ATC130820: Report of the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the implementation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, dated 14 August 2013

NCOP Women, Children and People with Disabilities

Report of the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the implementation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, dated 14 August 2013

The Portfolio and Select Committees on Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities having conducted public hearings on the implementation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities held on 25 and 26 July 2012, reports as follows:

1. Background

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities South Africa ratified the Convention and the Optional Protocol on 30 November 2007. Furthermore, South Africa has also agreed to be a pilot country for implementing the international treaty into domestic legislation and practice.

It has been noted that the Convention marked a major shift in the way societies view persons with disabilities, with the disabled person being the key decision-maker in his or her own life. The Convention makes persons with disabilities “rights holders” and “subjects of the law” with full participation in formulating and implementing plans and policies affecting them. While South Africa has committed to the treaty obligations with regards to the Convention it has not delivered on its initial country report in this regard. Given Parliament’s oversight role on treaty compliance and public participation it was therefore essential for Parliament to host public hearings on South Africa’s compliance with the Convention as the institution, through its oversight function, plays a key role in ensuring respect for the human rights of people with disabilities.

2. Objectives

The objectives of the public hearings were to:

a) To identify progress made in implementing the Convention,

b) To identify challenges in implementing the Convention from both civil society and the Executive,

c) To ascertain mechanisms that would aid the implementation of the Convention.

3. Delegation

The delegation consisted of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities from the National Assembly and the Select Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities from the National Council of Provinces.

4. Submissions

The Committee received 24 submissions from the public including the organisations and individuals who requested to make oral submissions. These included Sadeco Quantum Consulting; Dr Thereza Lorenzo, Disability Studies and Occupational Therapy and Dr Harsha Kathard , School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town; Transport User’s Group; Down Syndrome South Africa; Empowerment Programme: Children with disabilities and their families; Mr Ncedo Skosana; Ms June McIntyre, Occupational Therapist, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Dr Helen Combrinck , Centre for Disability Law and Policy, University of Western Cape; Amanda Gibberd , Director Universal Design in Public Transport Projects; Dementia South Africa; Association for Physically Challenged; Michele Tonks ; the South Africa Human Rights Commission; Right to Education – Children with Disabilities; Mr P Maibi ; Early Childhood Development (ECD) sub-group on the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities; Blind South Africa; Central Gauteng Mental Health Society; Association for Hearing Loss Accessibility and Development; Mfuza Paramount Mapukata ; Afrika Tikkum and mothers for children with disabilities from Orange Farm, Gauteng Province; KwaNothemba Workshop for the Disabled; Disabled People of South Africa and Community-Based Rehabilitation Education and Training Empowerment.

5. 5. Observations

Having interacted with the organisations, the Committees made the following observations. Numerous concerns and challenges were raised as key issues that impact the lives of people with disabilities at the public hearings, as well as within the written submissions and based on the radio interviews that Members conducted on the public hearings. Herewith a summary of key issues that emerged:

5.1. Education

· Access to education remains a major concern for children, youth and persons with disabilities.

· Despite the current provisions in law and policies, the vast majority of children with disabilities are not attaining a secondary school qualification in order to access opportunities for further education.

· Early Childhood Development was noted as an imperative foundation phase for young children with disabilities. Several submissions highlighted that attitudinal and physical barriers inhibited children with disabilities from accessing early childhood development centres and/or primary schools. Where children with disabilities do gain entry in foundation phase education, the transition to secondary schooling is low and the attainment of a grade 12 certificate is dismal. As such, youth with disabilities are unable to access opportunities for higher education and this in turn impacts on their employability in the future.

· Special Schools for children with disabilities, their resourcing, quality education and curriculum were some of the concerns also raised.

· In terms of higher education institutions, access to finance (bursaries) to attain a tertiary qualification was noted as a major hindrance along with the lack of assistive technology and support.

5.2. Employment and Economic Empowerment

· The majority of submissions highlighted the link between poverty and the impact on persons with disabilities in terms of vulnerability, thus reiterating the importance of promoting economic empowerment.

· The employment prospects in the open labour market for persons with disabilities were dismal in the country. This was attributed to a number of factors such lack of appropriate educational qualifications and skills; poor compliance of the 2% employment equity target in public and private sector; reasonable accommodation only partially implemented; lack of accessible transport and negative attitudes and stereotypes of employees who refuse to employ persons with disabilities and or a reluctance to enhance career paths for existing employees with disabilities.

· In terms of entrepreneurship development, a lack of access to financial aid and business support impeded persons with disabilities from advancing in opportunities of the second economy insofar as small medium and micro enterprises are concerned.

· Overall there appears to be very low levels of participation of persons with disabilities in the financial sector and formal economy with insufficient targeted investments focussed on persons with disabilities. An example cited was how the proudly South African campaign could potentially be incorporating persons with disabilities in terms of promoting South African products.

5.3. Sexual Abuse, Maltreatment and Neglect

· Many reports on the sexual abuse, maltreatment and neglect particularly of children and women with intellectual disabilities, psycho-social disabilities were received. This was noted as a major concern.

· Perpetrators are known in the community and often are never held to account or else released on bail.

· Victims are often unaware that the perpetrator is not allowed to be in close proximity or contact with him/her even though the protection order affords the protection.

· Victims and their families are often persuaded by the perpetrators family to withdraw the charges and offered monetary compensation or the like.

· Police officers expected to take down statements once a victim reports an instance of abuse and or rape, have been reported to be extremely insensitive, not taking the matter seriously or dismissing the charge completely.

5.4. Health and Rehabilitation

· Access to rehabilitation for persons with disabilities is hindered at primary health care level due to non-availability of rehabilitation professionals (speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists).

· South Africa trains many rehabilitation therapists, however due to brain drain to foreign countries and private sector, despite the overwhelming need in the public sector, rehabilitation is limited for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, the retention of rehabilitation therapists is also poor.

· Rehabilitation extends beyond the health domain and includes but is not limited to vocational rehabilitation and psycho-social rehabilitation.

· Linked to rehabilitation services, is the challenge faced with regards to providing assistive devices, technology and mobility aids such as wheelchairs within the public health sector.

5.5. Transport

· Participants highlighted that the Convention is weak on its identification of transport services as a means of mobilising people with disabilities to be able to participate in society.

· Many of the submissions indicated that there is a lack of accessible transport for persons with disabilities. In some instances it was noted that taxis charged persons with disabilities extra for also transporting their wheelchairs or other assistive devices.

· In addition, accessibility to public transport, especially buses and trains, remained hampered in many areas due to a lack of ramps.

· It was highlighted that persons with disabilities should be considered in the “travel chain”; from the point of deciding to take a trip and accessing information on it, to the point of completing a trip and providing feedback on it. Without the acknowledgment of this whole process, the idea of transport is reduced to whether a vehicle itself is accessible. There are plenty of examples of accessible vehicles, but this does not result in an accessible transport service.

5.6. Accessibility

· People with disabilities have experienced, and continue to experience, architectural apartheid all over the world and there is nothing in the Convention that urges member states to start addressing it.

· Participants indicated that unless there are significant changes to the way settlements and transport are planned and designed, we will not reach the goals of inclusive employment, education, health, recreations and the other desired outcomes for persons with disabilities.

5.7. Need for strategies and integrated plan

· Submissions indicated a need for strategies and integrated plans that considers and includes the needs of persons with disabilities.

· In addition it is imperative that persons with disabilities are included in the planning and implementation of these strategies and plans.

5.8. Inter-sectoral and Inter-Departmental Collaboration

· Numerous submissions highlighted that when it came to addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, Departments operated in silos and that there is an urgent need for better collaboration and synergy between them.

5.9. Negative attitudes and stereotypes

· Many submissions highlighted that persons with disabilities experienced discrimination and were often subjected to negative attitudes, in particular at government departments.

· In addition, they are also often ostracised within their communities and by family members.

· There is a need to change perceptions in the way that communities, families and society at large engage with persons with disabilities.

5.10. Special groups – intellectual disability, Down’s syndrome, Dementia

· Submissions were made by organisations and individuals with a particular focus on intellectual and cognitive disability

· It was noted that there was a need to raise the profile around these issues, and take cognisance of the specific needs and challenges faced by this target group.

5.11. Lack of awareness about UNCRPD

· It was highlighted that general awareness about the Convention and its Optional Protocol was poor and that there is a need to educate persons in this regard. Special reference was made to educating and training government officials on the treaty and its articles so as to ensure better service delivery for persons with disabilities.

6. Outcomes and deliberations

At the conclusion of the public hearings, the relevant Departments and entities were called to account during August to October 2012 to respond to the issues that emerged at the public hearings. The following Departments and entities responded to the Committee namely; the Department of Public Works; Department of Arts and Culture; Department of Human Settlements, Department of Communication; Department of Transport; Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities; Department of Basic Education; Department of Higher Education; Department of Police; Department of Social Development; Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Department of Health; Pan-South African Language Board ( Pansalb ) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Engagement with Government Departments and entities ensured that the Committees exercised its oversight over the Executive by ensuring that treaties were complied with. Once briefings with the Departments and entities were concluded, the Committees deliberated on the outcomes of the public hearings and the Executive engagement. Thus this report was compiled which will be tabled and serve as the basis for a discussion in the House. The report is envisaged to note the key observations and recommendations for what the Committees suggests as a way forward. The Committee also had the opportunity to engage with the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities who is responsible for compiling the initial country report on the UNCRPD.

The engagement with various Departments and entities revealed that despite South Africa being a signatory to the Convention awareness about it was poor and there was a lack of the understanding of what was required to in terms of the obligations for duty bearers in this case the Executive. Thus the requisite data and information required to monitor and evaluate progress was either difficult to ascertain; lacking; absent and outdated. Moreover, with respect to policy development and implementation; the key concerns related to implementation and the requisite budget required to give effect to the policy. To this end, the Integrated National Disability Strategy is outdated and as such ineffectual in guiding the Executive to give effect to the rights of persons with disabilities in the country. Furthermore, the slow pace of progress towards the achievement of the 2% target for the employment of persons with disabilities and inclusive education for children with disabilities illustrates policy inertia. In addition, the lack of co-ordination, joint planning and collaboration within Government with respect to giving effect to the rights of persons with disabilities was also apparent. As such, the role played by the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities in addressing this was critical.

7. Conclusion

The Portfolio and Select Committee on Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities acknowledges the advancements made in the country with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities. Notwithstanding this, the public hearings on the implementation of the Convention revealed the major challenges with the fulfilment, protection and advancement of the rights of persons with disabilities in South Africa. To this end, Parliament as a duty-bearer of the rights of persons with disabilities has a crucial role to play in terms of oversight in this regard.

8. Recommendations

Having considered the outcomes of the public hearings and the engagement with various Departments and entities, the Committees have prioritised the following key recommendations:

  • Government Departments and institutions/entities should report to Parliament annually on how it has mainstreamed disability into its core programmes;
  • Government Departments and institutions/entities should report to Parliament annually on what programmes are rendered to persons with disabilities and the cost incurred;and
  • Government Departments and institutions/entities should report to Parliament annually on progress with regards to the implementation of the 2% employment equity target.

Further, the Minister should ensure that:

8.1. General

· The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities expedites the development of an overarching framework for the domestication of the Convention in the country, with clear implementation guidelines, all of which need to be costed accordingly;

· The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities examines the feasibility of national disability legislation that will give greater protection to persons with disabilities;

· The South African Sign Language is considered as an official language to be recognised in the Constitution. Pansalb must report on progress in this regard; and

· Special recognition should be given to categories of persons with disabilities experiencing multiple forms of discrimination.

8.2. Ensuring Compliance with UNCRPD

· Government Departments have a responsibility to ensure that policies, programmes and service are in line with the Convention. Parliament would thus ensure that the Executive is held accountable to ensure that there are reports on the status of compliance in this regard on an annual basis;

· Budgeting from a disability rights perspective should be looked at within Government; and

· Disaggregated data is required from respective Government Departments and entities in order to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of the provisions within the Convention.

8.3. Monitoring and Evaluation

· The establishment of an independent statutory agency in terms of Article 31 and 32 of the Convention in order to monitor and enforce compliance with legislation should be looked at; and

· The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities should lead the process of determining how South Africa would comply with Article 33 (2).

8.4. Disability Awareness

· The Convention should be made available in all official languages;

· Sign Language Interpreters should be made available in all Government Departments; and

· More efforts are required to initiate education and awareness programme within Government that focus on the rights of people with disabilities. The role of the media is an important stakeholder in this regard and should be utilised.

8.5. Access

· More efforts are required to ensure that Government information and delivery of services is made more accessible to persons with disabilities.

· Accessible and safe transport for children with disabilities needing to attend school, crèche or stimulation centres requires urgent attention by Government.

8.6. Training and capacity building

· Training for state officials in how to make services more disability friendly by persons with disabilities or family member of person with disabilities is required.

· Specific training should be done on the South African Sign Language.

· Training and capacity of statutory workers within NGO’s and even within Government should be ongoing.

8.7. Education

· The Department of Basic Education must ensure compliance with the Convention and by ensuring the expedition of White Paper 6. Inclusive education must be implemented and resourced accordingly as a priority.

· The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities should finalise the audit of special schools and disseminate the findings.

· The Department of Higher Education must also ensure compliance of the Convention by institutions of higher learning and the Department itself.

· Greater synergy is require between the Department of Basic Education, Higher Education and Labour to better prepare youth with disabilities to obtain employment but acquiring the requisite skills.

8.8. Health

· Rehabilitation programmes should be easily accessible and affordable to all persons with disabilities in the country.

· Best practice models such as SACLA Project in Khayelitsha , Western Cape, the CORE training programme of Wits- Tinswalo Hospital in partnership in Acornhoek , Mpumalanga and IUPHC CBR training in Alexandra and its satellite project of CREATE in Pietermaritzburg should be looked at to examine the role of community rehabilitation worker versus the generic or profession-specific Mid-Level Rehabilitation Worker as a viable option for rendering community based rehabilitation. All stakeholders including but not limited to the Department of Health, Social Development, Higher and Basic Education should work collaboratively in this regard.

· The Department of Health must ensure that more reliable statistics is collated to that would support the development of more realistic budget for rehabilitation for which assistive devices is but one aspect. Ring-fencing of the budget should be considered to ensure that funds earmarked for rehabilitation services are not usurped by other competing programmes.

· Research should be encouraged to ensure that evidence supports the practice.

8.9. Economic Empowerment, Employment

· Providing access to finance for disabled persons between National Treasury, Trade & Industry, Public Enterprises, Economic Development, Monitoring and Evaluation, Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities and the National Planning Commission must be better co-ordinated. All relevant financial sector role players should participate in the development of such a co-ordinated mechanism.

· Parliament must hold to account relevant Government Departments and entities for facilitating the economic empowerment of persons with disabilities. To this end, more emphasis should be placed on employment of persons with disabilities and more stringent compliance of the 2% target.

8.10. Child care and protection

· Due recognition should be given to children with disabilities in need of care and protection. To this end, the funding requirements of statutory workers and services providers rendering programmes on behalf of the State should be examined and addressed accordingly. Moreover, places of safety and children’s homes must be accessible and available to children with disabilities in need of care and protection.

· An integrated system is required between the Department of Basic Education, Health, Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development and Police for monitoring children within the child care protection system but also as an early warning system to detect abuse and neglect so that matters can be addressed more efficiently.

8.11. Justice, Safety and Security

· Best practice models such as the Sexual Assault Victim Empowerment programme (SAVE) should be re-examined and considered for roll-out to other provinces as a matter of urgency.

· The State should train its personnel staff across the criminal justice system with specific focus on police, prosecutors and magistrates and it should include disability – specific training as well as on the provision of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007.

· Government should partner with civil society where specialised skills have been developed to deal with people with disabilities. Closer collaboration is required between Disabled Peoples Organisations and gender-based violence organisation to improve referral mechanisms.

· The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development should be sensitised to the needs of caregivers and children with disabilities in court. Moreover, officials within the criminal justice system should also be sensitised around persons with mental health concerns/mental illness. Advocacy should be undertaken to review policy to undertake other measures of justice. Efforts should be made to protect the persons with disabilities from secondary abuse of the current court system.

8.12. Local Government

· Self-representation of people with disabilities at ward level should be encouraged within local municipalities and compliance with the 2% target.

· Disability should be mainstreamed into the State of the Municipality Address and the Integrated Development Plan.

· Municipalities should go beyond awareness campaigns and develop programmes for the implementation in communities.

Report to be considered.


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