Western Cape Government: Response to SOPA

Albert Fritz, MPP

Western Cape minister of social development

Note: The following speech was delivered by Minister Albert Fritz during the response to SOPA in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament yesterday.

Honourable Speaker

I feel honoured in rising to support the State of the Province Address, as delivered with eloquence by the Honourable Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille.

The SOPA set out an agenda of hope, progress, development, and opportunity for the people of this beautiful province.

The ANC’s response to SOPA has been built on hollow rhetoric.  Speaker, let us be led by the facts, which speak for themselves in every area that we have prioritised so far, and will continue to drive in the term ahead:

1.            Youth Development

For the first time the province has a comprehensive youth development strategy, a strategy we are putting into practice in a number of key projects.

1.1      Chrysalis Academy

The Chrysalis Programme has grown so much that I can say without fear of contradiction that it is the best youth development programme of its kind in the country! Through the Chrysalis Academy, we have over the past 2 years placed nearly 1000 young people into work opportunities.

This year, together with the Department of Community Safety, we are going to expand the Chrysalis programme to Wolwekloof.

1.2      Youth Café

Since launching the first youth café in Rocklands, Mitchell Plain in January this year, over 750 young people have registered at the café, in order to access its skills development services and support.

The next youth café will be opening its doors in Vangate Mall on the 11th July 2014,  while others will follow in Atlantis, George and Nyanga Junction.

1.3         Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP)

This year we have created 390 EPWP work opportunities and will continue to increase this number and the years ahead. We are also engaging the Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT) to secure 300 job opportunities from their work and skills programme.

 

2.            Substance abuse

Madam Speaker, we see the plight of desperate communities when it comes to substance abuse and the challenges it poses, especially to the youth.

With successful pilot projects providing treatment and brief interventions for school children in Eerste River and Mitchell’s Plain, we have extended the project to Steenberg and Hout Bay, and will continue to expand into other parts of the province.

We are furthermore, happy to report that another Matrix Treatment Clinic is on the cards for Atlantis. This is a joint venture between the City of Cape Town, Department of Social Development and SANCA. The clinic should be up and running within the next few months, bringing the number of matrix sites to seven.

In order to address the rising use of heroin in the province, we have embarked on an outpatient Opiate Substitution Treatment programme in Mitchell’s Plain. The project has now been running for six months, and the feedback from Sultan Bahu, our NGO partner in this venture, is that the clients are responding positively. I quote from their latest report: “In lieu of our last quarter, 16 out of 21 clients (76.5%) completed their statuary phase and are still testing negative for illicit substance use in their continuum of care. This result far exceeds the treatment outcome expectations reported in international literature.”

The quality of services that people receive at the various treatment centres is very important to us and as such we have contracted the Medical Research Council (MRC) to conduct a service quality measurement (SQM) survey across the spectrum of treatment centres. The findings and recommendations that came out of this survey, will in this financial year, be implemented in order to ensure service delivery of the highest standards to all our clients.

Older persons

In line with the Older Persons Act, we will continue our campaign to register all residential facilities, whether state funded or private. This will enable us to monitor the treatment and care of all older persons and to protect their rights and dignity at all times.

We continue to put pressure on SASSA, to get their house in order so that our older persons can be treated with the respect, dignity and care they deserve, when it comes to accessing their social security grants. The blatant disregard for their human rights is insulting and unacceptable. A few weeks ago I held a press conference to expose the blatant abuse of older persons at the hands of SASSA and their service provider, CPS. Since then my telephone has been ringing non-stop, from older persons all over the country, begging me to take up their issues. I will continue to fight their cause.

4.         Disabilities

As the Premier stated in her speech, persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable members of our society, yet this is an area that government has historically neglected in South Africa. As such, my department is leading the Premier’s special project in partnership with the NGO sector to identify and assist children with disabilities not currently accessing services. This includes a referral pathway that, when used properly, will ensure that children access the best available services in the shortest possible time. We are capacitating social workers, NGOs, community development workers and home-based carers in this regard. We are also training foster care parents to better care for disabled children.

In addition, this year the Department of Social Development is preparing to take the lead in giving substance to the court ruling that children with severe and profound intellectual disabilities must have access to care and education. This project is likely to require over R50m in investment by the province in meeting the needs of these most vulnerable members of our society.

5.            NGO Funding

We have greatly strengthened our capacity to manage funding of NGOs to render social services on behalf of the department.  Our introduction of a comprehensive NGO funding policy has enabled us to ensure that funding applications and allocations are managed through a consistent and transparent process.  Alongside this we have introduced new departmental systems for monitoring the use of these funds by NGOs, ensuring that the vulnerable citizens of the Western Cape get maximum benefit.

This drive has resulted in the finding by the Financial and Fiscal Commission in their submission for the division of revenue in 2014/2015 that the Western Cape Department of Social Development spends a bigger portion of its budget (68%) on transfer payments to NGOs than any other province in this country. During a time of financial crisis, and with the Lotto failing the NGO sector dismally, we believe this is a critical strategic move to preserve welfare services to our citizens.

6.            Child care and protection

Speaker, the Children’s Act of 2008 has placed considerable – but in my view welcome – additional obligations on the state. Our department is committed to meeting the huge task of living up to the Act in terms of funding and HR capacity.

We have already nearly doubled the number of social workers in the department in the last five years, from 388 in 2009 to 741 in 2014, largely in anticipation of this increased responsibility.  We have expanded from one head office and 16 district offices to introduce 6 regional offices and 37 local offices across the province.

However a lot more must be done to develop the level of skills and specialization of our staff in this field. In this regard we continue trying to develop capacity, and have allocated 150 bursaries for this academic year for existing social workers to further specialise, and to bring newcomers to the profession.

Speaker, the years ahead will require hard work and commitment from the DSD team, and we are determined to deliver.