Social Protection, Community and Human Development (SPCHD) Cluster briefing

 12 December 2016

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Let me start by thanking you for attending this media briefing. This platform gives us, as the social protection, community and human development cluster, an opportunity to update the nation about the progress we have made towards improving the living conditions of South Africans.

We are hosting this media briefing two days after the commemoration of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign. We are also holding it just before many South Africans begin their festive season holidays and we would not be doing justice to this government if we do not recognise that as a country, we are celebrating our most important document – our Constitution.

The world hails ours as the best because it recognises the importance of our human rights as a people. It protects every person and serves as a reminder that we have a contract with South Africans. The SPCHD’s work is central in interpreting the values of our Constitution into the daily lives of our people.

The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) is focused on the implementation phase of the National Development Plan (NDP) and it is structured around 14 priority outcomes. These are: education; skills development; safety and security; health; social protection; economic growth and employment; infrastructure; environment; international relations; rural development; human settlements; local government; social protection; public sector; nation-building and social cohesion.

Ladies and gentlemen
As mentioned earlier, we are in the festive season, and we are all looking forward to a well-deserved break and quality time with our families and loved ones. Let us make the best out of this season to build and strengthen relations through interactions based on Ubuntu and respect – as reflected and protected by our Constitution.

During this Reconciliation month, December, you are encouraged to contribute efforts in building a coherent and a united nation. Let us promote reconciliation, peace and social cohesion. The theme for 2016 is “Bridging the divide towards a non-racial society”.

The country cannot move forward nor realise its long terms strategic goals if South Africa remains divided.

Of most concern are the continued incidents of violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex people. As government we condemn these barbaric acts and perpetrators must be punished in accordance with the law.

The highlight of our 20 years of our Constitution’s achievement is the Bill that will make hate crimes and hate speech a criminal offence.

We appeal to all South Africans to play their part in ending racism, sexism and gender-based violence (GBV), especially against women, children and older persons.

If you experience, witness or know about any form of GBV in your space, please contact the Social Development GBV Command Centre – a 24-hour call centre dedicated to providing support and counselling to victims. The toll-free number to call for assistance is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) or dial *120*7867# (free) from any cellphone.

We are pleased to announce that we are well on our way to ensure a non-violent society through continuation of  #356DaysCampaign and #CountMeIn initiatives. Government, working with civil society, is conducting dialogue sessions in municipalities nationwide to mobilise society, especially men, to join hands in the fight against child and women abuse beyond the 16 days campaign.

Let us use the holidays to kick-start healthier and safer lifestyles.
Government is sponsoring a number of festivals during December to bring people together.

As we celebrate, South Africans are cautioned about the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse. The hazardous and harmful effect of these is a contributing factor to premature death, disease and injury. The costly consequences thereof in terms of car-road fatalities, violence, babies born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder as a result of drinking during pregnancy are an unnecessary burden.

Young people between the ages of 20 and 34 constitute the majority of people who die on our roads. Skilled and economically active people die or are injured in road crashes.
Prevention is the mainstay of efforts to attain a long and healthy life for all South Africans. What good are all our investments in human development if people die prematurely? We have to lead healthy lifestyles to prevent or delay the onset of non-communicable diseases and continue to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS. 

We remain resolute as government to minimise the advertising of alcohol. Work is being done by the Department of Trade and Industry to obtain inputs from members of the public to increase the drinking age limit to 21 years.

Sport remains vital in uniting the nation.
The Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa facilitated the participation of 120 476 people in sport and active recreation events in the period under review.  Of these, 13 464 were learners from schools around the country. Sport equipment was also provided to 925 schools as part of our effort to return the school sport programme, especially in our rural areas. Sport Championships were successfully hosted and 6 815 learners participated.

Drowning is a major cause of unnatural deaths among our children.
Adults must, therefore always supervise children around the beach areas, swimming pools, river banks and dams. Child neglect is an offence and it is punishable by law.

We also acknowledge that most learners, particularly those who will not receive favourable results in matric, go through a difficult phase which require immediate intervention and support. To minimise depression, trauma and possible suicide incidents amongst Grade 12 learners, we call upon parents and caregivers to look for changes in the behaviour of their children, to give them support and encourage them to return to school.

Education is the cornerstone of youth employment and ensuring that young people are educated and skilled is of prime concern for the State and society in general.  Since the advent of democratic government in 1994, South Africa has been building a new education and training system whose goal has been to meet the needs of a democratic society. Some important successes have been achieved. The system must be expanded to cater for the needs of young people and offer second chance National Senior Certificate (NSC) as a learner qualifications improvement programme.

As we look forward to the NSC results, we also need to consider the plight of those who are not going to meet all the minimum pass requirements.
This year government launched the NSC Learner Retention Programme known as the Second Chance Matric Support Programme. It provides support for candidates writing the supplementary examinations and the Modularized NSC Writing Option in February/March and June 2017 respectively.

Through the upscaling of such second-chance programmes, young South Africans will be integrated back into the education system to ensure they receive a second chance at being adequately qualified before entering the job market. There are more benefits to the country at large to have its citizens adequately educated.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media
We are on track in building human capabilities through education and training.

To achieve the NDP core priorities of reducing poverty, unemployment and inequality, we need to radically transform the economy by raising employment through faster economic growth, improve the quality of education, skills development and innovation.

The Human Sciences Research Council released the results of South Africa’s participation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMMS).
We are a leading African participant among 59 countries in TIMSS 2015. Our participation in internationally benchmarked studies provides valuable and credible information that can unravel post-truth politics and affirm the upward trajectory in the sector evidenced by improving Mathematics and Science skills, better schooling conditions and decreasing inequality in education communities.

The TIMSS 2015 study point towards a steady but upward trajectory of the education sector. Within the context of a maturing democratic education system, there is much to be appreciated and yet so much more still to be done. The values and targets we have set ourselves through the NDP embolden us to strive for academic excellence in prioritised areas of Mathematics and Science.

This independent study gives an encouraging account of how we measure up in a widely recognised international testing programme aimed largely at assessing whether countries are making progress in education over time.

As government we are very pleased with the consistent improvements we have seen in the TIMSS results.
With a total of 677 141 full-time and 150 183 part-time candidates, the 2016 examinations recorded a total of 9 216 additional candidates from the number that sat in 2015.

The education sector has made remarkable improvements in access, redress and equity. Learning outcomes have shown an upward trend in national, regional and international tests. This has come as a result of government’s focus on implementing programmes that ensured that learners received sufficient support.

The NSC Examinations Marking is underway in 140 marking centres around the country. The NSC results will be released on 5 January 2017.
We urge all our learners to collect their statements of results at the school where they sat for the examinations. 

While we understand the need for all South Africans to receive basic education, we cannot achieve the goals set out in the NDP without getting the foundation right.
Early Childhood Development (ECD) is one of the priorities of this government and was declared a public good. This is because we acknowledge and understand the importance of a child's first 1 000 days. We need to ensure that every child between the ages of 0 – 4 has access to ECD. To achieve this, as a country we have a national integrated policy on ECD which was approved by Cabinet last year. A total of 1 343 336 children have access to ECD and it is the commitment of this government to make sure that no child is left behind.

Government would like to encourage parents to take their children to ECD centres and ECD practitioners to register their centres. Access to ECD is another form of making sure that our children develop emotionally and cognitively while we eradicate the challenges of inequality and poverty.

One of the biggest and most successful programmes of this government is our social security and social assistance programme.
We are reforming the social-welfare sector and services to deepen social assistance and extend the scope for social security in order to deliver better results for our people.  This supports the NDP Vision 2030 of creating an inclusive social protection system that addresses all areas of vulnerability. This include ensuring that the programmes are responsive to the needs, realities, conditions and livelihoods of those who are most at risk.

Last month, the Department of Social Development (DSD) announced the amendments of the Social Assistance Act, 2004 (Act 13 of 2004) which will be gazetted for public comments. These amendments entail administrative changes which are aimed at improving efficiency of the appeals process and reducing fraud within the social grant system.

The current appeals process in the Social Assistance Act of 2004 provides for an administrative review of the decision within the South African Social Security Agency. This is causing unnecessary delays in accessing the right to appeal in relation to social grants and delayed access to administrative justice.

During the same month of November, government released the Comprehensive Social Security Discussion Paper at the National Economic Development and Labour Council. The release of this paper forms part of reform proposals to accelerate progress of the 2030 NDP targets of rolling back poverty and inequality.  It further seeks to improve access to a safety net through a social compact.

The National Social Security Fund is expected to also take responsibility for the proposed mandatory contributions for the provision of retirement, death and disability benefits for all workers. The paper is also looking at reducing the burden on low-income earners and a suggestion on a contribution subsidy to ensure coverage of all workers. 

The positive response from business, labour and government on the paper is welcomed and we would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that all interested parties, communities and stakeholders must participate in consultations about this essential document in the social protection programme.

By 2030, South Africa should have access to education and training of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved learning outcomes. The graduates of South Africans universities, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges should have the skills and knowledge to meet the present and future needs of the economy and society.
The SPCHD cluster is trying to make sure that the existing programmes speak to each other for the better delivery of services.
I would like to announce that the DSD and Department of Basic Education partnered with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to ensure that learners from poor and vulnerable families have access to funding so they can further their studies. This collaboration is aligned to the Protocol Agreement on Linking Social Protection Administrative Data Systems for Poor and Vulnerable Learners. The aim is to track, locate and improve the well-being of poor and vulnerable learners with a host of social protection services. This simply means that support and money follows the learner; secondly, few vulnerable and poor learners apply for financial assistance.
 
We are happy to announce that matriculants who are currently receiving a social grant and are accepted in institutions of higher learning will no longer go through a means test to qualify for financial aid from the NSFAS.

Through the Isibindi Programme, National Association of Child Care Workers also partnered on this initiative by dispatching NSFAS application forms to all the 278 Isibindi sites which were servicing matric students. This process was made possible through Child and Youth Care Workers and Mentors. A clear project charter will be developed for 2017 to ensure access and curb this type of challenge.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) takes note of the recent decision by some universities around the country, including the University of the Witwatersrand and University of Stellenbosch within the 8% capped fee adjustments for 2017.

Based on the government subsidy funding model for universities, the department has calculated that some institutions may experience a shortfall in income in the 2017 academic year due to the 0% fee adjustment in 2016 and the compounded effect of inflation. Therefore, all affected institutions are faced with the task of implementing cost-cutting measures to ensure their sustainability. This is an interim measure as a long-term solution to higher education funding is still being sought.

Although the NSFAS has done much to deal with the problem of funding to support poor students, the remaining challenge is that working and middle class income students cannot be fully funded. The DHET has done substantial work since the review of NSFAS in 2010, culminating in the proposal of the Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP). 

The ISFAP model will be piloted at six universities and one TVET college in 2017. The pilot will fund the studies of around 2 000 students for the duration of their studies.
The lessons learnt from this pilot, the comments received from the public consultation process, the results of the feasibility study and the recommendations of the Presidential Fees Commission, will feed into the development of the final model.

Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) Social Sector continues to play a significant role in responding to the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. In accordance with the EPWP Phase 3, Principle: 3 on ensuring that “EPWP work provides or enhances public goods and community services”, the sector has successfully leveraged public-private partnerships as an important mechanism for the delivery of health services in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

The Gauteng Department of Health entered into a partnership with the Dischem Pharmacy Group to train 105 young people participating in the delivery of Home Community-Based Care Programme. A graduation ceremony in respect of the youth took place on 25 November 2016, where 37 young people graduated. They are currently deployed in community health centres (CHCs) in Gauteng to deliver drugs and medication among patients. This intervention has contributed to the reduction of long queues and overcrowding in hospitals and CHCs.

In the Western Cape, the programme reached out to almost 110 young people and provision was made for the creation of additional posts of trainer pharmacists to ensure supervision and guidance for the trainees. The programme provides an opportunity for the youth to be absorbed in both public and private sector organisations.

The Social Sector EPWP has successfully been granted R385 million by National Treasury in the 2017/18 financial year. This amount will be distributed among 42 provincial eligible sector public bodies as an additional conditional grant allocation to create 15 866 full-time equivalents. Business Planning processes for the grant up-take are underway. The funding allocation will serve as a relief among eligible provincial sector public bodies as they continue to experience budget cuts due to fiscal constraints. This also promises continuation of the EPWP contribution towards the decent work agenda and quality service delivery.

As we wrap up the year in which we celebrated the delivery of over 4,3 million houses and subsidies, our eyes are firmly on the target of delivering six million houses and subsidies to our beneficiaries by 2019. We are comforted that over 22 million South Africans will spend the Christmas holidays in decent shelters. We are excited that over 56% of our housing beneficiaries are women.

We are at the final stages of packaging catalytic projects that will see us delivering at scale and integrating our communities across the country. These projects will address issues of our distorted and racially exclusive apartheid spatial planning to make sure that all 50 of them are socially and economically integrated. The National Department of Human Settlements (DHS) has assessed 45 government-led and 18 private sector projects so far. A detailed due diligence and feasibility study reports have been submitted to the National Treasury Infrastructure Unit in line with the Capital Planning Guidelines and the conditions set out in the Appropriations Act.

A consultation process is already underway with affected municipalities and provinces with a view of concluding agreements between the parties for the implementation of these projects.

A large number of South Africans remains trapped in poverty, squalor and in deplorable living conditions that characterise these informal settlements. We have set ourselves a target of upgrading of informal settlements and improving the living conditions of 750 000 households living in these areas by 2019. The upgrading of informal settlements remains one of the priorities of this government.

As of 30 September 2016, a total of 205 782 of these households were upgraded and the DHS together with the nine provinces, and all the metros met and identified interventions that will fast-track the delivery of this target. One of the decisions taken was to establish a credible database of all informal settlements with detailed information on the level of services in each, the planning and tenure status and the proposed funding sources.

We are also tasked with the responsibility of increasing the number of home loans granted by the private sector and the DHS’s Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to households in the affordable housing market. The MTSF target is 203 500 of these loans that must result in new homes. As of 30 September 2016, DFIs had issued 39 558 loans whilst 37 632 were issued by banks.

The DHS continues with its work towards reducing economic inequalities through the development of human settlements small, medium and micro enterprises. Since our Cabinet approved intervention in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM), the DHS has been paying more than R16 million to the NMBM contractors weekly. As a result of this intervention in the NMBM, our contractors have been paid within 14 days.

CONCLUSION
As government, we remain committed to delivering services that will improve the quality of life of all South Africans. We are committed to the goals set out in the NDP. We are fully aware that challenges still remain but as government, we are doing all that we can to bring a better life for all.

I thank you

Year: 
2016
Media Statement date: 
Tuesday, December 13, 2016