrition centres were increased. Funded ECDs provided food to the children they were servicing on a take-away basis. The Department had also worked on humanitarian relief schemes, which pulled together other provincial departments and municipal representatives of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to include Covid-19 grants to continue with the school feeding, even though children were not at school. Poverty relief work during the year under review was up-scaled and got additional resources, and human resources were reallocated.
About the Department publicising its services, he informed the Committee the Department had various communication campaigns – paid and unpaid for -- especially on radio, because it had a bigger reach than other media. Through print media, the Department communicated by sending media statements and placing print advertisements, and utilising online services like Facebook and the Department’s website. The Department could be contacted through its local offices and provincial call centre number. The GBV Hotline also connected with the province. Hospitals, clinics, schools, ward committees and NGOs could also be used to contact the Department.
Concerning human trafficking, he said the Department was party to the human trafficking legislation by providing services to victims of human trafficking every year. It also ran some campaigns around the issue, and the Department of Justice and the SAPS were involved as well, because kidnapping was escalating rapidly.
Ms Goosen added that the strategy to deal with human trafficking involved the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), SAPS, and the Departments of Correctional Services, Community Safety and Social Department. All these departments had agreed to work together, as this involved a crime syndicate. That was why one would not see any communication on this matter.
She pointed out that questions from Members had been dealt with transversally, because the Department had realised there was a benefit in collaboration, rather than operating in silos. For example, there was a GBV forum that met quarterly and all stakeholders were represented. Issues of car-hijackings, kidnapping, GBV, etc. were discussed. Because of the nature of this forum, they had to be discreet, strict, and maintain protocols. SAPS was conducting road-shows, together with area-based teams and safety ambassadors, doing work around GBV and human trafficking. It was a transversal approach, and there were areas that resided only with the Department, but the power was in collaboration. When the Department spoke of street children, it communicated with the Department of Education in terms of school dropouts, because research says children had to be at school.
Ms Bans wanted to know if there were still any child and youth care centres (CYCCs) outsourced, seeing that the Clanwilliam one had been put under the wing of the Department. She wanted to know if there had been disruptions since it had been absorbed into the Department, and how it had affected the work of the Department. She also wanted to know if there had been any deal facilitated by the Western Cape for its GBV implementation plan when it was developed and adopted by the provincial cabinet in the current financial year. She asked for the details of the plan and how it had assisted the province in the fight against GBV. Was there an additional budget for the plan? Were there plans to fund more shelters in poor communities and assist non-profit organisations (NPOs) with compliance? She also wanted to know how much had been spent on the 30 GBV social workers that had been appointed, and if there were any unemployed social workers in the province.
Dr Macdonald reported there were no CYCCs that were still outsourced. All the SASSA-run centers were in-sourced, because the Department could not find any organisations that could do that kind of work, and it became clear it would not be viable to tender the work. It was better to do it themselves. No disruptions had been recorded in the handing over the facility for in-sourcing. The GBV implementation plan did involve some funding from the Department, because the footprint and services had been extended. The baseline had increased. The implementation plan spoke to all provincial departments, not only to the Department of Social Development (DSD). Each department had got its own deliverables in that plan. The implementation plan was based around the six pillars of the NSP and its deliverables. The Department was also continuing to assist NGOs with compliance in whatever ways it could, but there would be no expansion of shelters due to the coming budget cuts in the next financial year. The Department would consolidate the services it had already established.
The appointment of the 30 social workers had come from the national conditional grant funding that was recorded in the financials. There was a database of social workers who received bursaries from the national Department, and that database was used to state contract positions that received funding from provincial treasury, so that the graduates could pay back the money in a form of service to the Department for the duration of their studies. However, the funding was not enough to appoint all the bursary holders on a four-year contract. Some could not be absorbed into the Department. Many of the bursary holders had got jobs in other departments and at NGOs. Figures on the number of unemployed social workers would be forwarded in writing to the Committee.
Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) asked for clarity on the meaning of “illogical Covid-19 regulations”.
Dr Macdonald explained that this referred to the types of regulations that prohibited the sale of items such as shirts, hot food, sandals, etc, which had led people to lose income and to the SAPS closing down NGOs providing hot foods.
Ms Philander enquired if the Department did not see it was beneficial to have public-private-partnerships to fund some of its programmes.
Dr Macdonald said the Department had an enormous amount of partnerships, because it funds over 2 000 NGOs to render services to the communities, but this was under a different legislative provision in terms of the transfer of funds. In essence, it was a private-public-partnership.
Mr Mackenzie wanted to find out if the Department had a unit in place for people to call on in cases of kidnapping. He asked why the Sanitary Dignity Programme had not continued during the lockdown, and wanted to know if it could be extended to girls not in schools.
Dr Macdonald said the Department had a unit that offered assistance and counseling on human trafficking, kidnapping, domestic abuse, etc. It provided a basket of services for all these types of crime. However, if a member of the public had a relative or family member kidnapped, that person should first contact the SAPS.
About sanitary towels, he said the service provider could not deliver them to schools when they were closed due to lockdown regulations, because there was no one to receive them at the schools. When the schools re-opened, however, the service provider resumed distributing them and had expanded the scope of the beneficiaries to children in youth care centers under the auspices of the Department. Currently, there were no sanitary towels in storage. The selection of schools to benefit from the programme was done by the Department of Education. They were selected on the basis of the high rate of girls’ absenteeism, and the list was given to the DSD by the Department of Education.
Ms Windvogel wanted to find out who the service provider for the sanitary towels was, and why they were not delivered in the same way the feeding schemes operated when the schools were closed.
Dr Macdonald explained it was impossible to deliver the towels to the principal or designated person when the schools were closed. Feeding schemes opened at a later stage, and they were the service providers of the Department of Education. The programme supported girls who were missing lessons because of menstrual hygiene challenges. It was not a general distribution of pads for everyone. That was why the Department had to wait for the re-opening of schools for the towels to be used for their intended purpose.
Ms Windvogel remarked there was no need for the DSD not to deliver the service, because it partnered with the Department of Education. It should have adopted the same approach as the Department of Education and thought outside the box.
Ms Bans requested that the Committee be forwarded with the number of unemployed social work graduates between 2014 and 2021, and asked if the Department next year could work on a study of unemployed bursary and non-bursary holder social work graduates.
Dr Macdonald said the Department would respond in writing.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos asked how many CNDCs were in use, and what the impact of Covid-19 was on children and children-headed households. She enquired how the Department responded to neglected children, and wanted to know if there were plans to increase drug rehabilitation centres in the province.
Mr Mzwandile Hewu, Chief Director: Service Delivery Management, reported that the Department was supporting 102 CNDCs province-wide in all communities. The list would be sent to the Committee.
Mr Charles Jordan, Chief Director: Social Welfare, made it clear that during the lockdown, the vulnerability of children was seen to be increasing, especially during lockdowns 5 and 4. The numbers were quite high, and these ranged from sexual abuse to verbal and physical abuse. The list was long. The Department had been providing psycho-social support on every reported case, and services continued at full steam to all those who needed the service.
Mr Mzukisi Gaba, Director: Social Crime Prevention, responded that there were 82 drug substance facilities that were operating in the province. The Department intended to increase the facilities by supporting the 164 unregistered facilities to register in terms of the Act.
Ms Windvogel wanted to find out what the role of the MEC was in the Safety Plan, and if it had been implemented, because social crime in the Western Cape was a concern. Why had so many NPOs closed down, and why they were non-compliant? Were there any measures in place to address non-compliance?
Dr Macdonald told Members research had been done on the root causes of crime and violence in the province by different organisations, academics and universities in the Western Cape. The reasons were multi-faceted, and there were key contributing factors such as:
- structural inequalities that were historic in nature;
- rapid urbanization in the 90’s, leading to the growth of informal settlements in the city and fragmented communities;
- young people trying to find work because the economy favoured old workers;
- gang culture and a history of gangs in the Western Cape;
- a massive criminal economy in SA, which was becoming an alternative employer; and
- alcohol abuse, etc.
All of these contributed to the challenges. This showed that the Department could not be involved in the Safety Plan of the Western Cape -- it coordinated with area-based teams established under the auspices of the Community Safety Department. The intention was to increase police visibility in hotspot areas in the province, which also happen to be GBV hotspots. The Department tried to bring increased capacity for child protection services for young people who were likely to be involved in petty crime, and it tried to bring support services in at the primary level to assist children to stay at school and continue with their ordinary development path.
While strengthening its support to GBV hotspots, the Department also tried to provide substance abuse treatment programmes and other kinds of interventions. It further noted that Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers provide space for social workers to be able to bring services to these dangerous hotspot areas. This explained the involvement of the Department in the Western Cape Safety Plan, which was a multi-pronged approach that makes use of law enforcement agencies to bring social services to communities.
The Chairperson enquired what plans were in place after the closure of the Calitzdorp ACVV office.
Dr Macdonald said the Department took over the cases when the ACVV closed. The Department’s Karoo office stepped in and took over the services and worked with the municipality to secure space for the social workers in the area, to ensure none of the cases fell through the cracks. Though it was a loss for Calitzdorp to no longer have an ACVV facility, it could not find social workers to stay there because salaries were not competitive, so it was better for the Department to take over the facility. That was what happened in other areas as well, because the NGOs could not sustain themselves. The Department was monitoring the situation closely and providing assistance where it could so that NGOs did not close their services to needy communities. That was why the Department was trying to increase allocations to struggling NGOs to keep them afloat, or alternatively, to step in and render these services with its own social workers.
Ms Bans enquired about the number of safety and foster parents needed, and what measures were in place to resolve the identified challenges because of the 577 foster parents that were recruited, only 471 had passed the vetting process, and only 100 of them had attended the training. She asked why the rest did not attend the training. She also wanted to know why the 141 appointed social work graduates were on contractual employment, and what the number of unemployed social workers was.
Mr Jordan explained it was difficult at this stage to state how many safety and foster parents were needed, because it depended on the number of children referred to by the courts. However, there was a need for parents for children with special needs. That was where the gap was, and the Department had extended the service via suppliers to get parents for children with special needs. Training people during the lockdown regulations was difficult, because people could not engage in certain kinds of environments. Certain safety and foster parents could not be trained, and therefore the targets were missed. The Department was now catching up with all these numbers and trying to engage with people physically.
The 143 graduates on contractual employment were serving bursary obligations because they were bursary holders, so they needed to work for the same number of four years that they had studied. There was no provision in the Public Service Act and its regulations to appoint them permanently without going through the recruitment and selection process, and that would mean making it open to everyone. The Department had taken these contract workers and given them the opportunity for permanent contracts, and many of them had been absorbed within the Department on a permanent basis. This gave the Department a chance to see if they were suited in those environments, because some had realised after university that the social development space was not an easy environment for them to stay. The contract period had given them the opportunity to learn about the environment, and the Department would then decide if it would give them a permanent opportunity. It must be kept in mind the bursary programme had created a difficult situation, in that when the social workers come from university to the Department, they compete with social workers who have been in the NGO sector for ten or more years, and who have been earning less than the graduates. So, when the Department recruits permanent people, it needs to open up the process and also consider the experienced social workers. The bursary programme had provided more bursaries than funding available to employ them when they graduated. There was a surplus of social work graduates, compared to funding earmarked for posts within the Department. In addition, no funding was received for social work supervisors, tools of the trade and office space to bring in more social workers. So, the Department could not take in more social workers. The national Department had made it clear that the social work bursary programme was not only for the Department to hire those graduates, but also for other Departments that hired social workers to be able to access that pool. Many of the social workers listed as unemployed were not unemployed in a real sense, but had got jobs in the NGOs and other government departments, because when the DSD phones them for offers, they would indicate they already had jobs, so they were not employed by the Department at this time.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos enquired how much the Department spent on data and airtime; asked about the number of schools targeted for psycho-social support and why the programme was provided to three schools only; wanted to find out why six invoices were not paid within 30 days, and what the total amount involved was; asked why the target for the elderly leading active lives in protected areas was not achieved; and wanted to establish the number of suppliers that were non-compliant and the reasons that led to the termination of their work.
Mr Juan Smith, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DSD, said the expenditure on data and airtime in the previous year had amounted to R700 000, but during the year under review it had amounted to R1.5m due to Covid-19 and employees working from home.
Concerning the invoices, three of them were due to system errors and had been referred to National Treasury to rectify them. One case involved non-compliance, and a disciplinary process had been followed. The other two cases were related to when the staff had to vacate the offices because of a Covid-19 case, and during that time the 30 days had expired.
Dr Macdonald responded on schools referred for psycho-social support, and said the selection of schools to work with was based on those that needed the support within the area-based team sites. The focus started at primary schools and children at risk from an early age. The choice of schools due to Covid-19 had made it difficult for the programme to be implemented, even though the service was not stopped. Now that schools were fully operational, the Department was catching up on these services. The social workers were visiting the schools to identify children in need of these services in order to expand the necessary support programme. Those were the key deliverables of the Department for the Safety Plan.
On targets not achieved in terms of elderly leading active lives in protected places, he explained the indicator had changed. There had been no reduction in real terms, but they had started to calculate differently. They calculate the number of subsidies directed to the elderly persons. It was not a change on the ground, but on how the Department reported and calculated the indicator description. The reason why the target was not met was because of the number of deaths in the facilities during Covid-19. These facilities were hard hit during the first wave, before the vaccination started.
Mr Jordan made it clear that non-compliance was usually on norms and standards, and a failure to submit audited financial statements. More details would be sent to the Committee in writing.
Ms Makamba-Botya asked how many households were getting social relief of distress and humanitarian relief, because the impact of Covid-19 had longer term effects on people than the grants. She wanted to know if the humanitarian relief had continued on a large scale after the second wave of Covid-19, taking into consideration they were dealing with the 2020/21 annual report. She asked for clarity on the under-expenditure of the Department that had been attributed to not having found suitable candidates for certain positions, and enquired about the nature of these positions and why it was difficult to recruit people in a country that had a high unemployment rate. She also wanted to know how many people had applied for the food parcels projects.
Dr Macdonald responded that the figures for people referred to for social relief were down, as indicated in the annual report. When the Covid-19 grant was introduced by SASSA, people did not come to the Department for the social relief grant. They applied directly to SASSA, because the application process was simple and they did not have to go through the social workers’ process in order to get the grant, hence the reduction in the number of people coming to the Department, but not in the social relief. The humanitarian relief efforts were continuing during this year at the same levels as last year. The Department intended to continue into the next financial year if budget was permitted from the provincial treasury.
He said details about under-expenditure on finding suitable candidates would be sent to the Committee in writing.
Regarding the 234 000 beneficiaries of food parcels, he said it was difficult to indicate the exact figures because lots of requests came from the provincial call centre, and many of them were repeats. Requests were received directly from the Department’s offices, NGOs and municipalities. There were so many channels used to get the relief parcels, that the figures were an estimate.
Ms Windvogel asked how the Department was planning to address non-compliance by NPOs, seeing that this appeared to be the biggest challenge. She wanted to know what performance targets were not achieved. What criteria were used to identify cases, and why did the Department not choose other families for food relief and disaster events?
Mr Jordan said processes were followed on compliance. The Department approaches the NPOs/NGOs to indicate the non-compliance factor. It could be that they did not submit their quarterly reports or audited financial statements in time, or their registration had lapsed. All of these processes would be followed up by the Department, but it would not immediately stop funding a non-compliant NGO. A full process was followed to ensure the NPO/NGO was compliant again. It was a developmental approach. They were assisted in filling in registration forms and given an extension for submitting annual financial statements. If it was non-compliance with norms and standards, the Department developed an improvement plan with an NGO that could be followed up within six months to a year. Within that period, NGOs were given guidance on compliance, and follow-up visits were done.
Dr Macdonald explained that referrals to SASSA for grants had created a simple route to access grants during the lockdown. The Department was not involved in this process, like it would with social relief grants. The Department did not know about Covid-19 and what it would do. It went to the year under review with set targets. The annual performance plans were finalised in February 2020. The plans and targets were changed when the lockdown was implemented, as explained in the foreword of the annual report. Most indicators were not applied during the year under review. The selection of beneficiaries involved people making applications to SASSA. Then SASSA would do a social work assessment, or it would be done through a referral to the Department, which would then also do an assessment and refer it to SASSA. There was a standard procedure that was followed.
Concerning targets missed on people, he said the indicator was not met due to the Covid-19 regulations about the number of congregants allowed. Level 5 did not allow one-on-one contact with clients. The contact sessions started as levels eased. Hence the targets were not met.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) commended the Department for the work it done over the years and its swift response when he reported an incident on the Cape Flats to it. He asked if there any planned visits by the Department to funded child protection NPOs, seeing that no assessment visits had been conducted.
Mr Jordan indicated that a few months ago the Department had started having virtual meetings with board members of child protection NGOs. The Department had been doing site visits as well since level 2. Instead of sending two social workers, the Department would send one for social distancing. The organisations have submitted new monitoring plans to the Department, following up on backlogs missed during levels 5, 4 and 3. The intention was to catch up before March 2022 in order to achieve the set targets.
Ms Makamba-Botya asked if the Department would continue with substance use disorder (SUD) services, seeing that violence against women and children was fuelled by substance abuse.
Dr Macdonald said the Department had started to provide assistance to GBV shelters. These were the only women's rehabilitation centres in the country. It had also started to expand GBV services as well, because substance abuse services had been expanded for a long time. Further, there were pieces of legislation to be completed when it came to GBV in order to complete the work.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos enquired if the Department had applied for rollovers for unspent funds, and what the total funding was for ECD programmes.
Mr Smith reported that R3.4m was for vehicles procured for the disability sector. Due to further work that needed to be done on the safety features on some of the vehicles, but which could not be done, the Department had asked for a rollover for that amount. The Department had confirmed that two vehicles had been handed over and the other two would be completed in the next financial year. The Department had also requested a rollover of R1.029m for the Sanitary Dignity Programme for the next financial year. Total funding for the ECD Programme amounted to R454m, of which R140m was the national conditional grant. Some funds were repurposed for personal protective equipment (PPE), hence the targets were missed.
Ms Bans asked what the total expenditure of the Department on GBV was, because although GBV had increased during lockdown, there was less achievement of the targets. She wanted to know the race and gender of the crime victims accessing shelters, and enquired about the areas in which the 25 GBV shelters were located and if there were plans to erect more shelters in poor working class communities. She asked if there was a partnership with private shelters in the province, why no targets were achieved on substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation, how schools were identified for the expansion of school-based programmes and what plans were in place to expand the programme to areas like Delft, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha, etc.
Dr Macdonald responded that during lockdown it difficult for social workers to contact groups as their jobs demanded, and lots of services and capacity were directed to child protection. It was difficult to reunite people, and social workers were not going to the shelters due to movement restrictions at shelters, old age homes and rehab centres. Foster placements could not happen because the courts were closed, except for emergencies, due to Covid-19 restrictions. Many children's cases were disrupted and could not be heard. During level 5 and 4, no people were admitted at the GBV centres. There had been a big drop in reported cases. Reported cases came from the SAPS and Thuthuzela Centres. Expenditure on GBV during the year under review amounted to R63m.
Women were the majority of people accessing the GBV shelters. There were few males. The race and gender breakdown list would be sent to the Committee. GBV social workers had been allocated to the Department’s offices across the province. There were 26 shelters across the province. He indicated the Department had partnerships with many private organisations, as well as the Department of Health for trauma support services and Thuthuzela Centres.
About substance abuse targets, he said the referrals were very low during the lockdown in residential facilities, and there was no way to admit new people into the centres. Even though that was the case, there was plenty of space available now for residential treatment. Regarding school-based programmes, he said some NGOs had approached the Department with proposals, and it had to give support to these proposals. These organisations work with schools around the areas they operate in. That was how the selection occurred, and the Department would like to expand this service, but it all depended on the availability of funds.
Ms Makamba-Botya asked about the number of filled positions that were lower than the number of active positions; 21 employees dismissed for misconduct; the high number of resignations; and the high misconduct cases involving assault.
Ms Annemie van Reenen, Director: Operational and Management Support, told Members that during lockdown the Department could not fill positions because that would have taken a lot of time. Instead, it had reorganised itself for the duties to be done. Some staff members of the Department did not want to work anymore, especially those affected by Covid-19. Others had left for other sectors. Dismissals were related to threats to assault other persons, misuse of government vehicles, sexual harassment, and fraud and bribery.
Ms Windvogel asked if there were plans in place to increase the number of youth cafes and how much was being given to them, and enquired why there was no funding for the Women's Development Programme.
Mr Hewu said one youth café had been opened in Riversdale, but there was no funding to expand them further. Youth cafes were funded through a partnership model with a municipality and participating NGOs. An amount of R360 000 was budgeted annually, and a once-off start up fee was around R80 000.
He said the Women's Development Programme had been developed last year, but no funding was allocated for it.
Ms Bakubaku-Vos asked for clarity on under-expenditure for conditional grants; for more details on asset shortages, disposals and usability; and about the absorption rate of interns in the Department, and the high turnover.
Mr Smith said the under-expenditure on conditional grants amounted to R5m. R2m of that was going to be paid to ECDs, but the Department could not process the payments, hence it had asked for a rollover. He said 85 of the assets were mainly laptops and desktop computers, which were now part of the asset register. The 56 shortages were for prior years. The capital assets referred to laptops. There was a process in the Department of looking at assets in terms of redundancy and obsolescence. There was a Committee that looked at the condition of assets for disposal in terms of value and usefulness for other purposes. Those assets were given to NGOs. Minor assets referred to furniture of less than R5 000 in value. The Department used age-analysis on the current state of assets. Assets that were two years old were still used. Slow computers were disposed of. More details would be sent to the Committee in writing.
Ms Van Reenen said that when it came to interns, they had had technical and vocational education and training (TVET) learners with financial management qualifications who had been placed in the finance division, and 50% to 80% of them get a chance to be absorbed into the system.
She said it was a struggle to recruit for the child and youth care environment, especially in the rural areas. The 7.8% turnover rate had been the lowest, due to the pandemic. Staff members were also given an opportunity to apply for these posts. It was mostly social workers who applied for supervisory positions and administration clerks.
Ms Bans wanted to establish the profile of promoted employees and the total number of employees, including those with disabilities. She also asked about employment equity targets, the reasons for terminations, and advertisements for the filling of posts.
Ms Van Reenen said the Department was doing well on employment equity targets. Coloured females were over-represented. The struggle was to find registered male social workers. Some people in the Department did not disclose their disability because they did not see themselves as disabled. All senior management posts had been filled.
Minister Fernandez thanked the Committee for its transparent and fair manner in engaging with the Department. It had had a year never experienced before. Most things it had done could not be captured in the annual report because there were no set targets and indicators -- these had to be set aside to pay attention to the pandemic. Even though that was the case, the Department had managed to achieve a clean audit for the ninth consecutive year.
The Committee resolved to request information from the Department on the following items:
- Under-spending on not finding suitable candidates;
- The total number of applicants for food relief intervention;
- R1m spent on data and airtime (expenditure per employee);
- Department to appear before the Committee on employment equity targets; and
- The Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) status of the service provider of the sanitary towels.
The meeting was adjourned.
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