Children’s Amendment Bill (D Version) Department of Social Development briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


13 November 2007

Acting Chairperson:
Mr B Tolo (ANC)

Documents Handed Out
Summary of Amendments to Bill 19B – 2006
Children’s Amendment Bill [B 19B-2006]

Audio recording of meeting

The Department took the Committee through the Summary of the amendments of the Children’s Amendment Bill that had been made by the National Assembly, and noting the changes from the B-version to the D version. The Committee noted that the main body of the Bill had already been discussed and adopted by this House, so that there could be no further amendments. All that remained was for the NCOP to agree or disagree with the amendments proposed by the National Assembly.  Members thought it positive that Clause 139 had been deleted pending further investigations. The Committee members would return to their provinces to get final agreement and mandates on the amendments proposed by the National Assembly. It was eager to meet the deadlines and have the Bill ready for debate next Thursday, before Parliament rose for the year. 

Children’s Amendment Bill: 19D version
Mr B Tolo (ANC) informed the Committee that the Chairperson Ms J Masilo had noted her apologies and requested the Committee to nominate an Acting Chairperson. The Committee nominated Mr B Tolo to chair the meeting.

The Acting Chairperson informed the Select Committee that this meeting would consider the Bill that was sent from the National Assembly. He urged the Committee that if Members must consult their provinces, they should do so urgently, as Parliament would rise on 23 November. There was a sitting of the legislature on Thursday. He also reminded that the Committee that there were complaints that this Bill had been with Parliament for about ten years.

Mr M Sulliman(ANC, Northern Cape) reminded the provinces that they could either accept or reject the amendments, but that new amendments to the amendments could no longer be proposed.
Ms Ronel van Zyl, Drafter, SA Law Reform Commission (SALRC), and the legal drafters from the Department of Social Development (DSD) took the Committee in detail through the summary of amendments that had been made to the Bill, comparing the B-version of the Bill to the latest D-version. Full details are contained in the attached document “Summary of Amendments to Bill”

The Acting Chairperson reminded the Committee that in the event that there could be disagreements on the final wording, then a mediation Committee could be set up to mediate between the NCOP and the NA.

Mr Sulliman needed clarification on why the Head of Department was mentioned so much in the Bill. He enquired whether it was possible for that person to delegate.

Ms Maria  Mabetoa, Chief Director: Children, Youth and Families, DSD,  explained that technically the HOD could delegate some of her functions to the Deputy Director General or another senior official. 

Mr P du Preez, State Law Advisor, added that Section 310 of the Children’s Act of 2005 (the principal Act) provided that the national Director General may delegate any powers in terms of this Act by agreement.

Ms P McKay, ANC Kwazulu Natal Legislature,  commented that she was pleased that Clause 139, dealing with discipline of children, had been removed as the negative attention it had received, especially in the media, detracted from the Bill.
Ms Mabetoa clarified that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had made the Department aware of the legal complications in regard to parents should this clause have been retained. She indicated that there was a still a lot of work and research needing to be done before the issue of disciplining children could be tackled again. However, clearly this did not mean that children could continue to be abused as there was existing legislation to cover that situation.

Mr P Govender (ANC) requested clarity on Clause 196,  particularly on the implications for the staff moving from the Department of Education to Department of Social Development, and also raised questions about typographical errors, which was also covered by the media.

Ms Mabetoa explained that the Department of Education and the Department of Social Development were working on a strategy on how to manage this transfer, which included resources and officials concerned. She indicated further that the details could not be put it in the legislation but would be in the implementation plan. The Labour Relations Act also provided for a procedure that the Department would comply with.

Ms McKay requested clarification on the foster cluster care clause, noting that there was a need to define it more clearly as in her province there were different interpretations of what was still a vague concept.

The Department clarified that Cluster foster care had already been defined and commented that the problem was that some foster care was being practised without regulations.

A Member requested explanation on the difference between the definition of a social services professional and a social worker.

The Department’s legal advisor read out the definitions of social services professional and specified that a social worker was a person registered as such in terms of the Social Services Act.

An ANC member of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature expressed his concern that the Committee could not make any further changes. He asked if there had been any point in members then flying to Cape Town to attend this meeting if they had little influence to change the situation.

The Acting Chairperson pointed out that he had, in his opening remarks, clarified that everyone was called to Cape Town for discussions, in the interests of time. He again reminded the Committee that if there were disagreements then there could be a mediation process between the houses. He also reminded them that if 6 provinces agreed then the Bill would be passed but if 6 disagreed then it could not be passed.

A member requested if it was possible to defer this matter to next year.

Ms Mabetoa commented that any delay in processing the legislation would delay the whole implementation of the legislation, as this still needed to be translated into other languages. If the matter was postponed now then it would push everything back by three months and this would affect budget cycles as well. It would not be possible to finalise regulations until legislation was passed.

The Acting Chairperson responded that it depended on what other provinces were saying. The NA had proposed amendments to the Bill passed by the NCOP,  which had already reflected agreement from Provinces. This Committee could either agree or disagree with the NA changes, but should not be adding anything new. 

Another member commented that perhaps members needed to go back and speak to their provinces as it would take time to digest and process the information discussed today. The time frame was also creating a problem.

Ms McKay requested the Department if it was satisfied that they had looked after the concerns of children, and if they were satisfied that there were not matters that may have been overlooked that could be opposed by the public.

Ms Mabetoa responded that there was a need to differentiate between the various concerns raised about the legislation. The concerns relating to access to contraceptives by children at age 12 could not be dealt with at the meeting, but could be contemplated next year, and there would be a need to follow the procedure. Section 139 was the only contentious issue in this Bill and it had been dealt with.

The Acting Chairperson clarified that it was the MPs role to change legislation, not the role of the Department.

The Acting Chairperson suggested that members must now go back to the provinces, hold meetings with the Committee, and discuss all amendments so that by Monday afternoon there would be views from provinces, agreeing or disagreeing to the proposals by the NA, in preparation for the meeting on Tuesday. The matter could then be in the House on Thursday  and on Friday Parliament would rise. 

A general consensus was reached on this way forward.

The meeting was adjourned.


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