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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
24 FEBRUARY 1998
LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME & PRIORITIES FOR 1998: BRIEFING BY DEPARTMENT OF WELFARE & POPULATION DEVELOPMENT
Documents handed out:
Department Fact sheet No 003/98
Invitation for public comments
Statement by Minister
The Director-General, Dr Mokaba, stressed that what he outlined was only a framework as strategic planning was to take place on 1-3 March.
It was hoped that the following bills would be tabled before 30 June and passed by September: Child Care Amendment Bill, Social Work Amendment Bill, Relief Fund Bill.
With regard to the Child Care Amendment Bill, there was a delay in bringing this into operation due to the considerable revamping required. The delay was also caused by the fact that children in future will require legal representation and the Department of Justice has not yet handled this aspect. They have been requested to give this their highest priority. The draft version will be discussed in March.
The Social Work Act has to be amended as the Interim Council expires on 28 February. An amendment will either provide for an extension of the existing Council or for the setting up of a new Council. It was felt that the former option will probably be taken.
There needs to be an evaluation on whether the existing Funds should continue or be amalgamated. Currently these are the Relief, Disaster, Refugee, Defence Force and State President Funds.
A general discussion on the proposed programme and priorities for 1998 ensued.
Section 21 has already taken effect. All previous acts (including all the Homelands) have been abolished. Grants payable under these will continue until the Child Care grant comes into effect on 1 April 12998. From this date phasing out of the previous grant will commence, ie 25% on 1/4/98, 25% in 1999, 25% in 2000, 25% in 2001. The exact dates in the latter three years will be determined by the Minister.
The request for public comment on the Draft Regulations regarding Grants, Social Relief of Distress and Financial Awards in terms of the Social Assistance Act, 1992, as amended, was closed on 23 February 1998. The final Draft Regulations will be published at a later date.
The Act will not be operationalised on 1 April 1998 as budgetary arrangements are still being conducted with the provinces. Laws to make social security a national function are being held in abeyance.
The following are the key issues on which the Department plans to focus:
Transformation of Child and Youth Care System
On 10 May 1998 Section 29 which covers awaiting-trial children held in prisons falls away. It is estimated that the total number affected is currently about 1 400. Only 10-20% of these are considered to be in trouble with the law. The Department is pulling out all stops to provide secure care facilities for the balance as most provinces already have such facilities.
Children that have already been sentenced are the responsibility of Correctional Services whereas children awaiting trial are the responsibility of the Welfare Department.
A professional team will come into being before 10 May 1998 to make assessments of where and how children will be placed, for example, in institutions, foster care, adoption etc.
Implementation of Child Support Grant on 1 April 1998
It may not be possible to have all pay points open by this date but selected points will be open. Regulations will be ready by this date. Finance to provide for the new grants will be available for the first year. The computer system is being adjusted to be effective by 1 April 1998. Provincial officials are presently being trained in the use of the new system.
This system will require each child to have a 13 digit ID. Home Affairs has undertaken to give priority to children requiring these.
Transformation of Social Security
1 Clean-up exercise to remove all "ghosts". It is expected that R40 million per month will be saved by the elimination of these.
2 In cooperation with the Department of Finance an undisclosed sum of "several hundred million rand" will be used by the provinces to carry out a reconciliation so as to provide a basis for future planning. This sum will also be utilised to institute proper management systems and controls.
3 Poverty alleviation. The Department had been allocated R50 million - being part of the promised R300 million. Most of the allocation has been used almost solely on small community projects.
4 Service quality at pay points. The Department was engaged in establishing inspectorates which will visit pay points without notice. The team is to consist of 4 to 5 people who will investigate all aspects of payout, for example, abuse/maltreatment of beneficiaries, corruption and fraud.
The committee was invited to ask questions:
Why is it that application forms are not always available?
Response: Until the Regulations are finalised, the Department is not able to print these forms.
Could Committee members advise the Department on particular pay points that needed to be investigated?
Response: The Department would greatly appreciate and encourage this assistance.
The Chairperson concluded by requesting that the Director-General commit to writing a current status report on all legislative matters.
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