Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill: Social Development

Social Development (WCPP)

30 November 2023
Chairperson: Mr D Plato (DA)
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Meeting Summary


The meeting focused on deliberating Vote Seven: Social Development in the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2023. The Department of Social Development highlighted challenges due to budget constraints, emphasising prioritising vulnerable services. Discussions included concerns about fund allocations for computers instead of addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and crime prevention. Responses highlighted the Department's commitment to statutory obligations and the necessity of tools like computers. Inquiries about child protection budgets and homeless shelter decisions were addressed, along with questions about non-profit organisations and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The meeting concluded with a minority view from the ANC and EFF not supporting Vote Seven, acknowledging challenges faced by the Department.

Meeting report

The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Social Development welcomed all to the meeting and handed over to the Department of Social Development to proceed with the presentation.

Minister’s remarks

In her opening remarks, Ms Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Minister of Social Development, expressed gratitude to the Chairperson and the Committee for the support of the Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD). She acknowledged the challenging financial landscape outlined by the Minister of Finance, emphasising that while the Department has been partially shielded by the provincial treasury,  there are concerns, however, about future budget constraints.

Despite a shrinking budget and fiscal constraints, the Minister highlighted the importance of prioritising services for the most vulnerable. She emphasised the need for innovative approaches to engage the private sector and civic society. Minister Fernandez acknowledged the challenges faced by the Department, including the impact on stakeholder partners such as child protection agencies and shelters.

Minister Fernandez commended the management team for making tough decisions and underscored the transverse nature of these decisions, considering various clusters like health, education, agriculture, sports, arts and culture, safety, growth, jobs, and dignity. She acknowledged the strain on shelters during the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence on Women and Children. In conclusion, Minister Fernandez expressed gratitude for the opportunity to present and welcomed robust engagement and transparent deliberations. She handed over to Dr Robert McDonald, the Head of Department (HOD).

HOD Input

Dr Robert McDonald expressed gratitude to the Chairperson, Members of the Committee, Minister, and Departmental staff. He acknowledged the challenges posed by significant budget cuts during the financial year and commended the Department and the provincial Treasury team for their efforts to mitigate the impacts. Dr McDonald highlighted the unusual situation of facing budget cuts mid-year, risking the Department’s contractual obligations. He explained that the provincial treasury's assistance involved using reserves to offset equitable share cuts and addressing the unfunded national wage increase. The finance team worked to reprioritise funds internally by unmarking earmarked allocations for more flexibility in moving funds between programmes and economic classifications.

Approximately R106 million cut from the equitable share was cancelled out by the provincial Treasury from its reserves. There were smaller shifts, including reallocating over R16 million from the Department of Infrastructure to Social Development for Non-Government Organisations (NGO)-run shelters instead of planned infrastructure work. Given uncertainties about future budgets, this decision aimed at achieving a more sustainable use of funds. Another R20 million was shifted to child protection organisations facing increased pressure due to a rise in children entering the child protection system. Dr McDonald emphasised that the budget adjustments were a temporary cushion, and the coming financial year would likely bring more severe impacts. He flagged the challenges ahead and expressed readiness to discuss further details in the budget document.

The Chairperson expressed appreciation to the Department and acknowledged the financial challenges posed by budget cuts across departments. Emphasising the need to fulfil functions with fewer resources, the Chairperson underscored the potential impact on service delivery. The Chairperson extended the invitation to both present and online public participants for input including members of the Committee.


Ms N Bakubaku-Vos (ANC) raised several questions. Firstly, she welcomed the budget increase on page 143 resulting from the rollover funds and a shift from the Department of Infrastructure for bed space in shelters. However, she expressed concern that the Department's budget does not align with the provincial government's mid-term budget policy statement, which priorities GBV child protection, and psychosocial support. She sought clarification on the Department's approach to these policy priorities.

Moving to page 147, Ms Bakubaku-Vos questioned the allocation of funds earmarked for crime prevention, expressing dismay that these funds were being used for buying computers instead. She requested an explanation for the shift in purpose and the original intent of these funds, emphasising the urgency of addressing the province's violent crime crisis.

Continuing on page 148, she raised a similar concern about funds originally earmarked for substance use disorder crisis being redirected to purchase computers. Ms Bakubaku-Vos sought a detailed explanation for these budgetary decisions, expressing worry about the perceived misallocation of resources.

Lastly, on page 148, under point 5.3, Ms Bakubaku-Vos addressed the Department's provision for food parcels in the face of high poverty and a rising cost of living in the province. While commending the allocation, she criticised the allocated amount of R4 000 allocated for food parcels, contrasting it with significant funds diverted to buying computer equipment. She called on the Department to provide a comprehensive response to these questions.

Minister Fernandez responded to Ms N Bakubaku-Vos's questions by emphasising the Department's commitment to fulfilling statutory obligations, which takes precedence in prioritisation. The Minister acknowledged that tough decisions had to be made, considering trade-offs in certain areas. The Minister highlighted the importance of prioritising statutory work to avoid potential litigation and associated costs.

Regarding the concerns raised about the allocation of funds for computers, the Minister explained that equipping staff, especially additional social workers, with the necessary tools of trade was essential for fulfilling their functions. The Minister then deferred to Dr McDonald and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to provide a detailed rationale for the decisions made, addressing the specific concerns raised by Ms Bakubaku-Vos.

Dr McDonald provided detailed responses to Ms Bakubaku-Vos's questions. Regarding the budget not showing a specific increase for GBV, he explained that GBV was already prioritised at the beginning of the year, and the additional work planned did not require extra funds. The existing budget sufficed to address GBV priorities.

Concerning the funds shifting from programmes to buying computers, Dr McDonald clarified that ageing computers in the Department were reaching expiry, and replacement was critical for staff to perform their duties effectively. He emphasised the importance of computers for accessing essential systems like the electronic Child Protection Register and the Foster Care Management System. Considering the impending challenges, the decision to buy computers this year aimed to alleviate pressure on next year's budget.

Regarding funds allocated for food parcels and the limited scope for expansion, Dr McDonald acknowledged the Department's ongoing discussions with Treasury to address the need for additional funds. He highlighted the challenge of balancing mandatory services, such as child protection, with the desire to allocate more funds to food relief given the province's situation.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos expressed her understanding of the Department's response and reiterated the high expectations from the public. She emphasised the need for the Department to lobby the government for increased funding, particularly for GBV and food allocation interventions.

Ms Bakubaku-Vos then posed two questions related to page 150. Firstly, in the programming for child care and protection, she sought information on the total budget for the intervention plan and how the allocated R723,000 would contribute to its objectives. Secondly, in the programming for children and their families, she inquired about the magnitude of the need for homeless shelters in the Central Business District (CBD). She sought details on the decision to create additional bed space in existing shelters instead of developing a new homeless shelter. Ms Bakubaku-Vos also requested information on the criteria for identifying the shelters and which specific shelters had been chosen for additional bed space.

Dr McDonald responded to Ms Bakubaku-Vos's questions, providing details on both the budget allocation for child protection and the decision-making process regarding homeless shelter expansion in the CBD. Regarding the R723,000 for child protection, Dr McDonald deferred to the CFO and the team to provide specific details. He then addressed the second question concerning the need for shelter space in the CBD. Dr McDonald acknowledged a massive need for shelter space expansion, with estimates well beyond 1000 people. The City of Cape Town is expanding its safe space in the CBD with approximately 300 bed spaces.

The provincial Department of Social Development had initially aimed to create around 120 additional spaces through planned infrastructure works. However, community objections and stakeholder concerns led to a reassessment of the project's feasibility. Dr McDonald explained that considering potential delays and opposition, the decision was made to redirect funds to NGOs for smaller, decentralised expansions. This approach, he argued, would have less impact on immediate communities and provide more flexibility in adjusting bed spaces to the evolving need.

Dr McDonald clarified that the criteria for identifying shelters for expansion involved asking existing shelters in the CBD area if they had space and were interested in expanding. The Department is in talks with organisations and committed to updating the Committee once final decisions are made.

Mr Juan Smith, Chief Financial Officer, WC Department of Social Development, provided additional information regarding the R723,000 allocation. He clarified that this amount was an over-collection of revenue from the previous year, which Treasury allowed the Department to retain. Now, with the availability of the funding in the adjustment budget, it has been shifted and redirected towards an intervention plan with a specific focus on providing care and emergency packs for children.

Ms A Cassiem (EFF) posed two questions. Firstly, she inquired about the number of non-profit organisations that the Department assists with subsidies under the statement of child and families. She also sought information on the predominant locations of these NGOs within the province.

Secondly, focusing on services for persons living with disabilities, Ms Cassiem asked whether all Provincial Government Department buildings have facilities catering to individuals with disabilities. Additionally, she wanted details on the types of disabilities considered, any current challenges faced by the Departments in this regard, and the plans in place to address these challenges.

Responding Ms Cassiem’s question, regarding the first question about the number of non-profit organisations assisted with subsidies under the statement of children and families and their predominant locations in the province, the Minister explained that providing a detailed list at the meetings would be challenging. However, she expressed the Department's willingness to provide a comprehensive list of the Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) and NGOs at a later time.

Concerning the second question related to services for persons living with disabilities, specifically whether all Provincial Government Department buildings have facilities for individuals with disabilities, the Minister deferred this part of the response to Dr McDonald.

Regarding the list of NGOs funded in the children and family space, Dr McDonald stated that the Department could provide a comprehensive list.

Concerning the accessibility of provincial government buildings for individuals with disabilities, Dr McDonald explained that efforts had been made to address accessibility issues and ensure compliance with disability access, especially in larger main buildings and local offices. However, he acknowledged that some buildings still require work, and it remains an ongoing project in collaboration with the Provincial Department of Public Works. Dr McDonald highlighted the challenges in securing suitable buildings in certain areas, emphasising that rented buildings could pose difficulties in implementing modifications. Despite the ongoing work, he acknowledged a mixture of progress in disability-friendly initiatives, with a focus on making improvements where needed.

Mr Charles Jordan, Chief Director: Social Welfare, WC DSD responded to Ms Cassiem's inquiry about the number of NPOs assisted by the Department. He provided detailed information, stating that the Department funds 115 designated child protection organisations across the entire Western Cape. These organisations exclusively engage in statutory work, including child removals, placing children in foster care, adoptions, and alternative care.

In addition to child protection organisations, the families program supports 160 NGOs. Within this category, there are 37 homeless shelters, and the remaining organisations focus on family counselling, parenting programmes, support for families, and parenting skills, training for boys, men, and teenage girls.

In her closing remarks, the Minister expressed gratitude to the Chairperson and the Committee Members for their questions and inputs. She acknowledged the immense pressure faced by the Department, not only in terms of service delivery but also due to budget cuts. The Minister highlighted the challenges of working with fewer resources and the increasing caseload, particularly with staff resignations. She emphasised the importance of caring for the well-being of the team, considering the mental health aspects.

The Minister underscored the need for a whole-of-society approach and community involvement to assist the Department in addressing challenges. She recognised the impact of budget cuts and shortfall, emphasising the severe implications for social development. Despite the difficulties, the Minister expressed a commitment to working together to make a positive difference and bring about the desired change.

In his closing remarks, Dr McDonald expressed gratitude to the Chairperson and acknowledged the difficult situation faced by the Department, as highlighted by the Minister. He thanked the entire team involved in the budget process and acknowledged the support and guidance provided by the Minister. Dr McDonald emphasised the challenging circumstances anticipated for the new financial year, expressing particular concern about the potential impact on the NGO sector due to funding constraints. Despite the challenges, he acknowledged the efforts of Treasury to mitigate some of the risks in the current financial year through the adjustment budget.

Closing Remarks

The Chairperson highlighted the high expectations of the communities and the challenges faced by the Department. He emphasised the importance of recognising the efforts of officials, particularly those working on the ground, dealing with day-to-day responsibilities and fulfilling demanding tasks. The Chairperson expressed gratitude to all officials for their diligence and leadership, acknowledging the often-overlooked work of those who directly interact with communities. He extended special thanks to the Minister and the HOD, expressing appreciation for their collaboration.

The Chairperson concluded by wishing all officials a joyful festive season and announced the end of the meeting, allowing officials from the Department to vacate the session while the Committee continued their work.

The Chairperson took the Committee through the Committee Report on Vote Seven: Social Development in the Schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2023. The Committee supported the Vote with a minority view not to support the Vote from the African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

The meeting was adjourned.

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