This meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development centred on the Children’s Amendment Bill [B19 – 2023] – a Private Member’s Bill introduced by the DA’s Ms B Masango. The Department presented the budgetary aspects, emphasising challenges due to the absence of financial allocations and capacity constraints. The presentation highlighted the Treasury moratorium on engaging service providers, adding complexity to the costing process.
During the discussion, Members of the Committee raised various points including questioning the prioritisation of costing over the content and value of the Bill. A Member sought clarification on addressed issues in the Amendment Bill while another raised concerns about policy coordination and the translation of legislation into community impact. Another Member expressed appreciation but noted time constraints on the Private Members Bills. One Member inquired about the protection of fathers' rights and the treatment of children aged out of foster care. Another emphasised resource limitations and time constraints, suggesting a possible deferral.
In response, it was acknowledged that decisions lie within the Committee's jurisdiction and collaboration with stakeholders. Engagement with the Presidency for child rights protection was highlighted. Concerns about children turning 18 and being pushed out of the system were acknowledged as a significant issue.
The meeting concluded with the Committee deciding to defer the Private Member’s Bill to the next Parliament, considering resource constraints and time limitations.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Socia Development, Ms N Mvana (ANC), welcomed everyone to the meeting, apologies were acknowledged, and the agenda was adopted.
The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to continue with the deliberations. The Department of Social Development (DSD) appreciates the engagement to ensure that the Department continues to deliver social services to children and families. The Department is open to suggestions and recommendations as this provides a broader perspective on the real issues that need to be looked at. The Department is committed to improving the social livelihoods of children and their families and this is enshrined in the Department's Constitutional mandate. The Department is also committed to ensuring that the Children's Amendment Bill [B19 – 2023] is thorough and that all perspectives are considered in the process.
Briefing by the DSD on budget implication and resource allocation to implement the Children’s Amendment Bill [B19 – 2023] (Private Members Bill)
Mr Linton Mchunu, Acting Director General, DSD, took the Committee through the presentation. In the context of the proposed Children's Amendment Bill for 2023, specifically focusing on the micro-partial care aspect, assessing the status of the partial care programme and the associated cost implications is imperative.
As it stands, there is a notable absence of financial allocations for the implementation of Partial Care at the National Department of Social Development (DSD). Despite the Department's prior development and costing of an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Policy, including partial care, the costing details were not itemised. This policy was subsequently handed over to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Currently, the DSD is in the process of conceptualising the establishment of a Respite Care Programme. This initiative could potentially offer support to partial care services. However, it is essential to note that the cost of a comprehensive Partial Care Programme, in line with Chapter 5 of the Children's Act, will be considered in the future.
Regarding the costing process, it was revealed that the DSD faces capacity constraints in internally conducting cost assessments for policies and legislation. Consequently, external service providers are usually engaged for this purpose. However, a significant challenge at present is the moratorium imposed by the Treasury on sourcing service providers. This moratorium, effective until 31 March, 2024, implies that the DSD can only resume engaging in such exercises once the moratorium is lifted, with adherence to the supply chain management process.
The current landscape underscores the need for a strategic approach to address the financial implications of the proposed Children's Amendment Bill, particularly concerning the establishment and sustenance of Micro Partial Care. The challenges presented by the absence of allocated funds, the non-itemised costing of previous policies, and the limitations imposed by the Treasury moratorium necessitate careful consideration and planning for future actions. The DSD must anticipate and navigate these challenges effectively, ensuring that the financial aspects align with the objectives outlined in the Children's Amendment Bill.
See attached for full presentation
Ms B Masango (DA) thanked the DSD for the presentation and appreciated the explanation given on the costing. The issue of having the Amendment Bill before the Committee is whether its desirability depends on whether costing has been done or any other aspect before it becomes an Act. The Private Member's Bill should be looked through its content and value to the people of South Africa without considering cost factors. Costing should be considered later after the value of the Bill has been considered.
Ms M Pietersen (ANC) indicated that she went through the Bill and some of the issues raised have already been addressed. What will be the impact of that on the Amendment Bill?
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) sought clarity on the issue of policy coordination in terms of what was not covered in the Children's Amendment Bill and how that speaks to the issues being raised in the amendments. What are the exact gaps that are being addressed? Further, how is the Department ensuring that, what is on paper translates in the communities, as there is normally a disjoint between what is in legislation versus what is happening in the communities?
What is the status of the Officer of the Rights of the Child? Because the offices in the constituencies are not functional in their ability to meet their obligations regarding protecting vulnerable children. The Department should provide more information.
Ms L Arries (EFF) thanked the Department for the presentation and the considerations that have been brought before the Committee. It seems like there is not much that could be done to take the Private Members Bill forward because of time, although this is for protecting Children's rights.
Ms P Marais (EFF) expressed thanks to the Department. Will these amendments protect fathers who want to have access to their children who have perhaps been taken away from them? Furthermore, is the Bill also intending to address issues of children who turn 18 years old and are pushed out of the foster care system? The timeframes of the Bill are concerning as to whether the Committee will be able to justly complete the processes of the Bill.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) thanked the Department for the presentation and expressed that the Bill is desirable; however, the presentation highlights crucial issues of partial care, especially on cost. Therefore, this makes this an impossible task for the Department as there are no resources allocated including the employment of more social workers, which might result in unforeseen situations. Furthermore, time constraint is an issue.
Ms J Manganye (ANC) reiterated that the Bill is appreciated and that although this is a desirable Bill, but because of time constraints including other Bills that the Committee is considering, it would be unjust for the Committee to try to rush the Private Members's Bill. This does not mean that the Bill is thrown away; it means that it would be temporarily deferred and can be considered when Parliament reopens.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation as this guides the Committee on the matter at hand. As proposed in the previous meeting, this issue must be deferred so that it can be dealt with when the time comes.
Mr D Stock (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation. There are bills that the Department has deferred in the past to be considered later. The contributions and contents of the Private Member's Bill are appreciated however, the issues raised by the Bill have been addressed in the Children's Amendment Bill. Mr Stock agreed that considering a bill requires the appropriate allocation of the needed resources; hence this is key in the Private Member's Bill. hence it would be beneficial for a temporary deferral of the Private Member's Bill for the next Parliament's consideration.
Ms Masango appreciated the comments shared by the Committee. She said that National Treasury can present the issue of the costing. Other bills have been considered in the past without considering costing, and costing only comes in later after considering the Bill. Costing should not be the primary reason for not considering the Private Member’s Bill.
The Chairperson recommended that the Department does not provide extensive responses as the issues raised have been deliberated in past meetings. The Department was requested to only respond to the pertinent issues raised by the Committee.
In response, Mr Mchunu said that all decisions lie within the confines of the Committee and the Department will be guided by that decision.
Mr Mchunu added that the Department is working with all relevant stakeholders in protecting children’s rights, including the Office of the Rights of the Child, under the coordination of the Office of the Presidency. There are legislation, policies, programmes, norms, and standards that the public can access regarding the services offered by the DSD.
On this issue, Minister Zulu added that the Department engaging with the person in the Presidency who is responsible for the Office of the Rights of the Child to ensure that children's rights are protected.
Regarding children who turn 18 years old and are pushed out of the system, Minister Zulu said that this is a pertinent issue being faced across the provinces and the Department is looking into this. Regarding the issues raised by Ms Sukers regarding the dysfunctionality in the constituencies, the Minister indicated that another meeting should be convened so that the Department can specifically deal with such issues.
The secretary of the Committee took the Committee through the next steps that ought to be taken as per the rules of the National Assembly and the Committee decided to defer the contents of the Private Member’s Bill to the next Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.
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