@RishigenV: Our communities need a hand up, not a hand-out

By: Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL DA KZN Spokesperson on Social Development A SOCIAL development budget is not just about facts and figures, it is about people and communities in every corner of KwaZulu-Natal. It’s about creating a caring society filled with opportunities for our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Many of our communities are still experiencing the poverty and lack of access to opportunities – a legacy of our Apartheid past. I still cling to the image that the purpose of the Department of Social Development is similar to a trampoline: a development trampoline. It catches individuals and families at their lowest point of deprivation and then, through innovative programmes and opportunities, propels them to greater heights of success. We require a budget that speaks to this image. I commend MEC Weziwe Thusi for the department having received an unqualified audit from the Auditor-General. We hope the department retains it unqualified audit status in the upcoming year. The A-G did however raise some worrying findings: * The department did not achieve its predetermined outcomes in access to drug rehabilitation services, crime prevention and support services, victim empowerment and HIV/AIDS services * No effective steps were taken to avoid fruitless and wasteful expenditure; and * Lack of action against officials for non-adherence to financial controls. As I stated earlier, this budget must move beyond just facts and figures. It must be judged on services it delivers to our most vulnerable communities and whether there is proper leadership in place to manage this process. This is where the department is failing miserably. It lurches from one crisis to another. As one fire is still smouldering, the next one ignites. This has no benefit to the millions of KwaZulu-Natal residents living in poverty and deprivation. KZN is facing a severe shortage of social workers, in both the public and NGO sectors. The situation has reached crisis levels with reports and oversight visits to departmental offices and NGOs citing unmanageable caseloads and many vulnerable people falling through the cracks. Yet KZN has an untapped pool of unemployed social workers with approximately 1 500 social worker government bursary holders currently unemployed. These graduates were originally assured that they would be hired by the department to fill vital social worker vacancies but this never occurred. Here is the plight of one family affected by this decision. The Xaba family of Dundee had members of their family study social work through this government bursary. They were filled with the hope of returning to serve their impoverished community providing them with opportunities for brighter future. However, after completing their studies these young qualified social workers sit at home unemployed, traumatised and confused. All the while the community of Dundee is in desperate need for social services. This is yet another example of the ANC government failing the hopes and aspirations of our province’s youth. We call for urgent action by the MEC regarding a concrete plan regarding these social worker graduates. This province urgently requires these young graduates to be at work in communities. The years of poor planning regarding the maintenance of departmental buildings have now come home to roost. It is unacceptable that departmental staff had to resort to the Department of Labour to condemn DSD offices in Mondlo, Umzimkhulu, Lower Umfolozi and the Esplanade due to dangerous working conditions. Subsequently the department has spent R2.2m on leases so that the Esplanade and Lower Umfolozi offices remain open. In a reply to parliamentary questions, it is concerning that the Department of Public Works has yet to complete a maintenance assessment plan of departmental buildings. Even more concerning is that due to routine maintenance being deferred for numerous years, 35 departmental facilities now require expensive refurbishments. It has been too long that communities who live in deplorable poverty conditions also have to receive services in similar conditions. In this era of severe financial consolidation, it is an indictment on the MEC that money that should have gone towards service delivery now has to be spent on major infrastructure upgrades due to her poor leadership. Communities will now receive fewer services than they should. The DA calls for the User Asset Management Plan for the department to be in place so that maintenance occurs timeously to avoid the same situation in the future. The department’s social workers are at the forefront of delivering much needed social services and opportunities to our poorest communities. The DA commends the countless hardworking and passionate social workers serving their communities. These dedicated public servants should be treasured by the department. Yet during oversight visits from Dannhauser to Pinetown, the portfolio committee witnessed the deplorable conditions many of the department’s social workers work under. We also found overcrowded offices, social worker caseloads as high as 200, shortages of vehicles and equipment. How can we expect quality and dignified services to be rendered in such environments? The DA calls for a concrete plan for distribution of tools of trade for all social workers to carry out their duties. Non-governmental organisations form the backbone for the delivery of social opportunities to our poorest communities. These caring organisations feed the hungry, provide care for the elderly, children and persons with disabilities, teach skills to the thousands that this education system has failed, and provide statutory support to the foster care system. With the current economic conditions, outside funding from businesses and international donors has dried up. These vital NGOs have now become reliant on departmental funding to continue with the vital services. The DA welcomed and celebrated MEC Scott’s announcement of a ring-fenced 6% increase in NGO tariff payments. This increase was reaffirmed on Tuesday with MEC Scott even quoting the line item in her response to the general budget debate. I have to ask – where is this ring-fenced money? To quote from the 2015/16 Budget page 565 Table 13.9 (Summary of transfers to other entities including NGOs, FBOs and NPOs): * These transfers decrease by R32.5m or by 3.4%. * Despite the deaths of two children as a result of abuse and the desperate calls from communities regarding the underfunding and lack of capacity of Child Welfare Organisations, NGOs providing Child Care and Protection services remain static with a mere R78 000 increase (0.09%) * NGOs are in severe financial distress. In this very city, the Pietermaritzburg Child Welfare has suspended two of its vital services due to lack of funds; a victim empowerment programme with SAPS and a place of safety in Edendale have closed. Also due to lack of proper financial backing, staff members have had to take salary cuts just to keep the doors open. This vital service is now on its knees. Representatives from Child Welfare are in the House today. Hon MEC, they are awaiting your answers where is the ring-fenced money? The department should take the lead from Minister Fritz in the Western Cape who, through good leadership and financial management, was able to provide an increase to NGO social worker salaries by 40%. This would mean that their services continue in poor communities. Our communities comprise of intelligent individuals who aspire to build better lives for themselves and their families. All they require is the developmental opportunities. The DA believes that opportunities are the vehicle through which all South Africans can live lives that they value, to pursue their dreams and to develop their full potential. The role of government is to provide this enabling environment. We need more programmes that focus on skills development and people empowerment, with a special emphasis on women and the youth. These groups are particularly impacted by the scourge of unemployment and hopelessness. Our communities need a hand up, not hand outs. [END] ##################################################################################### Scanned by MailMarshal – M86 Security’s comprehensive email content security solution. Download a free evaluation of MailMarshal at www.m86security.com #####################################################################################

Please share this...Email this to someonePrint this pageDigg thisShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook