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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
17 August 2004
OLDER PERSONS BILL: NEGOTIATING MANDATES
Documents handed out
Eastern Cape Final Mandate
Free State Negotiating Mandate
Gauteng Negotiating Mandate
Kwazulu Natal Negotiating Mandate
Limpopo Province Negotiating Mandate
Mpumalanga Negotiating Mandate
Northern Cape Negotiating Mandate
North West Province Approval of Old Persons Bill
Western Cape Negotiating Mandate
Older Person's Bill [B68-2003]
Seven provinces submitted negotiating mandates on the Older Persons Bill. The Eastern Cape was still deliberating on a mandate within their province. The North West Province approved the Bill without amendments, but the Committee failed to acknowledge the document.
Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Western Cape supported the Bill with concerns or amendments.
Kwazulu-Natal opposed the Bill on the basis of undisclosed costs; the provisions of the Aged Persons Act, 1967; failure to resolve problematic items, and unclear definitions. They indicated that it was illegal to submit the Bill to Parliament without proper costing of its financial implications. Financial implications were crucial because they had overspent their budget for the year by R1, 86 billion.
The mandates variously wanted clearer definitions for the following items: abuse, community, facility, older persons, person, luncheon club, the role of social workers, the role of the national Director-General within the ambit of the Bill, and the differentiated old age status for men and women.
Several mandates noted a contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. The Bill had involved the Director General in administrative or management roles, but the Act provides solely for the Head of Department.
The Committee concluded that it should have another meeting before adopting the Bill and transferring it to the National Assembly. The Committee would receive final provincial mandates on a date arranged by the Chairperson before 26 August.
The Chairperson asked the State Law Advisor to advise the Committee where necessary. He deferred to the Department of Social Development (DOS) because he had not familiarised himself with the amended Bill. Ms T Mahlangu, Director of Older Persons, DOS, indicated concerns with definitions, misunderstanding of the Social Assistance Act, and conflicting views over the existence of an Ombudsperson. The Department was awaiting advice from the State Law Advisors over the Ombudsperson issue.
Mr M Thetjeng (ANC), Mr T Setona (ANC) and Mr B Tolo (ANC) reflected on the complexity of terms and Acts mentioned by the Bill. They felt that Members would require ample time to study these tricky details before adoption of the Bill.
Department of Social Development briefing
The Department delegation consisted of Ms T Mahlangu, Director of Older Persons; Mrs L Petersen, Parliamentary Liaison Officer; Advocate G Hoon, State Law Advisor, and Ms B Makani of the Research Unit.
Ms Mahlangu gave background to the Bill since the Department's decision in 1999 to upgrade legislation governing older persons. At the time it had not provided adequately for community based care services and had placed only 2% of older persons in institutional care. These were mostly persons of a minority group. The new Older Persons Bill was presented to Parliament in August 2003. The Bill took four years to draft because it absorbed various new standards emerging from the 'International Year for Older Persons,' 1999, and the Madrid Conference on Older Persons, 2001.
In 2000, a Departmental Committee had had to investigate abuse of older persons televised by M-Net and the SABC.
Ms Mahlangu explained the principal aims of the Bill: to enable older persons to develop socially; to encourage older persons to contribute to their community; to create a culture whereby older persons are venerated for their wisdom and to enforce stricter and more efficient punishment of abuse.
Negotiating Mandates on the Older Persons Bill:
The Eastern Cape apologised for not submitting a mandate.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) presented the Western Cape. They supported the Bill with a list of queries and amendments (see attached document). They wanted clarification on the role of social workers. Social services appeared to extend only to older persons in homes or shelters. The absence of older persons from government housing programmes was not acceptable.
Members levelled a few criticisms. The Western Cape mandate apparently contained issues that had been resolved during a previous Committee meeting. Ms Lamoela apologised. Her Provincial Committee had produced the document in her absence, and she had not been able to review it before the meeting today.
Mr Setona remarked that the Bill would require much deliberation by Members. The different age between males and females receiving Social Assistance must be addressed. It was possible that males between 60 and 65 were in need of welfare assistance.
Mr Thetjeng announced support of the Bill with several amendments (see attached document). The province had held public hearings in six districts on 13 August.
The Gauteng mandate, presented by Ms M Magubane (ANC), supported the 'principle and detail' of the Bill, subject to certain amendments (see attached document). Their Portfolio Committee had been briefed on the contents of the Bill on 13 August. No public hearings had been held in Gauteng. They were not aware of the financial implications of the Bill, but they awaited a preliminary costing exercise commissioned by the province from the Department.
Mr Tolo asked it if was possible for the Department to accommodate other departments such as the SA Police Services in the Bill. Advocate Hoon replied that the Department was able to call upon them to make arrests.
Mr Thetjeng voiced his concern with provinces failing to conduct public hearings. Both the Chairperson and Mr B Tolo (ANC) reminded the Committee that provinces were not obligated to conduct public hearings.
Northern Cape supported the Bill with six concerns (see attachment). Mr M Sulliman (ANC) presented the mandate.
Members agreed with the Northern Cape that the age difference between men and woman for admission to homes was discriminatory. However, Ms B Scott (ANC, KZN) said that reconciling the old age status might prove a costly exercise. With no estimated costs available to provinces, it would be difficult to choose an appropriate amendment. Mr Thetjeng suggested that for now the Committee must accept it as it appears in the Constitution. The Chairperson felt that the Committee should treat the item on a 'year to year' basis.
Mpumulanga accepted the Bill with a number of amendments (see attachment). Public hearings were held on 16 August. Mr Tolo, who presented the mandate, said the public hearings in the province on 16 August had received strong sentiments against the old age status.
The Free State supported the Bill pending the negotiation of a list of amendments. Mr Setona presented.
Kwazulu-Natal was opposed to the Bill on the grounds of pages one and two of their mandate (see attached document). The Bill needed to have more emphasis on community-based care. This would help to reduce the burden of older persons on the state. They provided a definition of abuse that they felt the Bill should use. The process of reporting abuse and punishing offenders should be systematised because it is currently too loose. There should be an appeal process for those wrongfully accused with the public register of abuse. The province consulted Mr C Barberton of the National Treasury, who reckoned there were 'substantial issues' in the Bill for costing. The province had overspent its budget this year by R1, 86 billion, and hence it could not offer its full support for the Bill without knowing the financial implications. In terms of government policy, Parliament could not consider the Bill without full disclosure of its costs.
KZN agreed with the Gauteng amendment to section 19(5) of the Bill regarding powers bestowed on the national Director-General. Ms B Scott (KZN presenter) indicated that it was unconstitutional for the Director General (DG) to delegate his/her role to the provincial DG. The latter was accountable to its Executive authority and not the national DG.
The meeting was adjourned, with a resolution to meet next week.
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