Older Persons’ Bill: Department briefing

Social Development

25 August 2005
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Meeting report

Chapter 6

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
26 August 2005
OLDER PERSONS’ BILL: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Ms T Tshivhase (ANC)

Document handed out:
Older Person's Bill [B68B - 2003] with amendments made by the National Council of Provinces
Older Person's Bill [B68 - 2003]
Department briefing
Presentation on the Costing of the Older Persons Bill
Comments on Older Persons Bill (Version B68-2003) together with Proposed Amendments

SUMMARY
The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the Older Person’s Bill which had already been deliberated on and passed by the National Council of Provinces. In drafting the Bill, the Department said that it had considered the skills and wisdom of older persons, their changing, their contribution to communities and the need to keep them in their communities as long as possible. They had now become second time parents. The objectives of the Bill were to empower older persons, protect their rights and promote their dignity and respect. The Bill enforced punishment against any abuse. The first draft of the Bill had about 50 clauses but Cabinet had reduced it to 21 clauses. They had removed those that they thought were unaffordable and not able to be implemented.

Members asked if South Africa had a five- or ten-year plan to address the issues of older persons and to what extent the Bill moved away from merely regulating old-age homes. The Committee said that it was important for the Department to tap into the resources of Local Government to help with the costing of the Bill.

MINUTES

Department briefing on the background to the Bill

Ms T Mahlangu, Department Head of Older Persons, said that the previous Bill had focused on institutional care but only 2% of the population had been in institutions, with the majority of that 2% being members of minority groups. When the Bill was developed, the skill and wisdom of older persons, their contribution to communities and the need to keep them in their communities as long as possible was considered, as well as their changed role - many of them had become second time parents looking after their grandchildren. The Bill looked at the demographic situation to see where the highest concentration of older persons was and what percentage of the total population they were. There were 3.2 million older persons in South Africa, 7.3% of those were older than 60 years old and 63% of them were women. KwaZulu-Natal had the most, followed by the Eastern Cape and then Gauteng. These facts were all considered in drafting the Bill.

She said that the objectives of the Bill were to empower older persons, protect their rights and promote their dignity and respect and combat their abuse. The Bill enforced punishment against any abuse inflicted on older persons and provided for the establishment of services and programmes for older persons and regulated the registration facilities that served older persons. This Bill had been initiated in 1999 and after the screening of a documentary by MNet in 2000 and the subsequent public outcry, the Minister had established a committee to investigate the abuse of older persons and their recommendations were released in 2001. The global trends in the care of older persons had also been assessed. The Bill had been finalised in July 2002 and then presented to Parliament in August 2003.

Discussion
Adv M Masutha said that it was important to go beyond what the Bill said. Other departments had to be included in the development of the Bill. For example, the social security component of Social Development had to be considered, as well as the private sector. He said that he did not think the role of the municipalities had been articulated properly in the Bill.

Ms Mahlangu said that there had been consultation with other Departments at workshops to see what was expected of them. The country had to establish its own plan of action for older persons but the Bill was a cornerstone of the plan. More consultation was needed with the private sector.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) agreed with Adv Masutha. It was important to consider how other departments, such as Housing, were affected by the Bill.

The Chairperson asked if South Africa had a five or ten-year plan to address the issues of older persons, what extent did the Bill move away from merely regulating old age homes, and did the Bill refocus resources from residential facilities to rural ones? Did the Bill address the issue of supporting those caregivers who looked after older persons in communities, especially as some needed specialised care.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked what exactly the ‘programmes for development’ were and how they were to be introduced and maintained.

Ms Mahlangu said that a special workshop at government level was to be held from the 21 to 23 September 2005 where Government Departments were to come together to come up with a comprehensive plan, with some of the recommendations being included in the Bill. The Bill was human rights-based, and the provision of services had to further this. The proposed programmes had to be uniform as well, depending on their affordability. Services had to be introduced in rural areas in the form of out-reach programmes. There was provision in the costing of the Bill for caregivers to go to individual homes to help. There had to be developmental programmes for those older persons who wished to remain in their communities.

Mr P Du Preez from the Department’s Legal Services, said that civil society had not been with the Bill. The first draft of the Bill had about 50 clauses but Cabinet had reduced it to 21 clauses. They removed those that they thought were unaffordable and not able to be implemented. The provinces had said that they would only implement this Bill of they had financial support from the National Government. KwaZulu-Natal had actually voted against the Bill in the National Council of Provinces for this reason.

Adv Masutha said that it was important for the Department to tap into the resources of Local Governments to help with the costing of the Bill.

Mr Du Preez agreed. He said that the provinces were wrong to think that they had to incur all the costs of implementation of the Bill.

Department briefing on the Bill
Mr Du Preez then briefed the Committee on the content of the Bill (see document).

Discussion
The Chairperson said that many older people found it difficult to talk about any abuse they had been subjected to. In these cases, social workers were not doing their jobs properly in discovering the abuse. What was the Bill going to do about this?

Mr Du Preez said that the problem was exacerbated by the shortage of social workers. This rendered the Bill effectively not able to be implemented.

Ms Chalmers asked why the provision of frail care had been removed from the Bill. She asked if there was a provision in the Bill that made it compulsory for local authorities to inspect old age homes.

Mr Du Preez said that frail care had been removed from the Bill because the Select Committee felt that a frail person and an old person had to be treated the same in terms of the standard of care they received. If there was a need for frail care, a separate piece of legislation had to be drawn up. Ms Mahlangu added that the Department had special guidelines to deal with those who required frail care. These could be made part of the forthcoming regulations. Clause 10 made it possible for authorities to inspect old age homes.

Ms H Weber (DA) asked if there was any provision in the Bill that dealt with funeral policies and money- lenders. She wanted to know where the register of abusers of older persons would be held, and from where the names of abusers had been obtained.

Mr Du Preez replied that Clause 2(2)(f) gave the Minister the power to create certain norms and standards to regulate those who sold funeral policies and lent money. The register was to be kept in the National Department. Provinces also had to had their own registers, with information about reported cases.

Ms Chalmers asked if the name of someone who had been convicted of the rape of an older person would appear on the register.

Ms Mahlangu replied that that the Department had developed a protocol for handling abuse. This had been distributed to its service providers, especially provincial departments. Once a case was reported, certain steps had to be followed. There had to be an understanding with the Department of Justice for it to report to the Department of Social Development about cases concerning the abuse of older persons.

Mr Du Preez described a case that was currently in the Cape High Court concerning the definition of ‘aged person.’ The contention of the plaintiffs was that the definition was discriminatory against adult men between the ages of 60 and 65. Currently women received benefits at the age of 60, and men at 65. The Treasury Department would not support the age being pegged at 60 for all persons because of the costs thereof. The matter has gone to court and would remain so until the matter was heard in the Constitutional Court.

Ms Dudley suggested that Treasury be brought before the Committee to explain their thinking in this regard.

The Chairperson asked if any calculations had been done to assess the costs to the State if the Court ordered the age to be fixed at 60 for all persons. Mr Du Preez conceded that such an analysis had not been done.

Adv Masutha asked the Department if the Treasury Department had a compromise position. Mr Du Preez replied that Treasury wanted the status quo to remain.

Costing of the Bill
Ms Mahlangu presented the costing analysis of the Bill (see document). The costing had been outsourced to a service provider. Residential care; integrated community care with outreach services; home based care; poverty relief; the capital cost and the national and provincial costs were what concerned the Department most. The process was completed with the Treasury Department to keep them informed at all times of their needs. A legal assessment was also done by the service provider to see which provisions were obligatory and which were discretionary, as well as an assessment of the risks of litigation that the Department was exposed to, such as an improperly kept register of abusers.

She said that a fiscal analysis was done provincially for the old age homes, the service centres and the subsidies paid. The results of this analysis found that older persons had to be better protected, there had to be more community based services and intergenerational programmes. The basic, intermediate and tertiary levels of care had to be costed, as well as the stipends paid to the caregivers. Some of the programmes that the Bill encouraged already existed. To assess the impact of the Bill, research was to be conducted from April 2006 sampling each province and then reassessing the impact again after five years.

Discussion
Adv Masutha asked if the Department had analysed the residual capacity of provinces to provide services for them after the new South African Social Assistance Agency (SASSA) had come into force, and had begun to draw on the resources and staff of the provinces. Were they in touch with this new social assistance arm? What use did the Department make of community-based organisations that did a lot of good work for the elderly, and did they support them? He also asked how they had arrived at the figures in their costing analysis. Had they used figures from the census of Statistics South Africa?

Mr Du Preez replied that he did not think that SASSA would be fully functional until about 2010 and so the Department was still relevant in social assistance. He said it would be useful to call the officials dealing with social security before the Committee to hear from them. Ms Mahlangu added that their figures were drawn from the census report of 2001 and the various policy figures of the Department.

Ms Mahlangu asked the Committee to ensure the commitment of other Departments with an interest in the Bill to create a national matrix or plan of action that protected 100% of older persons. The legislation had to be able to be implemented.

The meeting was adjourned.

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