The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has thrown its support behind the Social Assistance Amendment Bill, designed to bring relief to some of the province’s most vulnerable members of society including the unemployed, the aged and orphaned children.
The DA welcomes the amendments to the Bill which includes the payment of the R350 unemployment grant while lockdown continues as well as a small increase in pensions. The biggest win, however is the amendment which includes additional funding in order to allow for the speedier placement of vulnerable children within the foster care system.
This ANC-led government cannot hide from the fact that the foster care system is a massive failure throughout the country. Given the dire statistics when it comes to foster care placement in South Africa, this amendment covers a range of issues that are in need of attention and the DA looks forward to the improvements that will hopefully bring about positive change, particularly for the one million orphaned children in our country.
There is however, a major stumbling block when it comes to the fast-tracking of this system which is that the KZN DSD, under MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza, currently lacks the capacity to do so. This as a result of there being an insufficient number of qualified social workers within its employment. And so, while the DA is pleased that this Bill now allows for qualified social workers to both visit and verify homes before children are placed, it won’t help if the Department does not have enough of these skilled and essential service professionals.
This is an issue which the DSD will need to focus on with the urgency that it deserves. This is not the first time that the DA has raised this and, now more than ever, it must be addressed if government is to ensure that the new amendment works, and works well.
Regrettably, the DSD has a history of treating social workers badly. This is evidenced by the fact that while it continues to provide social worker bursaries, it has failed to provide employment within the Department, in line with its original promises. This situation has now reached fever pitch with unemployed social workers, who last week conducted a legal and peaceful march to the DSD’s Pietermaritzburg office, being shot at with rubber bullets and having tear gas thrown at them. This is indeed shocking – these are the very people that the DSD needs.
It is now incumbent upon MEC Khoza and Department to provide employment to qualified social workers. Without them, the amendments in terms of orphaned children will simply not work.
The DA sincerely hopes that the MEC will put the requisite time, effort and resources into ensuring that this matter is dealt with effectively and speedily – it is, after all, what her Department is mandated to do. The DA will be monitoring this closely. Our province’s orphaned children must be taken care of sooner rather than later.