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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 October 2007
CHILDREN’S AMENDMENT BILL: COMMITTEE REPORT: ADOPTION
Chairperson: Adv M Masutha(ANC)
Draft Children's Amendment Bill [B19B-2006]
Audio recording of meeting
The Committee went through the proposed text of the Committee Report on the Children’s Amendment Bill and adopted the Report. The Report focused on the involvement of the public, particularly those sectors that would normally not have been heard, and noted a number of areas that the legislation did not cover that still needed to be developed. Policy issues raised included foster care in relation to social security, with a recommendation that the Department conduct an urgent comprehensive review of social security policy for children as well as the foster care system. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development was urged to review its decision to retain guardianship, pending the setting up of the Family Courts, at the level of High Courts, and consider whether the lower courts could not deal with these matters. The Committee recommended that further inter-sectoral work was needed on refugee and unaccompanied and undocumented foreign children. Child Headed Households needed further monitoring, particularly on their access to social protection and adult supervision. The corporal punishment provisions of the Bill had been removed but there was a need for further investigation. The Committee was of the view that the Joint Tagging Mechanism should review its decision to tag disciplining as a Section 75 issue. The Committee urged a comprehensive intersectoral response to the needs of street children. The Inter Departmental Steering Committee on the Children’s Act should be compelled to report regularly to a higher level of governance. Finally the Committee recommended that an integrated and comprehensive communication strategy be embarked upon by the Department to communicate the correct intentions of this legislation and to educate the public. The Report was adopted by the Committee. It was noted that the Bill was with the printers.
Committee Report on the Children’s Amendment Bill
The Chairperson informed the meeting that the purpose of the meeting was to complete the Committee’s report on the Children’s Amendment Bill. He specified that the report should be a maximum of two pages and therefore should be concise and succinct.
He reminded the Committee that the participation process focussed on involvement of ordinary people especially from the remote areas of the country, who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to have their voices heard. It was not relevant to dwell upon how many provinces the Committee had visited.
The Chairperson also reminded Members that there were a number of areas the legislation did not cover that needed to be developed. This included reviewing of certain policies and legislative frameworks in various areas of government.
The Chairperson outlined the report’s broad structure which covered the introduction, history and background of the Bill, public consultation, and policy issues that should be included, as follows:
Foster care in relation to social security
The Committee noted the phenomenal growth in the uptake of the foster care grant which could affect the long term sustainability of this grant, and therefore requested that the Department of Social Development (DSD) conduct an urgent comprehensive review of social security policy for children as well as the foster care system. It however commended the Department for the efforts made to maximise access to this form of support to vulnerable children. The cluster foster care system being introduced in this Bill would go a long way in improving the placement and vital form of support to children
The Committee noted, during the consideration of the Children’s Act 2005, the motivation put forward by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to retain the jurisdiction of the High Court over guardianship matters, pending the phasing-in of the Family Court, where guardianship issues would ultimately be decided. The Committee noted with concern the hardship experienced by poor people in accessing the High court and urged that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development review this decision and consider whether the matters could not be brought down to the lower courts.
Unaccompanied and refugee foreign children
Whilst the Committee recognised the fact that the Children’s Act provided for all vulnerable children, including refugee children and unaccompanied, undocumented foreign children, it however urged that more work be conducted at an inter-sectoral level to remove any policy gaps to improve the protection of the children.
Child Headed Households
The Committee observed the escalating problem of Child Headed Households, resulting from social challenges that had necessitated the granting of legal recognition in this Bill. The Committee recommended that practical management and monitoring of Child Headed Households must be further investigated, particularly their access to social protection and adult supervision. .
The Committee had deleted Section 139, dealing with the corporal punishment of children, from the Bill. It recognised the need for further investigation of the matter and anticipated this matter would be finalised in the anticipated forthcoming Amendment Bill that would be introduced as a Section 75 Bill. This would give the Department the opportunity to prepare itself.
The Committee wished to express the view that this matter should have been tagged as a Section 75 matter by the Joint Tagging Mechanism when the comprehensive Bill was introduced in 2003, and therefore recommended that the Joint Tagging Mechanism review its decision. The Committee however wished to emphasise that the existing law regulating inappropriate forms of discipline of children remained in place and that the programme envisaged in this Bill aimed at promoting positive parenting skills should be implemented by the Department of Social Development.
The Committee had in this Bill endorsed the policy shift from providing shelters to providing a comprehensive response to the social needs of children, while recognising that they were children in need of care and protection. The Committee called upon the Department to ensure that a comprehensive intersectoral response to the needs of these children was developed.
The Committee recommended that the Inter Departmental Steering Committee on the Children’s Act, in consultation with provincial Social Development departments and other government departments, should be compelled to report regularly to a higher level of governance, such as the cluster, with regard to the development tools such as the implementation plans, profiles of services to children, regulations, norms and standards, practice guidelines and the implementation of strategies, as required in the Bill.
The Committee strongly recommended that an integrated and comprehensive communication strategy be embarked upon by DSD to communicate the correct intentions of this legislation and to educate the public to infuse in society the ethos and values promoted by the Children’s Act. Children were a collective responsibility of government and it was important that this strategy be implemented on a continuous basis in an inter-sectoral manner.
The report was printed and the Committee deliberated further to correct minor errors.
The Report was adopted.
The Chairperson explained that the Bill had gone to the printers and there would be time to set the final text once the proof was available.
The meeting was adjourned.