Current Social Security Challenges in South Africa: briefing by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation & Black Sash & United Nation

Social Development

17 August 2006
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
18 August 2006
CURRENT SOCIAL SECURITY CHALLENGES IN SOUTH AFRICA: BRIEFING BY THE FRIEDRICH-EBERT-STIFTUNG FOUNDATION AND BLACK SASH AND UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN’S FUND IN SOUTH AFRICA

Chairperson: Ms T Tshivhase

Documents handed out:
Core challenges facing Social Security in South Africa
Current Social Security Challenges: briefing by Black Sash
UNICEF Powerpoint presentation “In a child’s best interests… Parliamentarians, you can make a difference”

SUMMARY
Representatives from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, Black Sash and the United Nations’  Children’s Fund briefed the Committee on the challenges facing social security in South Africa. Professor Marius Olivier, on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation, highlighted the different forms of social insurance and social assistance, mentioning their problems of application and implementation. He suggested that a comprehensive and integrated framework must be developed, adopting a holistic and integrated approach through policy-based programmes and legislative implementation. He would support the removal of tax advances and subsidies in order to strengthen the system. Coverage must be extended properly along with aligning the social security to international and regional standards. Furthermore, it was necessary to develop appropriate co-ordination mechanisms. Members raised questions on the labour laws and whether the social mandates were met, sough clarity on the means test, discussed social consumer protection and clarified the role of the SADC in the sector. It was proposed that National Treasury be asked to give a presentation on the social grants funds.

Black Sash expressed concerns with the delivery of social grants, focusing on the recent draft regulations to the Social Assistance Act, 2004. Their presentation covered a number of areas. They also informed the Committee that many other civil society organisations were concerned that there had not been a fully consultative process. Black Sash believed that the regulations could be improved in order to achieve better administrative justice, but that there would have to be significant commitment on the part of the Department of Social Development and the South African Social Security Agency to the recommendations proposed by the Black Sash. In answer to questions, Black Sash confirmed that they were seeking clarity on where best to address their concerns. A number of Committee members commented on the points raised, including the definition of those qualifying for grants, the reasons for deductions, the definition of children and procurators. It was clear that issues needed to be further discussed with the Department and the Social Security Agency.

The United Nations Children’s Fund praised the establishment of SASSA and promulgation of The Children’s Act. The report focused on the high morbidity and mortality profile of children in South Africa, pointing out that  60 % of South African children suffered from, or died from preventable diseases. 40 % of all illnesses and death were attributable to HIV and AIDS. Statistics were presented on AIDS infection and ARV treatment. UNICEF outlined how it had addressed these problems. Its five key strategies included early diagnosis and testing of infants, expanding access to ARV for children, care and support for orphans and vulnerable children and improving prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. It outlined the targets for 2006 and reported on plans for 2007. Questions asked by members included UNICEF’s rural work, children with disabilities, their focus areas, ARV treatment and voluntary HIV testing, and implementation of the programmes.

MINUTES
Briefing by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation
Professor Marius Olivier (Centre for International and Comparative Labour and Social Security Law), spoke on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (“the Foundation”) in presenting the challenges facing social security. He highlighted forms of social insurance in South Africa, pointing out that it was based upon formal employment, tax advantages and subsidies. The social insurance system was not properly aligned with social assistance. Social insurance affected mainly the unemployed or lower paid wage workers, and informally employed workers, and had rural, gender and African dimensions. All able-bodied persons who fell outside the very young and very old, or who were not disabled enough to qualify for a grant were excluded by the Social Assistance system.

The Social Assistance system had problems in service delivery and non-compliance with administrative justice requirements. The system of adjudication remained insufficient, and it lacked a regular tribunal system.  He proposed that a comprehensive framework must be developed, adopting a holistic and integrated approach, removing unnecessary exclusions and retrogressive measures, and developing a policy–based programme and legislative implementation. He added that a removal of tax advances and subsidies in order to strengthen the system be encouraged. He stressed the need to properly extend coverage while South African social security became aligned with international and regional standards. Furthermore, it was necessary to develop appropriate co-ordination mechanisms.

Discussion
Adv M Masutha (ANC) asked to what extent the law could secure employment for the underprivileged. He was concerned that the intention of the social security grants was misunderstood, and asked if the social mandate was met as expected

Mr Olivier responded that labour laws as well as codes existed but there were no binding documents. There was a slight backlog regarding labour laws. He indicated that social security was targeted at paying compensation to the relevant people, but that more work could still be done. He acknowledged that the integrative measures were poorly developed and it was hoped that South Africa would learn from other countries and prevent current problems. Mr Olivier agreed with Advocate Masutha that there was no other country that depended on the Social Assistance in the same way as South Africa.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked the significance of removing the means test.

Mr Olivier concurred that it was imperative that South Africa took conscious decisions when considering who would qualify for Social Assistance. About 70% of grants were old age grants.

Adv Masutha asked if South Africa had sufficient social consumer protection.

Mr Olivier said that the retirement industry was critical, but he was not certain that it fulfilled its mandate as expected. Consumer protection was debatable and problematic.

Mr K Morwamoche (ANC) asked Mr Olivier to clarify the reliance on information from SADC.

Professor Evance Kalula (Head of Institute of Development and Labour Law, University of Cape Town, attending on behalf of the Foundation) responded that other countries had advanced further in social security. The SADC framework sought to validate other regional approaches. Since the focus was on establishing coordinated development, regional protocols would give good direction, as well as assist in regulating the movement of immigrants.

Ms H Weber (DA) was concerned about the responsibility of maintaining a fund once it became bankrupt, and cited problems with the Road Accident Fund.

Adv Masutha proposed that National Treasury be invited to make a presentation covering the work that they have done so far. The Committee welcomed this proposal.

Briefing by Black Sash
Mr Nceba Mafongosi (Advocacy coordinator, Black Sash) and Ms Leonie Caroline (Regional Director, Black Sash) presented their organisation’s concerns with the delivery of social grants, focusing on the recent draft regulations to the Social Assistance Act, 2004. Their presentation covered eligibility for Social Assistance, eligibility for the Child Support Grant, eligibility for Care-Dependency Grant, the documents to accompany applications for social grants, notification of outcome, appeals, appointment of procurator, special conditions regarding Child Support Grant and conditions under which deductions may be made directly from Social Grants. Black Sash indicated that a number of civil society organisations expressed concern about the lack of consultation in the process, particularly in respect of the public submissions process held in 2005. Mr Mafongosi believed that the regulations could be improved in order to achieve better administrative justice, but that there would have to be significant commitment on the part of the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to the recommendations proposed by the Black Sash.

Discussion
Adv Masutha commented that the presentation covered many of his concerns. It was Parliament’s prerogative to determine how relevant Departments exercised the law, and he suggested that perhaps Black Sash needed to clarify their issues and concerns.

Ms Caroline responded that grant administration at a national level was a new approach to the Black Sash, as it had been familiar in working with Provinces. Black Sash did not intend to revert to previously debated issues but were seeking clarity as to where their concerns should best be channelled. She was concerned about insufficient communication with SASSA.

Adv Masutha said that he did not find anything wrong with not specifying who qualified for the social assistance. The regulations were aimed at providing flexibility to accommodate international reservations. Government should not be pushed to make decisions on who gained access to the Social Assistance programmes. The responsibility of dealing with refugees was correctly assigned to the Department of Home Affairs.

Adv Masutha further commented that he understood the point raised by the Black Sash on deductions, but the decision had been taken in an attempt to prevent problems in the system. However, perhaps a meeting should be called with DSD to clarify some points.

Mr B Solo (ANC) asked if Black Sash believed that all issues they had raised should be addressed in the regulations. He commented that they, as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) could play a huge role and asked if they were in a position to do so.

Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) commented that she agreed with Black Sash on time frames on appeals, but would have to observe the process of reworking the draft. On the issue of age and procurators, she said that there was a need to maintain clarity when making definitions. A child should remain a child. The nation did not need to standardise a situation where children assumed adult responsibilities such as heading households. She added that the appointment of procurators should be in line with all other provisions and there was no need to be too prescriptive when dealing with them. Ms Bogopane-Zulu further believed, on delegation of functions, that policy decisions were based on circumstances. The role of the Director General impacted on administration and capacity. She concluded that there were a number of issues that needed to be addressed with SASSA.

Ms M Gumede (ANC) commented on the documents to accompany applications for social grants.  South Africa would experience problems if it were to be too lenient in dealing with refugees or asylum seekers. She shared Black Sash’s concerns on conditions under which deductions were made. However she concurred that accommodating burial schemes should not be treated with priority. She was concerned that pensioners suffered before they died, and it was more important that they used and benefited from their money during their lifetime. She said that the current Cash Point system remained the only entity allowed to deduct money by means of stop orders. There was a need to re visit the issue of deductions at a later stage.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu commented that it was necessary to consider that fostering children had implications other than qualifying for the Foster Care Grant. A foster parent must provide adequate support, care and love to the child. It was not possible for one person to provide these qualities to more than five children, and therefore it was necessary to limit the numbers of foster children assigned to one foster parent.

Adv Masutha acknowledged the significant work that Black Sash did, but wanted some clarity on the specific role that they proposed.

Briefing by the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Mr Macharia Kamau, (Country Representative, South Africa: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) commented on the achievements of the Social Development sector, highlighting the establishment of SASSA and promulgation of The Children’s Act, No 38 of 2005.

Mr Kamau reported on the high morbidity and mortality profile of children in South Africa. 60 % of South African children suffered from, or died from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections, low birth weight, and protein energy malnutrition. 40 % of all illnesses and death were attributable to HIV and AIDS. UNICEF’s response to addressing these problems included supporting health workers to identify and provide care for vulnerable neonates and to support family care of vulnerable children after discharge from hospital. He summarised the statistics on the impact of HIV and AIDS in South Africa, indicating that there were 5,7 million people infected, including 3.3 million women and 104 863 babies. 29,5 % of this infection rate was found in women visiting antenatal clinics. Between 55 000 and 82,000 children were in need of anti retroviral treatment (ARV) but only 5 000 received it.

Mr Kamau highlighted that UNICEF’s five key strategies included early diagnosis and testing of infants, expanding access to ARV for children, care and support for orphans and vulnerable children (0VC), and improving prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. Its targets for 2006 included supporting implementation of a National action plan, completing establishment of the OVC database, developing and finalising the National primary caregiver training programme. UNICEF’s established plans for 2007 included a plan to establish an office in Cape Town by January 2007, provide support to the Social Development Portfolio Committee and provide resource leverage through a study to analyse use of government funds for children at national, provincial and local levels. (Please see attached documents for full report)

Discussion
The Chairperson asked what programmes UNICEF specifically targeted for rural areas, which were often ignored despite their particular challenges.

Mr Kamau commented that UNICEF attempted to focus on some provinces, although much of their work, such as testing and piloting, would focus on all children, regardless of their location.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu commended UNICEF on its presentation and its continued work with children. She asked how their programmes would benefit children with disabilities.  She asked how UNICEF was planning to implement voluntary HIV testing effectively, ensuring that children’s rights remained protected in view of the stigma attached in some communities.

Mr Kamau confirmed that much of the work was influenced by the magnitude of the various challenges facing children on a daily basis. UNICEF’s assessment of where to invest in children was based on current need. Situational analysis would ensure that children with disabilities were at the centre.

On the issue of implementation of programmes, Mr Kamau stated that UJNICEF worked through and with NGOs and Government departments, having a supportive rather than implementing role. He added that there had been progress in voluntary testing as there were a number of laboratories at which testing took place quickly. There were challenges in parents agreeing that their children be tested for diseases, especially HIV. He agreed that stigma was still attached to the problem, with continued references to “AIDS orphans”. It was important to try to stop the stigma

Ms Bogopane Zulu asked, in relation to ARV rollout, if UNICEF would cover the areas not serviced currently. She also asked if the early childhood development programme would cater for visually impaired children?

Mr Kamau replied that discrimination of children had to stop and there was a need to equip early childhood development facilities to accommodate children with disabilities. He repeated that there was a need to use the already existing institutions, such as constituency offices, to provide services for children and broad community issues.

Mr Kamau invited members to visit the nearest HIV Thuthuzela institutions to understand the issues at hand, adding that UNICEF would freely sponsor such visits.

The meeting adjourned.

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