Community Safety partners with religious fraternity for safer school holidays

By Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety:

The following speech was delivered by Minister Dan Plato at the launch of the Youth Safety and Religious Partnership programme for the 2015 summer holidays.

It is my honour to welcome all of our religious leaders here today as esteemed guests as we launch the Summer 2015 Youth Safety and Religious Partnership (YSRP) programme.

The start of the School Holidays on Wednesday has had the Department of Community Safety busy making its lists, checking them twice and finishing up on preparations to provide safer opportunities for our youth.

It is important that we, the whole of society, remain vigilant to ensure our youth remain safe during the school holiday period.

Our combined efforts as Government, civil society organisations, parents and communities at large can help ensure that no children are put at risk during the summer holiday period.

I thank you, our religious leaders here today for taking up this challenge with us. The religious fraternity in the Western Cape and each and every religious leader present here today are the faces behind the success of the YSRP programme. I want to thank you for your unselfish service to your community in helping to create a safe space where our youth can learn, grow, play and be entertained during the holidays.

When the YSRP programme was first conceptualised, it was our vision that through the help of the various churches in our province, we will be able to reach even deeper into the hearts of communities and assist even better in helping to create safer environments. I thank each and every one of you for helping us to make this a reality.

The Youth Safety and Religious Partnership programme is already in its 4th year of implementation. During the 2012 pilot project, we partnered with 44 institutions in selected communities which ended up reaching more than 11 000 youth.

Since 2012, this programme has evolved into one of the flagships of the Department of Community Safety (DoCS) aimed specifically at increasing safety through programmes targeted at anti-social behaviour and youth initiatives in partnership with the religious fraternity of the province.

As the demand has grown from the religious fraternity to be included in the partnership towards safer areas, the Department has strived to find the money to effectively and efficiently support our churches to run quality holiday programmes that are of value to our youth. In 2012 we set aside R900 000 to support the 44 organisations.

Three years later, for 2015, I am happy to confirm that our financial commitment now exceeds R7.3 million for the year, with the Department partnering with 113 organisations across the entire province to reach almost 14 000 young people during the upcoming December/January school holidays and brings the total of youth reached for the year to 24 000.

Just as parents have the responsibility to provide for the immediate safety and protection of the children, government has a responsibility to provide for additional opportunities to assist parents in keeping their children safe, entertained and educationally stimulated over this period.

Young people are vulnerable to making unhealthy and risky lifestyle choices when they have limited access to recreational opportunities. This is particularly the case in high crime, drug and gang activity areas and even more specifically so during school holiday periods.

This December Summer Holidays, the Department will, through our partners in the religious fraternity, have a definite safety presence in more than 50 areas in the province.  Some of these areas, such as Khayelitsha, have up to 18 organisations providing safe, educational, developmental and entertaining alternatives for our youth during the school holiday period.

Our expanded commitment to partner with the religious fraternity provides almost 20 rural communities and more than 30 communities in the City of Cape Town Metro with opportunities for the youth.

Priority areas where we partner with multiple organisations in order to reach even more youth, include Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Bonteheuwel, Elsies River, Wesbank, Kraaifontein, Hanover park, Delft, Atlantis, Gugulethu, Lavender Hill, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis, Nyanga and Worcester to name but a few.

The YSRP not only involves youth in positive and constructive activities conducted by the Religious Fraternity, but also enhances the level of active citizenship within high risk communities.

The programmes on offer focus on awareness and prevention of drug-abuse, gangsterism, gender-based violence, child trafficking, HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy and provide our youth with life skills development and practical safety tips. Activities vary from sporting activities, song, dance, drama and culture, to movie screenings, motivational talks and youth dialogues. Workshops, first aid classes, basic counselling training and exhibitions are also on offer.

The YSRP safety promotion activities will commence on Friday, 11 December 2015 and run until Saturday, 9 January 2016.

I urge the parents in our communities to use the opportunity available to them to ensure their children are exposed to recreational and educational opportunities instead of being exposed to unhealthy and risky lifestyle choices.

Government can never compensate for the role that responsible, committed parents must play in the lives of their children. I believe, however, we have to all partner Better Together to help ensure the safety of our children. The Youth Safety and Religious Partnership programme is an opportunity to help ensure everyone, the youth and parents across the province, have a peaceful, merry festive season.

More information on the YSRP programme can be found on the Department’s website, www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/community-safety , or by contacting Amelia Pieterse by dialling 021 483 3971; or via email Amelia.Pieterse@westerncape.gov.za .