Ministerial Committee on Abuse, Neglect & Ill-Treatment of Older Persons: Recommendations

Social Development

29 May 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

Portofolio Committee on Social Welfare

30 May 2001

Chairperson: Mr Saloojee

Documents handed out
Mothers and Fathers of the Nation: The Forgotten People - The Ministerial Report on Abuse, Neglect and ill-treatment of Older Persons
Ministerial Committee’s Proposals to the Departments of Health, Housing, Local Government, Safety and Security and Home Affairs (email for these)

The Ministerial Committee on the Abuse, Neglect and Ill-Treatment of Older Persons reported that it had completed its work and that its findings and recommendations were condensed in a two-volume report. Issues discussed included abuse of elderly people, housing and security at pension pay-out points. It was strongly recommended that urgent steps be taken to amend the legislation on the elderly to bring it in tune with current developments

Ministerial Committee on the Abuse, Neglect and Ill-Treatment of Older Persons
The Chair welcomed members of the Ministerial Committee to present their reports. These were Ms Mary Turok, Mr Syd Eckley and Mr Tom Manthata.

Committee members expressed their deep dismay at the blatant lack of monitoring and regulation on issues regarding the welfare of the elderly in their two volume report.

The Committee members said that they were utterly disgusted at the extreme destitution and the endemic abuse that elderly people are exposed to daily. Tighter monitoring and regulation of the homes for the elderly is urgently needed. There is a lack of social workers in the rural areas.

Presentation by Mr Tom Manthata
The Committee went to provinces to hear from the old people regarding their daily struggle to survive. Mr Manthata told the Committee that they visited homes, clinics and communities. The type of abuse the elderly people have to endure is heartbreaking.

Mr Manthata said that the issues the Committee investigated revolved around pension, suffering in families, administration in terms of poverty deterrents and abuse in administration procedures. The lack of social workers was endemic in rural areas. He said that the few who were there were often fortune seekers than compassionate service oriented workers. He recounted an incident where the Committee encountered a social worker talking to a wheel Chair disabled person while seated in her car!

Most of the elderly people come unaccompanied to pension payout stations where they are constantly exposed to extreme abuse. Occasionally pension committees do come to their rescue but these were volunteers who were too few and far apart. There were no structures to monitor and oversee these processes. Much effort, he noted, seem to be concentrated on shortening the queues and the time spent at the pension pay-out points yet no thought or effort is given to the anxiety that the elderly have to constantly endure.

There is no policy on how the elderly should be catered for. The real challenge was how to cater for the elderly within the existing urban oriented structures. The few facilities available do not give the elderly the dignity due to them. He observed that it is only in homes run by religious groups where the elderly feel secure and comfortable.

Presentation by Mr Syd Eckley
Mr Eckley stated that the biggest loophole in the structures for the elderly was lack of updated legislation. The only relevant legislation was lamentably archaic dating back to the 1960s. It was evidently impossible to adequately manage and run programs for the elderly on this obsolete legislation. The situation on the ground was near chaotic he lamented. The absence of legislative provision had given all kinds of people and groups a field day to do whatever they liked. He added that many homes lacked inspection and monitoring. The relevant authorities, he noted, were office bound and many of them knew too little, if at all, on what is happening on the ground. It appears that with the increase of the population of the aged, services have suddenly nose-dived.

Only a fraction of the elderly could and do actually afford and seek shelter in homes. The majority dwell in inhospitable conditions. Some even live in toilets and dark insecure alleys. Some homes for the elderly thrive on government subsidies but house not one Black person yet the majority of the elderly and poor people are Black. Some of the private homes have become Section 21 institutions and therefore a law unto themselves. The Committee was shut out of some of the homes. The problems afflicting the elderly were legion and variety. The situation of the elderly goes beyond social welfare. It was a problem that calls for a multifaceted approach to resolve. The Departments of Home Affairs, Justice and Security need to be bought in.

Presentation by Ms Mary Turok
Ms Turok noted that the population of the aged in Africa had more than doubled in comparison to their counter-part in the west. This was as a result of improved medical technology and healthy lifestyles. At present, there were more elderly people in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Ironically, there were fewer Africans in institutions compared to their white counterparts.

There were several ways to cater for the aged. Universal provision is not feasible because it would be a heavy burden to the taxpayer. The way to go is for families to make provision for those in their care while the most needy are taken in for public care. Ms Turok proposed an urgent review of the Social Assistance Act to address the entire spectrum of this lingering problem.

Ms Gandhi inquired on the specific areas of law that had weaknesses. Syd pointed out that the entire Act needed to be overhauled. It is an irrelevant legislation for the current challenges faced by the elderly.

Ms Tsivhase said that in many instances elderly people are discharged from hospitals and sent home before they fully recover. Was it not feasible to exempt the very weak persons from calling at pay points. Most aged Africans prefer not to be taken into homes since they regard this as a sign of rejection by their families.

Ms Olckers (NP) said that there should be proper procedures for appointing procurators for the homes. Some of the people appointed were perennial molesters who were cruel and uncaring towards the elderly.

Ms Turok said that issues around the elderly were many and varied. When the time comes for legislative review, public hearings should be held to give interested parties opportunity to submit memoranda in that regard.

Chalmers (ANC) said there seem to be no adequate support for the elderly from the Department of Social Development. Were there priority areas in the report to be implemented in the interim to address the burning issues while the rest await the promised legislation? The report was too huge and touches on many areas that could not be implemented in the immediate future.

Mr Manthata replied that the Minister would study the report and decide which way forward.

Ms Gandhi complained that even to this time and age there were different pension rates for the white and blacks.

Ms Kalyan wanted to know what in-put, if any traditional leaders contributed to the report.

Mr Manthata responded that in some provinces traditional leaders attended all meetings and at times offered useful input.

The Chair thanked the Ministerial Committee for the useful insights. He asked members to go to their respective parties to study the report and participate more actively in the Committee discussions that would follow.

The meeting was adjourned.


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