Departmental services and programmes for people with disabilities, including children
08 March 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mvana (ANC)
The Portfolio Committee met on a virtual platform with the Department of Social Development (DSD), the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), to receive responses to its questions regarding departmental services and programmes for people with disabilities, including children.
The DSD said the departmental disability service model was premised on the White Paper on social development services, depicting the need to focus the responsibility of the Department towards persons with disability. Legislation on social development services to persons with disabilities would assist in the standardisation, monitoring and enforcement of the provision of services, thus improving the overall quality of these services to persons with disabilities, including children.
SASSA informed the Committee that disability grants were given to persons who met the statutory requirements. A medical assessment confirmed that the applicant could not work because of their disability. SASSA decided to award the grant, not the medical practitioner. A disability grant, unlike other grants, pays from the date of assessment, so SASSA had implemented gatekeeping measures to ensure it did not incur irregular expenditure for amounts paid incorrectly. Part of the gatekeeping measures was to prevent other processes entering the system until the defined period was concluded.
The DBE highlighted that it collaborated with provincial education departments to ensure out-of-school learners were placed in schools. These initiatives were essential, because they pointed the system to real learners, not just estimates. South African Sign Language was offered as one of the official languages in the basic education sector, and as a language of learning and teaching across all grades. Teachers develop and implement individual educational support plans to respond to the needs of learners. The Department emphasised that the sector must account for learners with disabilities attending educational institutions.
The DWYPD said the Department advocated for all institutions to provide sign language services on all public platforms. It referred to the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and said the Cabinet had approved its implementation matrix in 2015. It stated that the employment equity and work opportunity targets for persons with disabilities should increase to at least 7%, in line with the proportional representativity of the South African population. However, this had not yet been achieved, and the government continued to use the outdated 2% employment target for persons with disabilities.
The Committee noted concerns about the delay in ensuring that more learners had access to scholar transport due to a lack of funding at the provincial level. Members expressed concern over the few special schools available to disabled learners in the country, and asked the DBE to prioritise building special schools in rural areas. They challenged the DSD to improve its employment equity and work opportunity targets for persons with disabilities.
Members commented on the importance of quality education for learners with special needs, and called for a strengthened commitment from South Africa to fulfil its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They said prioritising educational services, programmes, and schools for learners with disabilities was essential.
DSD's responses to questions on Departmental services and programmes
The Department of Social Development (DSD), presented responses to questions by the Committee on the Departmental services and programmes for people with disabilities, including children. The main objectives of the presentation were to provide written responses to the presentation made to the Committee on 1 March.
The Departmental Disability service model was premised on the White Paper on social development services, depicting the need to focus the responsibility of the DSD in respect of disability, amongst other areas.
The disability policy development and strategic implementation interventions focused on the following:
- Meeting the needs of beneficiaries.
- Facilitating their full and equal integration into mainstream socio-economic life.
- Harnessing the strengths and capabilities of beneficiaries to actively participate in improving the quality of their lives.
- Broadening the notion of developmental work from local communities to encompass interventions.
The responses by the DSD to the concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee (PC) with regard to excluded children with disabilities, were:
- A strategy for integrated services to children with disabilities was developed to guide and support integrating and mainstreaming children with disabilities into broader children's programmes in and outside the Department.
- It was aligned with the Children's Act of 2005 and other national policies on services to children.
- It addressed institutional, community-based services, family support services, and funding and support services.
The responses by the DSD to the concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee (PC) with regard to identifying and providing services to excluded children with disabilities, were:
- Family services, including parental empowerment and support services, constitute a package of how the Department identifies children with disabilities.
- The strategy was enhanced by a continued parental dialogue facilitated in all provinces, mostly in rural provinces with limited services.
- To further enhance the strategy, provinces conduct outreach programmes, including profiling households(by the community development branch), which also assists in identifying and referring families.
- Depending on the circumstance of an excluded child with a disability, the service provided would be aligned with the service required, which might include an institution-based service or a community-based service.
Addressing the mainstreaming trajectory remained a challenge. However, several children with disabilities had been mainstreamed into several institutional and community-based facilities implemented by the Department. For example, a considerable number of children with disabilities in some provinces have been admitted to child and youth centres. Institutional and community-based programmes implemented by the Department were guided by the Children's Act and developed prescripts.
Recognition of South African Sign Language
Accessibility to sign language was recognised and elevated by the Department as one of the cornerstones in ensuring an effective and efficient way of communicating with persons with disabilities. A sign language interpreter was always ensured in all consultations with the disability sector and, where necessary, in most consultation platforms of the Department.
The inclusion, support and funding of disabled people's organisations -- especially the SA National Deaf Association (SANDA), DEAFSA and DEAFBLIND organisations -- had also elevated the recognition of sign language and tactile interpretation by the Department as an essential component of communication.
The Department also responded to concerns raised by the PC on the following areas:
Matters of neglect and abuse of children with disabilities raised during the Cabinet hearings
- Cases that were reported during public hearings were attended to immediately by local and provincial DSD officials who were in attendance.
- Matters that required further intervention were reported to the relevant area social workers. The national DSD followed up with all provinces through a comprehensive report that was shared with the provinces.
- The NDSD was busy with on-site monitoring for follow-ups and for monitoring the implementation of relevant policies and legislation
Scarcity and inadequacy of residential facilities
- The registration of facilities was a legislated mandate.
- The lack of legislation on social development services for persons with disabilities hampered the development and effective implementation of several essential services for persons with disabilities.
- The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (WPRPD), which began the process of domesticating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), advocates for including persons with disabilities in their families and communities.
- Persons with disabilities, similar to any person, should be allowed to live with their families and in their communities.
- The DSD did not subsidise residential facilities.
- Developing a framework for community-based services to support independent living for persons with disabilities, was a 2023/24 -2024/25 project. This would ensure that support services were available to support persons with disabilities requiring the service. This was a cost-effective and very inclusive service implemented at the community level.
- The service should be provided where the need for residential care is identified. The Department would continue to advocate for disability service organisations to consider the provision of services in the Northern Cape.
- It acknowledged that inequalities between urban and rural facilities persist, and this negatively impacts service provision.
- The Northern Cape department would also be urged to develop strategies to support the province in reaching out to organisations considering the province as one of their service delivery points.
Disability rights awareness and advocacy programme
- Disability rights awareness and advocacy programmes were implemented in all provinces.
- Implementation covered inter-departmental consolidated and detailed awareness-raising. There were campaigns on prevention and an early intervention programme for children with disabilities targeting parents, social service practitioners, and the community in all nine provinces in partnership with provincial departments of health.
- The empowerment of persons with disabilities was facilitated to help realise their participation in implementing disability mainstreaming in public service and community activities.
Reported sexual and child abuse cases
- No Information on the disaggregated data on children with disabilities was submitted through provincial reports.
- The alternative data management system was being developed to guide the inclusion of disaggregated data providing information on children with disabilities, amongst others.
- This would help in accessing data regarding access to foster care services for abused and neglected children with disabilities, children with disabilities exposed to violence, etc.
Legislation on DSD services to persons with disabilities would assist in the standardisation, monitoring and enforcement of the provision of services, thus improving the overall service delivery to persons with disabilities, including children.
The DSD thanked the Committee for the opportunity to share the overview of its programmes, services and achievements.
SASSA's responses to questions on grants for people with disabilities, including children
Mr Fanie Sethokga, General Manager: Grants Operations, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), responded to the lapse of temporary grants for people with disabilities, including children.
Disability grants were given to persons who meet the statutory requirements. The applicant could get a disability grant if s/he meets the legal requirements and a medical assessment confirms that they cannot work because of the condition or disability.
The medical assessment would determine if the applicant receives a temporary or permanent grant. The assessment would also indicate if the applicant would need a future medical review.
The applicant may qualify if s/he had a physical or mental disability which made them unfit to work and unable to support themselves. If approved, the applicant would get a pre-determined amount of money during the disability period.
SASSA decides to award the grant, not the medical practitioner.
The disability grant, unlike other grants, pays from the date of assessment. Thus, SASSA implemented gatekeeping measures to ensure the public did not incur irregular expenditure for amounts paid incorrectly.
Part of the gatekeeping measures was to prevent other processes in the system until the defined period was concluded.
DWYPD responses on programmes and services for people with disabilities, including children
Dr Praveena Sukhraj-Ely, Chief Director, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), and Ms Esther Maluleke, Chief Director, DWYPD, presented the Department's responses.
Responding to the roles of the DSD and DWYPD regarding signing language interpreters during parliamentary sittings, they said the departments advocate for all institutions to provide sign language services on all public platforms, including persons who use sign language as their means of communication.
The budget for this provision lay within each institution and must form part of the disability-inclusive budgeting model. Furthermore, the Department of Arts and Culture, as well as the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), leads on the issues of language promotion.
The South African Translator's Institute was responsible for the accreditation of sign language interpreters.
The University of Witwatersrand and the University of Free State also offer sign language qualifications.
Ensuring that the sign language interpreters on the procurement database were accredited service providers was necessary.
Reporting on the list of departments not meeting the equity targets and the percentage/number of targets outstanding/achieved, they said the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its implementation matrix had been approved by the Cabinet in 2015. It clearly stated that the employment equity and work opportunity targets for persons with disabilities should increase to at least 7%, in line with the proportional representativity of the South African population. However, this had not yet been achieved, and the government continued to use the outdated 2% employment target for persons with disabilities.
From March 2021 to March 2022, the total number of departments that had surpassed the 2% representation of persons with disabilities increased from 44 to 53, of which 40 were provincial and 13 were national.
In 2022, two more national departments achieved the 2% target compared to the previous financial year. The Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo and Western Cape also increased the number of departments that achieved the 2% employment equity target.
It was interesting to note that even though the public service had not achieved the 2% employment equity (EE) target, some departments surpassed it. These included:
- The DSD in the Free State, which achieved 5.11%, the highest in the public service, followed by the DWYPD at 5.07%.
- Gauteng Economic Development - 4.80%.
- National Department of Tourism - 4.55%.
- Mpumalanga Office of the Premier - 4.52%.
- Western Cape Human Settlements - 4.31%.
- Gauteng E-Government - 4.07%.
- Gauteng Social Development - 4.05%.
It should be noted that the national DSD had achieved only 1.35% during this period.
Cases of disabled children who were sexually assaulted and abused.
The DWYPD has released the National Strategic Framework on Universal Design and Access, and the National Strategic Framework on Awareness Raising. These frameworks provide guidelines on how to make buildings, services, products and programmes more accessible for persons with disabilities.
The DWYPD engages and collaborates with the South African Police Service (SAPS) using various methods, including extending community outreach so that communities know their rights and officials of the SAPS know how to assist them. It was a challenge in various parts of the country. The DWYPD would continue to advocate for disability-responsive services by the SAPS and other Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) departments.
Referring to the unemployment of disabled people due to the challenge that the market was not designed for them, the DWYPD said it had released a framework for reasonable accommodations, and advocates for all government departments to have a policy on reasonable accommodations.
Further, all employees were to be trained on the frameworks released to be more informed on how to work with and manage persons with disabilities in the workplace. Thus, recognising their particular disability and reasonable accommodation, they must ensure they are supported and allowed to thrive in these environments.
DBE's responses to the questions on programmes and services for learners with disabilities
Mr Jabulani Ngcobo, Director: School Improvement Projects, Department of Basic Education (DBE), responded to the absence of data regarding out-of-school learners, and that it could not account for all learners in special care centres.
In collaboration with provincial education departments, he said the DBE was working with disability and parent and civil society organisations to ensure that out-of-school learners were placed in schools. These initiatives were essential, because they pointed the system to real learners, not just estimates.
South African Sign Language
South African Sign Language was offered as one of the official languages in the basic education sector, and as a language of learning and teaching across all grades. This was confirmed by the assessment conducted on all learners on entry into schooling and the appropriate support and accommodation were offered to learners with different barriers to learning across all grades.
The offering of South African Sign Language at the home language level as part of the National Senior Certificate examination for the last five years attested to this commitment by the Department of Basic Education. The DBE would continue to encourage the uptake of the South African Language in the National Senior Certificate examination.
Support for learners
Teachers develop and implement Individual Educational Support Plans (IESPs) to respond to the needs of learners. Where necessary, learners are provided with assistive devices to ensure that they can learn and succeed. Supported by the districts, schools provide relevant therapeutic support to the learners.
To ensure that these learners could perform on par with their peers without disabilities, they were awarded relevant concessions and accommodations.
Protecting learners from bullying
Schools develop and submit a code of conduct for learners to strengthen discipline within schools.
The code of conduct for each school must indicate unacceptable behaviour -- for example, bullying -- and the kind of punishment or sanction likely to be meted out.
The Deputy Minister was leading the anti-bullying campaigns in the sector, which had already been hosted in four provinces.
The sector must account for learners with disabilities who were attending educational institutions.
In this regard, slides 28 and 29 present the percentage of learners with and without disabilities attending educational institutions. The percentage represents where the DBE is regarding the total enrolment of learners in ensuring that all learners attend an educational institution.
Gauteng province had designated 48 ordinary schools as full-service schools.
North West province had designated 230 ordinary schools as full-service schools. The designation decision was a provincial competence based on the extent of support the province deemed necessary for their context.
The Auditor-General (AG) had found that toilets in some full-service schools required special infrastructure upgrades to ensure that they were accessible. These upgrades had been made. However, the schools were provided with a new set of toilets where necessary.
LTSM for schools for the blind
The master copies of learner-teacher support materials (LTSM) were purchased from Pioneer Printers and BlindSA, which meant they now belonged to the sector. Therefore, the DBE was not infringing on any copyright law regarding the uploading and downloading of master copies.
It must be mentioned that this decision resulted in savings not only for provincial education departments, but also ensured that learners in the schools for the blind were appropriately supported in this regard.
The delay in ensuring that more learners had access to scholar transport resulted from a need for more funding at the provincial level.
The provisioning of the Learner Transport Programme for learners with special educational needs was as follows:
- As part of the mainstream programme, provinces appoint service providers through an open supply chain process to transport learners with disabilities. The three schools in North West were part of this programme.
- Provincial education departments procure buses for special schools, appoint drivers, maintain the buses and transport the learners. The 227 schools form part of this programme, which was not part of the mainstream programme. The DBE addresses the reporting, as it is significant reporting on the number of learners with disabilities benefiting from the programme.
- In collaboration with the Department of Transport, the DBE constantly engages with provinces to address the data gaps identified on learner transport for learners with special education needs.
- The full extent of the needs of the learners with disabilities was currently being collected to allow the integration into the mainstream learner transport programme, as the learner transport policy provides for the prioritisation of learners with disabilities.
In collaboration with the Department of Transport, the DBE also holds regular meetings with taxi associations, urging them to register their taxis as companies/service providers to enable them to participate in open bidding processes for the learner transport programme.
It was recommended that the Portfolio Committee on Social Development consider the responses provided regarding the programmes and services for learners with disabilities.
(See the presentations for further details.)
The Chairperson said that the Committee took cognisance of the issues raised in the presentations.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) called for a strengthened commitment of South Africa to fulfil its obligations in terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She said the Committee should be prevalent in South Africa, not only when South Africa engages in international affairs.
She asked the DBE to advise whether there were policy obligations for quality education for learners with special needs. She added that the DBE must ensure the teachers are highly skilled and properly equipped. Further, the curriculum must be enhanced to support such learners.
Ms A Abrahams (DA) referred to SASSA's explanation of the statutory requirements, and asked it to clarify the distinction between a permanent and temporary disability. How did SASSA respond to cases that did not fall under these two categories?
She also asked SASSA to explain what does not qualify as a disability under the grant.
Ms P Marais (EFF) requested the DBE to clarify the statistics presented on the day care centres. She had noted discrepancies between the official statistics and the presentation statistics.
On the enhanced non-governmental organisations (NGOs), she expressed concern that the expenditure appeared to exceed the number of centres and children assisted in the centres.
She said the availability of community programmes needed to be adequately communicated to the communities.
Regarding the shortage of social workers, she questioned the high unemployment rate of social workers.
On disabled children, she called for action by the DSD to protect such children against child abuse. Teachers should be adequately trained to work with disabled children. Parents of deaf children should also be provided with training to enable them to communicate with their children.
She said there was a lack of knowledge and prioritisation for programmes to assist children with autism.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) referred to the DBE's presentation on scholar transport for disabled learners, and asked whether transport was provided for disabled learners who attended mainstream schools.
She expressed concern about the few special schools available for disabled learners in the country. She asked the Department to prioritise the building of special schools in rural areas.
Ms L Arries (EFF) referred to the issue of early childhood development (ECD) facilities for disabled learners. She shared her experience of being a parent to a four-year-old disabled child. She had experienced several challenges in finding an ECD facility to accommodate her child in George in the Western Cape. She had been compelled to enrol her child in a mainstream school. She said that there was a stigmatisation of disabled children in mainstream schools.
She asked the DBE to outline how many ECDs were available in the country and the plan to support children who could not access such schools.
She stated that people with mental disabilities experienced particular difficulties coping with loadshedding. How was the DSD assisting such persons -- for example, with counselling services?
Ms K Bilankulu (ANC) referred to discrepancies in the daycare statistics, and asked the DBE to explain whether the discrepancies were due to the overcrowded centres.
On the employment equity target, she noted the lack of achievement in employing disabled staff in the DSD. She asked what measures were being implemented to address this lack of achievement.
Regarding scholar transport, she asked the DBE to prioritise the service provision in rural areas.
The Chairperson noted concerns about the lack of prioritisation of educational services, programmes, and schools for learners with disabilities.
She supported the concerns about the lack of achievement in employing disabled staff in the DSD.
She added that the lack of proper sanitation at some schools for learners with disabilities must be addressed by the DBE urgently.
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, said the Department was actively supporting the building of toilets and ensuring proper sanitation at new schools.
He said that the DBE prioritised the development of disabled learners to ensure that they became contributors to the workforce and economy.
Leaner transport was a significant challenge for the Department, as many parents chose schools far from their residences. The Department was not funding needs, but choices. It was unsustainable.
In due course, the DBE would ensure that the overall performance of schools for disabled learners improved.
On the safety of disabled learners, the DBE worked closely with the SA Council of Schools and the Department of Justice to vet all school employees.
Dr Moses Simelane, Acting DDG: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring, DBE, said that providing a skills-focused curriculum was a priority of the Department. The DBE introduced three stream models with an occupational and vocational stream in 2017. Skills programmes and the training of teachers have been introduced into special schools.
Regarding autism, the DBE ensured that in each special school, there must be a classroom to accommodate children with autism.
On advocacy, the DBE planned to work with NGOs, community-based organisations (CBOs) and the disability sector in addressing autism on the ground.
Regarding the lack of widespread availability of special schools, he said the DBE supported mainstreaming disabled programmes in mainstream schools to address the gaps.
Due to limited time, the next agenda item, "Briefing by the Department of Social Development on its action plan on the employment of social workers and the Sector Strategy on the employment of social workers," was deferred to the next meeting.
The Chairperson thanked stakeholders for the presentation.
The Committee considered and adopted outstanding minutes of the Committee. The draft minutes of the meetings held on 14, 19, and 26 October, and 9 November 2022, were unanimously adopted as a true reflection of the meetings.
The Chairperson thanked Members for their attendance.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mvana, Ms NQ
Abrahams, Ms ALA
Arries, Ms LH
Bilankulu, Ms NK
Hlongo, Ms AS
Manganye, Ms J
Marais, Ms P
Masango, Ms B
Stock, Mr D
van der Merwe, Ms LL
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