ATC201019: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Recommendations of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, dated 14 October 2020

Social Development

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the Recommendations of the High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change, dated 14 October 2020


  1. Introduction

The independent high-level panel was established to under the task of assessing the content and implementation of legislation passed since 1994 in relation to its effectiveness and possible unintended consequences. The Panel’s mandate has been to review legislation, assess implementation, identify gaps and propose action steps with a view to identifying laws that require strengthening, amending or change.


The high report level report was referred to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development for consideration on 06 June 2018. The Committee considered the report on 27 February and 11 September 2019. The Committee in both instances invited the department to report on the progress it has made in implementing the recommendations both nationally and provincially. It is important to note that the two dates of the Committee meetings fell within the 5th Term and 6th Term of Parliament.


This report highlights the key findings and recommendations made by the high level panel and report on the activities of the Committee. 


  1. Key findings, recommendations and responses from the department


  1. Key findings on social security legislation


2.1.1 The Social Assistance Act 13 of 2004

The high level panel found that the Act does not have provision for supervising adults designated to assist child-headed households to access the Child Support Grant (CSG). The child headed households cannot access the CSG for themselves. It also found that social workers are not able to deal with foster care caseloads, which results in the court orders lapsing. The lapsing of foster care orders is not addressed by the Act. The high level panel further found that the means test in the social grants leads to exclusions and it is complex for the public to understand. The means test also encourages concealment of income by applicants. This exacerbates corruption and fraud. The Act also does not provide a common definition of what constitutes a disability.


Over and above the findings directly related to the Act, the high level panel found out that the social assistance programme has no provisions to address the plight of unemployed people who do not meet the requirements to receive social grants. Furthermore, there is no co-ordination between the social grants system and community development programmes.  


The report made the following recommendations:


Focus Areas


Responses from the department

Access to CSG by child headed households

The Act should be amended to:

  • The Act should be amended to enable teen mothers and child-headed households to receive the CSG simultaneously for themselves and the children in their care;



  • The Act should be aligned with the Children’s Act to allow supervising adults supporting child-headed households to apply for the CSG on behalf of the children under their supervision;



The department reported it had amended the Social Assistance Act to address this issue. The Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament in April 2018.


The department explained that the definition of a care-giver is sufficiently broad to allow supervising adults to apply for the CSG on behalf of the children under their supervision. The conduct of supervisors is better regulated in the Children’s Act.



Lapsing foster care orders

The Act should be amended to deal with the lapsing of care orders.

The department reported that it amended the Children’s Act to address the administrative and legal requirements that caused bottlenecks in the system. The Amendment Bill was submitted in Parliament on 19 February 2019.

Definition of disability

The Act should be amended to include a widely accepted definition of disability

The department reported that provincial departments utilise definitions provided for by UN Convention as well as the White Paper on the rights of Persons with Disabilities and Mental Health Act. It will however, conduct consultations internally and externally on the widely accepted definition of disability and then follow necessary legislative processes to amend the Social Assistance Act. It will also amend Social Assistance regulations to provide more clarity on qualifying criteria for disability grants.

Means test exclusion

The Act should be amended to simplify or eliminate the means test.

The department developed a policy on the universalisation, which will remove the means test for the Older Person’s Grant and Child Support Grant. The policy will form part of the policy proposals for the broader social security reforms. Once this process is finalised the department will develop a legislation to implement the reforms.


Coordination between social assistance programme and community development programmes

There should be a collaboration between the  Department of Social Development and the Department of Public Works to ensure that community development programmes complement social assistance programme.

The department reported that it was working with other government departments to find strategies and models on how can government services benefit communities better by linking services, at both policy level and system.



2.1.2 South African Social Security Act 9 of 2004

The high level panel found there is a lack of transparency in the social grant system as a whole. There is a collusion between commercial and administrative sectors.






The report recommended that there should be improved transparency at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). Collusion between commercial and administrative sectors should be addressed.



Responses from the department

To resolve SASSA’s capacity constraints, the department, as part of preparations and readiness process for the insourcing of the social grant payment system, will review SASSA’s capacity model in 2019/2020 financial year. The review will pay attention to the payment function of SASSA. The department is also in the process of review the SASSA Act with an aim to approve the governance of the Agency. On the issue of collusion between SASSA and commercial sector, the department intends to set up an Inspectorate for Social Assistance to investigate on such matters. 


  1. Key findings on social welfare services legislation


  1. Older Persons Act 13 of 2006


The panel found that the Act defines older persons in terms of frailty and often older persons are grouped together with people with disability. As result many people who are not frail do not have access to institutional care. Also, housing policies both at national and provincial levels only focus on young people. This makes older persons dependent on their children.


The panel also made reference to the problems that were identified in a meeting between the Portfolio Committee on Social Development and the South African Older Persons Forum in 2010. It was found that home based care services are mostly rendered by NGOs, faith based organisations and community development organisations. However, most of these organisations are inadequately funded. Another problem identified was that there is no single standard for implementing frail care. This result in substantial differences in the costing models un the different provinces.






The report made the following recommendations:


Focus areas


Responses from the department

Amendment to the Older Persons Act:


  • Housing

The Act should be reviewed to ensure that it is developed through an intersectoral lens that takes cognisance of other relevant sectors beyond Social Development, including Health, Transport, Human Settlements, Homes Affairs, Justice and Police, in line with a conceptualisation of older persons as ‘actively ageing’ with a whole range of needs beyond frail care.






The Act should also include to include a policy and funding model for shared housing and include a provision for compulsory reporting of suspected abuse of older persons similar to the one for compulsory reporting of child abuse found in the Children’s Act.


The implementation of the Act to be improved to ensure that there are adequate care centres for the aged members of the black communities in the townships and rural areas.

The Older Persons Amendment Bill was approved by FOSAD in 2017 for tabling in Parliament. Once the Bill is processed by Parliament it will assist in clarifying the roles and responsibilities of various departments and stakeholders as recommended by the report. With regard to the funding model of service providers, the department will consult with all relevant role players including National Treasury, to confirm cost drivers in the implementation of the Older Persons Act, 2006.




  • Funding to NGOs


Parliament should ensure that the implementation of the Act is improved to ensure ensure adequate funding for NGO service providers of home-based care;


Ensure timely payment of subsidies and transfers of funding that has already been allocated, and provide for consultation by the Department;


That a single standard of implementing frail care is developed;


Ensure that adequate budgets are allocated to care and services for older persons, both at

national and provincial levels;


A plan for domestic workers who have no place to go once they retire, other than informal settlements is developed.







2.2.2 Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act 70 of 2008

The panel found that the implementation of the Act has several challenges. These include, lack of capacity to deal with substance abuse at a community level, inaccessible and expensive treatment services for substance abuse and a lack of treatment centres in some provinces, especially in rural areas, as a result these centres have been previously out of reach of poor citizens.


The report made the following recommendations:


Focus areas


Responses from the department

Amendment to the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act:

  • Treatment programmes and de-stigmatisation

The Act should be amended to give consideration to including provisions related to harm reduction as opposed to punitive measures;


To provide for protection against stigmatization

The department reported that provinces were still implementing the expired National Drug Master Plan (NDMP). As an immediate action, it will submit the new NDMP to Cabinet for approval. As a long term plan in will amend the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act and its regulations. It will also implement the NDMP at all spheres of government.


  • Treatment centres

Parliament should ensure that the implementation of the Act is improved to introduce diversion programmes in order to discourage youth from engaging in activities that lead to substance abuse;




Increase the number of public service centres, especially for people in remote rural areas. There should be an increase in the roll out of in-patient, out-patient and aftercare programmes. The in-patient facilities should be adequately capacitated and monitored to ensure that they adhere to norms and standards;

Change the hours of sale of alcohol at taverns and shebeens (through municipal bylaws), and restrict the number of outlets in communities, increase taxes on alcohol;


Substance abuse evaluation centres are rolled out to all provinces to enable the practitioners to assess and locate users to appropriate intervention programmes.


The department reported that provinces have state treatment centres to accommodate men and women. It also transferred funds to the provinces from a conditional grant to construct treatment centres. Eight (8) provinces have public treatment centres.

Free State treatment centre is still under construction





2.2.3 Early Childhood Development (ECD)

The high level panel found that there is a need for a broader access to quality and standardized ECD programmes. It also found that around three quarters of children are attending in some ECD institution but only a quarter receive public funding. 



The panel recommended that expansion of ECD programme should have strong emphasis on the quality of provision of cognitive, social and emotional development of children. For this reason, ECD programme should be transferred from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education, which is the logical institution to concentrate its efforts on standardised cognitive development programmes, which can be monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness in improving readiness for Grade R. Parliament should also use its right to allocate funding to ECD to stabilise this programme by increasing funding and developing appropriate training for ECD practitioners.


To expand access to ECD, the panel recommended that it may be best to support the rural and marginalised communities by lowering eligibility requirements for infrastructure as many children live in communities with poor services such as lack of running water, electricity and sanitation.


2.2.4 Responses from the department

The department reported that it will promote centre and non-centre based ECD programmes including parent support programmes to increase reach and access. It will also finalise guidelines for provision of non-centre based programmes.


With regard to the provision of ECD infrastructure in rural areas, the department reported that all provinces were allocated ECD infrastructure conditional grant and it was benefitting ECD centres in the rural and underserviced communities. It finalised the Registration Framework to accommodate poor rural and underserviced communities.


2.2.5 Gender Based Violence (GBV)

The high level panel found that while the South African Integrated Programme (IPA) addressing Violence Against Women and Children has been published, it has not been officially launched or implemented. It is marred by a number of problems including no oversight body to monitor its implementation. 


2.2.6 Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998

The panel identified a number of implementation challenges of this Act. These include non-compliance to its provisions, lack of understanding to its obligations and lack of a concerted effort by government to combat GBV. In 2013, the Department of Social Development developed the South African Integrated Programme (IPA) addressing Violence Against Women and Children. The IPA is yet to be officially launched or implemented.


While the IPA may be a step in the right direction, it is marred by the following key problems: the National Council Against GBV (NCGBV) is meant to oversee implementation but this Council has been disbanded since 2014 and thus there is currently no oversight body to oversee implementation; the process of development of the IPA was not consultative or inclusive; women and children are homogenized into two concrete categories and a large percentage of women are excluded due to age, sexuality, identity, disability, levels of income and HIV status; prostitutes and prison inmates are absent, and men who are victims of violence are also excluded. The IPA focuses solely on violence experienced by women and children at the hands of men and ignores same-sex violence, and the IPA has not been costed.


The report made the following recommendations:


Focus areas


Responses from the department

Development of multi-sectoral  GBV strategy

Parliament should recommend to the executive the development of a National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence, which is multi-sectoral, co-ordinated and inclusive, with a strong monitoring and evaluation component to hold all to account and should be fully costed.


The Plan should be developed in collaboration with civil society, and should be expanded to include all forms of gender-based violence. Parliament should allocate funding for victim advocacy, criminal enforcement and local capacity to implement the Strategic Plan.


The department will link the reviewed Programme of Action with the National Strategic Plan for Gender Based Violence and Femicide. The latter is to be approved by Cabinet as per the resolutions of Presidential Summit on Gender Based Violence. It will also host Men’s Parliaments and Boys Assemblies in all 52 districts to highlight the scourge of GBV and address social and structural drivers of HIV&AIDS.


It will also present the Victim Support Services Bill to Cabinet to be gazetted for public comments. To present the Victim Support Service Policy to Cabinet for approval.




Parliament should consider having regular annual mandatory dedicated intersectoral public hearings with the relevant departments, including the South African Police Service, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Department of Social Development and the Department of Health as well as other stakeholders to obtain feedback from departments and input from the public on progress with the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. A checklist of existing problems with implementation should be used to ensure effective monitoring of progress with addressing implementation problems.






  1. Committee considerations and recommendations to the department
    1. Meeting of 27 February 2019

The Committee was not satisfied with the presentation of the department as it did not address interventions it had taken to address the challenges raised by the report. The presentation only dealt with high level legislative responses. It was concerned that some of critical information that the department has dealt with successfully was not reflected in the presentation. The presentation also lacked details on what the department is doing to address the plight of individuals who have no income but do not meet the criteria to receive grants. For instance, the department provides Social Relief of Distress (SRD).

The Committee raised concerns that some persons living with disabilities experience poor service from the department. They are often neglected as their needs are not addressed. It pointed out the importance of ensuring that their needs are prioritized when it comes to service delivery.

The Committee expressed a disappointment that the department does not have language units and it does not translate its documents into all official languages. It emphasized that the issue of language links to the concern it raised a number of times that of lack of effective information dissemination both from the department and its entities. It also relates to the finding it made during its oversight visit in Western Cape where children were separated according to their mother tongues (Afrikaans and Xhosa) language in ECD centres.

It also raised a serious concern over the persistence high backlog of foster care system, which resulted in foster care orders lapsing.





3.1.1 Committee Recommendations

The committee made the following recommendations:

  • The department should amend its presentation to include a column (response) detailing what it has done in all the provinces to address the challenges raised in the High Level Panel Report.  The revised presentation should be presented to the Committee at a later stage.


  • The department should develop an interim plan to address issues of foster care backlogs while waiting for the court order process.  In addition, it should consider appointing former social workers on contract basis to deal with backlogs in foster care applications.


  • The department should fast-track the establishment of language units and report timeously to PanSALB on the implementation of the Language Act. 


  1. Meeting of 11 September 2019 (6th Term Committee)

The Committee was concerned that it appeared that the department did not have a tracking plan that records gaps and challenges in the sectors.

It was also concerned about the non-completion of the substance abuse treatment centre in Free State and it wanted to know when will it be completed. The department responded it had given the Free State Department of Social Development a completion deadline of February 2020.

The Committee encouraged the department to maintain its partnership with Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) so as to improve its information dissemination.

  1. Committee Recommendations

The Committee recommended that the department’s reporting on the implementation of the recommendations of the High Level Panel Report (action plan) should be integrated into the quarterly reports (Section 32 reports) of the department. This will ensure an integrated implementation and reporting.

  1. 5th Term Committee observations in relation to the key findings and recommendations of the high level panel


The 5th Parliament Committee conducted oversight on some of the areas identified in the report.

  • Early Childhood Development (ECD)


The Committee found that there was still a big disparity between rural and urban ECD centres wherein urban ECD centres have better infrastructure and resources compared to those in rural areas. There was also a serious lack of infrastructure for children living with disabilities and this negatively impacts in their inclusion or enrolment.

Also, the payment of subsidies was erratic. The payment was not done on time and in some instances months go by without any payments. This affected payment of practitioners as well as availability of meals for the children. There were also persistent disparities in the value of subsidies across provinces, with KwaZulu-Natal province, for instance, paying the highest subsidy (R16 per day per child).

There was no policy provision on the ration of staff versus number of children, including children with disabilities. During its engagements with the Committee on 2 November 2016, the Department of Social Development (DSD) admitted that this issue had not been finalized and it committed to include it in its discussions with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and National Treasury (NT).

The responsibility of training, awarding qualifications and provision of conditions of employment of ECD practitioners still needed to be clarified between DSD and the DBE. This also includes creation of a career path and academic development for ECD practitioners. DSD told the Committee that it submitted a proposal for funding to NT for improving conditions of employment and academic development until PHD level. It is important for the Committee to get report back on the status of the request. 

The aforementioned issues are cross-cutting between DSD, DBE and local government (SALGA). It should therefore be a strategic focus for the committee to engage them on their role in the implementation of the National Integrated ECD Policy and progress made to address them, in the next term (6th Parliament).

  • Gender based violence, violence against children and older persons

The Committee specifically focused on the violence and murder of women, especially older women, forced marriages and abuse of children. The Committee found that a number of factors were behind the increase of abuse and murder of older women. These included, older women accused of practicing witchcraft, belief that newly circumcised men have to prove their manhood by sleeping with older women, neglect of older women by their families, abuse of alcohol and drugs and collapse of community policing, which made communities vulnerable to crime and violence.


Based on these findings the Committee recommended that the provincial departments should develop turnaround strategies that would address gender based violence in the provinces. It also recommended that the national department and provincial should strengthens its implementation of the Drug Master Plan through provincial forums and Local Action Committees.


  • Violence, rape and murder of children

Through its engagements with stakeholders the Committee identified as a serious concern that South Africa does not have a national survey on child homicide. It was therefore not possible to provide a provincial statistical breakdown of child homicide. The country does not have a national database on substance abuse which would indicate the national prevalence of substance abuse in the country. The high level of substance abuse in the country has been identified as one of the key causes of social ills. It strongly felt that these surveys are critical assessment tools and provide good evidence for policy interventions.


  • Substance abuse

The Committee continuously raised its concern that the scourge of substance abuse and alcohol is behind the increase and the violence nature social ills in South Africa. However, despite this fact, substance abuse treatment centres are not accessible due to high costs or some provinces do not have them. Those provinces that have them, they are located in urban areas. It also raised a concern that some provinces did not have substance abuse treatment centres. Subsequently, National Treasury approved a Substance Abuse Conditional Grant to fund construction of five (5) substance abuse treatment centres. Two (2) treatment centres in North West, one (1) in Free State, one (1) in Limpopo and two (2) in Northern Cape. The Committee expressed concerns over the delays in the completion of the Free State Substance Abuse Treatment Centre and challenges thereof. 

The Committee also raised serious concerns that the National Drug Master Plan was not adequately implemented in most of the provinces. Local Drug Action Committees were not functional or well supported. Of most concern to the Committee was that the Central Drug Authority (CDA) only has advisory powers. It is merely a sub-directorate of the Department and so it does not have a budget appropriated to it. It does not have authority to take action over the implementation of the NDMP and on any other substance abuse related matters, such timely reporting by government departments. Both in the previous term (2009 – 2014) and current term (2014 -2019) the annual report the CDA had not submitted its annual report on time (before end September). This was due to government departments not submitting their reports to the CDA on time. The Committee recommended that the Prevention of and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act be amended to restructure governance of the CDA. It should make the CDA an entity and give it powers to act as such. This would give CDA authority to ensure that stakeholders submit their reports timely and cooperate with it. This recommendation was however not implemented.

Recommendations of the Committee for the Sixth Parliament

Having considered the findings and recommendations of the HLP Report, the Committee recommended that:


  • The Speaker engages with the Leader of Government Business requesting him to expedite the re-tabling of the Children’s Amendment Bill and the Social Assistance Amendment Bill.


  • The Speaker together with the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces engage with the House Chairpersons and Chairpersons of Committees to organise joint meetings on gender based violence, violence and murder of children and substance abuse.    


  • The Minister of Social Development ensures that the department acts on its plans to amend the Prevention of and Treatment of Substance Abuse Act and expedites the submission of the new National Drug Master Plan to Cabinet for approval. The current plan expired in 2017.


  • The Minister of Social Development ensures that between 2020 - 2022 financial years the department develops the Victim Support Services Bill, submit it to Cabinet for approval and to Parliament for processing and passing. 


  • The Minister of Social Development ensures that between 2020 - 2022 financial years the department amends the Older Persons Act, submit it to Cabinet for approval and to Parliament for processing and passing.


Report to be noted





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