DA KZN LEGISLATURE – Social Development Budget Debate

Makhosazna Mdlalose, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Social Development

The Department of Social Development is to be commended for developing its staff through in-service training and bursaries. New Social-Workers were absorbed into the Department; meaning it will be an improved Department with young and invigorated blood.

Efficiency and competency matters however, continue to rest squarely on management and supervision.

This Department also exerted itself on the working of SASSA to ensure a more efficient service in terms of the re-registration and the payment of social grants. It was not smooth but efforts to get this vital service running are to be commended.

The Department of Social Development should work closely with related Departments;

If you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far, go together, so says an African proverb. This is exactly what this Department fails to understand. It fails to understand that it is an important Department, interconnected with many other Departments, and that its real effectiveness relies upon proper engagement and working relationships with these Departments.

While the Democratic Alliance welcomes the increased allocation to this Department, several issues need to be pointed out;

Much as there were improvements in the funding and running of the Department there are still areas with serious shortcomings. Census statistics show a very high number of orphans and child-headed households.  The Department does not have comprehensive programmes to specifically attend to this vulnerable group of our population.

Also, other programmes besides those that appear to be grant driven are needed.  These include programmes that involve communities, schools and NPO’s giving moral support to orphaned children. Activities to prevent drug abuse, despondency, school leaving, are needed and closer working relationships with schools, the Department of Health and religious institutions should be encouraged.

Protection and promotion of services for older persons and people with disabilities;

This past year has also seen the ill-treatment of older persons and those with disabilities take the spotlight. This Department needs to work closely with the South African Police Service and the Department of Community Safety and Liaison. The number of reported incidents of crime targeting older residents of this province is alarming.  More needs to be done by this Department beyond just raising awareness about the rights of older persons and the pride of having them in our communities.

This Department, as well as the SAPS, needs to work closely with communities, to identify and prioritise the safety of our elderly population. The continued raping and pillaging of our elderly citizens in this province, is unacceptable. And this happens because the elderly are neglected by social and policing services. I urge the MEC to prioritise the safety of our elderly residents, because the current budget allocation fails to do so.

Community based care and support services for the elderly continues to be a problem. We know that this Department closed a number of unregistered non-profit organisations (NPOs) providing care for the elderly – which is a welcome development. But it is to be questioned why these providers can operate if ongoing compliance with departmental regulations is a priority of this Department.

We cannot continue to have unlicensed providers taking care of our elderly – these providers are ill-equipped to deal with their needs and see elderly care as an expedient way of making money from unsuspecting donors and the South African public. More funds need to be spent on monitoring ongoing compliance to Departmental regulations by NPOs that operate in this province.

The Department should not necessarily hasten to close down some of these institutions, and should instead work closely with them and make them compliant. Some of these institutions Madam Speaker provide vital services, even though they are operating below the required standards.  The Department should work with them; regulate them, instead of shutting them down!

Substance abuse on the rise;

Efforts by the Department to curb and address substance abuse are failing. The Youth model implemented at selected rehabilitation centres in this past year needs to be expanded to several other institutions in the province.  Speaker I would surmise that substance abuse not only happens in Madadeni or Newlands – which are the areas where the Youth model has been implemented.

In the same vein Madam Speaker, it is worrying that, children as young as 12 years old, are being rehabilitated for substance abuse.  This relative youthfulness of the population seeking treatment potentially represents a social and public health concern that requires serious attention.

The Department needs to work closely with the Departments of Education and Health in addressing substance abuse in this province, which is by all accounts spiralling out of control. Efforts to deal with youth substance abuse ought to be expanded to other Developmental centres beyond just Esicabazini and Vuma Development Centres. Youth substance abuse is on the rise and remedial efforts for youth substance abuse should not be only be accelerated but also allocated a worthy proportion of the budget.

Child-headed households and orphans;

There can be no doubt that KwaZulu-Natal is in the midst of a crisis.  The recent Census 2011 has also confirmed that the province has the highest number of orphans, with 30% of all orphans in the country.  This represents some 1 012 491 children. The province is also ranked third, after Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, in terms of child-headed households.

The question is – what is the province’s Social Development department doing to address this crisis?

The DA believes that there are several issues compounding the lack of available care for orphans in this province;

  • The decrease in financial support by government for NGO’s and Children’s’ homes.
  • The department’s lack of encouraging community-based care in the province. This has proved to be the most effective way in which to assist children that have lost their primary caregivers.
  • A lack of awareness within rural communities in particular around the process of guardianship and fostering of children.  Sadly, orphaned children are often regarded as a financial burden by extended families, who then abandon them.  This need not be the case.

Provincial government must rise to the challenge.  We need to see an aggressive awareness campaign and we need to see the KZN Social Development department played a far more positive and active role in encouraging community-based child care.

Early childhood development (ECD)

Madam Speaker, it perturbs me that for the past few years this Department has been spending considerable sums of money on early childhood development, yet with no concrete results. We note the number of ECD services and activities funded by the Department in this past year, but it is clear that the Department lacks a proper guiding framework in dealing with ECD. As the national Department of Social services scales up ECD services, with focus on rural areas, it is our hope as the DA that provincial Department does the same and for once establishes a more streamlined approach in regards to ECD spending and the rollout of ECD services.

Fiscal and economic management

Madam Speaker, as we debate this budget, it is also important to be aware of how funds are typically spent by this Department and its general conduct in regards to economic and fiscal management.

The under spending by this Department is disturbing, in FY 2011/12 a total of R18.69 million was under spent. This is worrying especially given that Programme 2: Social Welfare services under-spent by almost R6 million and Programme 3: Development and Research by R9 million. Under spending for the aforementioned programmes cannot be condoned – this Department needs to realise that money unspent or under spent means that services are denied to the South African public.

The number of supply chain related irregularities in this Department is also alarming, especially given its modest allocation.

Year upon year we hear of investigations conducted because of alleged incidents of corruption and the misuse of funds by NPOs funded by the Department. This cannot be tolerated, this Department needs to clean up its act and the Accounting Officer and the MEC need to clamp down on such irregularities. Adequate controls over internal supply chain processes and the transfer payment made to Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) should be instituted and monitored.

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