Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Bill [B12-2008]: Department briefing

Social Development

26 February 2008
Chairperson: Adv T Masutha (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was given an initial briefing by the Department of Social Development on the Prevention of and Treatment for Substances Abuse Bill. The final certified version of the bill was not yet available but would be available within a few days. The Department noted that the Bill was introduced as current pieces of legislation had become outdated. The new policy on substance abuse and the National Drug Master Plan had formed the basis of it. There had been consultation with stakeholders, and a preliminary costing was given. The proposed clauses of the Bill were outlined.

Members raised concerns that there was firstly a need to interact with other Portfolio Committees, such as Health and Justice. They asked how many treatment centres there were and the distinction between public and private ones. Criticisms were expressed that the Bill in its present form appeared to be very prescriptive and contained many clauses that more properly belonged in regulations, as also that the substance and title of the Bill did not appear to address the same issues, and that clarity was needed on various points. Questions were asked around admission of those addicts who could not afford to pay for court orders, the effectiveness of current programmes, the need for inter-sectoral collaboration and community involvement, the need to ensure delivery of services, and whether this would be possible in light of the shortage of social workers. Further questions related to the steps being taken to train and recruit social workers, the need to establish community based services, the consistency of the Bill, the need to align it more closely with the Children’s Act, protection for those in rehabilitation, and law enforcement.

Meeting report

Prevention of and Treatment for Substances Abuse Bill (the Bill): Briefing by Department of Social Development (DSD)
The delegation from the department comprised of Ms Vuyelwa Nhlapo,  Deputy Director General, Ms Nomathemba Kela, Chief Director Welfare Services, Mr Puseletso Loselo Chief Director Legal Services, Mr Mogotsi Kalaeamodimo, Director Substance Abuse and Mr Pierre Du Preez Legal Adviser. Ms Suraya Williams represented the State Law Advisers Office.

It was noted at the outset that the State Law Advisers Office had not certified the bill as yet and a final version was expected to be available by 29 February 2008.

Ms Nomathemba Kela, Chief Director: Welfare Services, DSD conducted the briefing. She said that the need for the Bill had arisen as current pieces of legislation had become outdated. She provided insight into the development of the Bill. The basis of it was the government’s new policy on substance abuse and the National Drug Master Plan (NDMP) 2006-2011. Consultations had taken place with various government departments and other organisations. The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) had done a preliminary costing of the bill. The preliminary costing had been broken down into three phases. Phase 1 was the initiation phase, Phase 2 was the transition phase and Phase 3 was the full implementation phase. The estimated costs would be R264m, R325m and R375m respectively per phase. The final costing of the Bill would be done after the Committee had considered it. Ms Kela continued with a breakdown of the structure of the bill by setting out its various chapters and what each would entail (see attached presentation for details). She stressed that the objectives of the Bill were to combat substance abuse in a coordinated manner, to create conditions for registration of all programmes, including treatment centres and halfway houses, to create conditions and procedures for admission of persons to treatment centres, to provide early intervention, treatment and re-integration programmes and to establish a Central Drug Authority to oversee the National Drug Master Plan.

Ms J Semple (DA) referred to the costing done by the HSRC and asked for a copy of the report.

Ms Kela agreed to furnish the report to the committee by Friday.

Mr M Waters (DA) made an appeal that discussions on the issue of substance abuse should include the Portfolio Committee on Health. He felt that all role-players should be involved.

The Chairperson agreed that where the issue affected other departments and committees, they should be involved in the process. He asked how the interaction had been thus far.

Ms Kela said that interaction with the Portfolio Committee on Health would take place.

Mr Waters asked how many treatment centres were there per province. He also asked how many were state run and how many were private.

Ms H Bogopane-Zulu (ANC) asked what the difference was between a private sector and a government run centre.

Ms Kela explained that private treatment centres could be divided into two groups. The first comprised those that were run for profit and then there were others that were run as non-profit by NGOs. Public treatment centres were those that were state-run.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) wanted a sense of what the public comment on the legislation had been.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu believed that the Bill seemed to be over-prescriptive and over-regulatory. It was felt that certain provisions belonged in the regulations. She pointed out that the heading of the bill did not match its content. She further noted that clarity was needed on certain chapters.

Mr Puseletso Loselo, Chief Director: Legal Services, said that if the bill was over prescriptive the Department would look at removing provisions from the Bill and placing them in the regulations.

Ms Kela added that some of the matters were initially included in the Bill but could be placed in the regulations later.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu asked what evidence-based HIV prevention programmes were.

Ms Kela was not too certain what evidence-based HIV prevention programmes meant, as the term had emanated from the Department of Health.

The Chairperson understood Ms Kela’s predicament and said that the Committee was aware that various Departments had been involved in the process.

Kgoshi K Morwamoche (ANC) agreed that some of the bill’s detail needed to be set out in its regulations. He asked what the role of traditional leaders in the process was.

Mr Mogotsi Kalaeamodimo, Director: Substance Abuse, noted that the role of traditional leaders would be set out in the NDMP.

Mr Morwamoche referred to admission of drug addicts to drug treatment centres by way of court order, and said that the courts were not always accessible to the poor. He further asked if assistance was given to families who took care of outpatients.

Mr Loselo stated that Clause 29(1) of the Bill provided for a person to approach a public prosecutor for a court order at no cost to get admission into a treatment centre.

Ms Kela explained that a person wanting admission to a treatment center could also approach a social worker. The social worker would write a report to the public prosecutor and the public prosecutor would secure a court order for such admission.

The Chairperson asked whether the aim of the Bill was to strengthen outdated legislation or whether there was more to it. He asked if the Department had gone down to grass roots level and interacted with communities. He asked whether an assessment had been done on current programmes and if so, what the findings were. It had to be asked how effective the programmes were and what were the challenges that were faced.

The Chairperson also referred to inter-sectoral collaboration and said that it seemed not to be successful. He said that very little had been brought to the table by stakeholders and that there were problems with municipalities, lack of facilities at schools and other issues. The Department was asked to what extent it had interacted with communities to prevent children from using drugs. This included starting programmes that kept children occupied and away from drugs. He asked to what extent the Bill spoke to these issues.

Ms Nhlapo responded that the Bill was responding to current challenges. Current legislation could not address the challenges. When the initial five-year NDMP was looked at, it was realised that there was a huge gap that needed to be filled. Hence this Bill was developed to try to fill the gaps. The Bill looked at providing a continuum of care, and it was intended to cover not only treatments but also prevention. The Department had done its homework and the Bill was the result.

Ms Kela added that the Department had tried to make the bill as transformational as possible. The department had identified the need to do research in other areas as well. She acknowledged that much work needed to be done in disadvantaged areas. No research had been done about the exposure to substance abuse at that level. It was for this very reason that the definition of the Bill had been kept broad.

The Chairperson asked whether the Department had assessed capacity at provincial level and asked what the implications were for the Bill in this regard. He noted that the problem was about delivery of services, and not about money. The question was whether there were enough social workers.

Ms Kela said that there were many social workers being trained and that many scholarships had been granted. New recruits qualified every year.

Ms I Direko (ANC) responded that the social workers’ course was a long 4-year course. She emphasised that social workers were needed now.

Ms Kela said that the shortage of social workers was an issue and the Department was currently providing scholarships to students taking the course. Funding was being provided from first year to final year. In 2007, R400 000 had been used to fund students. She noted that in the Eastern Cape, 117 students had been absorbed into the system. The idea was to look at the graduates entering the system.
Mr B Solo (ANC) referred to the comments by the Minister that social workers would be recruited from Cuba, and that the Department would be studying the Cuban model of social workers.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would be travelling to Cuba to see how the Cuban model worked.

Ms Kela responded that even though South Africa was intending to study the Cuban model on social workers, the training in Cuba was not as advanced as it was in South Africa. The Cuban model had service integration at family level. The idea was for South Africa also to undertake this integration, especially into the youth service. Training of auxiliary social workers was also taking place in order to lessen the burden of social workers.

Ms Direko had the greatest respect for Cuban trained social workers but was concerned with their limitations – such as their lack of knowledge of languages - in South Africa.

Mr Solo asked the Department for a progress report on the issue.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu pointed out that the Minister had stated that it had not been the current version of the Bill that had gone through Cabinet.

Ms Bogopane Zulu She also referred to Chapter 4, relating to community based services and said that the Bill stated that the Minister must establish these services. She felt that there was no recognition of existing community based services in the Bill. She additionally said that the chapter was quiet on the issue of communities, even though the title suggested otherwise.

Mr Morwamache felt that the explanation given on accessibility of court orders was not good enough.

The Chairperson said that the court order matter would be addressed on implementation.

Ms Kela said that issue of accessibility to courts was a matter best discussed with the Department of Justice.

The Chairperson said that the Department of Justice would be asked to address the Committee.

He added that Distell wished to meet with the Committee in order to discuss ways in which they could help to prevent alcohol abuse.

Ms Kela pointed out that alcohol was the most abused substance and that greater engagement on the issue was needed.

The Chairperson asked how the Bill was responding to this discourse. He also said that much of the work was on treatment, but questioned what was being done about interventions for prevention. The interventions need not be about social development. He asked if there was a need for further synergy in the bill and asked how this could be assured.

Ms Kela stated that the Bill needed to be read with the NDMP. It would shed light on how other stakeholders played their part. 

Mr Kalaeamodimo conceded that perhaps there were certain omissions from the Bill, as Members had pointed out. These would include active participation by communities, prevention of substance abuse and the existing work done by community based services.

Ms Bogopane-Zulu said that the consistency of the Bill really needed to be examined. She raised concerns on quite a few issues. She asked whether it was necessary to establish abuse committees in each chapter of the Bill. The Department should also be careful about introducing new language in the bill. She also felt that certain matters were simply being “lumped together” in the Bill. The definitions also needed to be reworked. She specifically referred to the definition of a ‘child and youth care centre’ and said that it had already been defined in the Children’s Act, therefore she could not see the need for a new definition.

The Chairperson said that two Bills could not contain different definitions for the same term. There must be consistency and uniformity.

Ms H Weber (DA) was concerned that there was no protection for rehabilitated persons when they left rehabilitation centres. Drug dealers waited for them on release.

The Chairperson asked why there was no system of interdicts to prevent this situation. He noted an example that in the Children’s Act the South African Police Service (SAPS) was empowered to remove both the victim and the perpetrator of the crime. He said that the Department should look at ways of empowering people. The Chairperson asked whether the Bill provided sufficient tools to make necessary interventions.

Ms Weber added that in many provinces there was a lack of facilities. She asked what was to happen to those addicts who were often juveniles in jail.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked whether the Bill made provision for recreational facilities to be built for the youth as a preventative measure against getting involved with drugs. She noted that the Minister of Sports had in Kwazulu Natal allocated funds for the provision of sports facilities at schools. 

The Chairperson said that there was a need to critically assess the strategy on substance abuse. The strategy must be seen as government’s response to the challenge of substance abuse. He added that the law enforcement aspect of it needed to be looked at as well.

Ms Kela acknowledged the concerns raised by members, and said that the Department would address them. She said that the Department would furthermore work on improving synergy between the Children’s Bill and this Bill. She noted that law enforcement was a challenge, as it did not lie within the purview of the DSD.

The Chairperson asked if there were close interactions with the Department of Safety and Security. It would be helpful to have a coherent approach. 

Ms Kela said that the issues raised by Ms Weber related directly to this integrated coherent approach.

The Chairperson remarked that there was a need to reflect on these matters.

The meeting was adjourned.


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