Media release

Social Protection and Vulnerable Groups media briefing statement

07 April 2014

07 April 2014

Social Sector Cluster
Social Protection and Vulnerable Groups Media Briefing
07 April 2014 at 13h00
GCIS Head Office, Tshedimosetso House: Pretoria with Video Link to GCIS Imbizo Centre, Parliament: Cape Town

Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for joining us today for this briefing, as we expand from the State of the Nation Address delivered by President Jacob Zuma on 13 February 2014. In this historic year in which we celebrate 20 Years of Freedom, it is important to look back and reflect on the good work that government has done in the past 20 years of our democracy.

As South Africans are gearing to go to the polls on 7 May 2014, it is worth mentioning that government has since 1994 made an important contribution in overcoming the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Today the majority of South Africans, importantly the most vulnerable, have access to basic services such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity and social security, which are government’s most effective poverty-alleviation interventions. Only last week, Statistics South Africa released the Poverty Trends Analysis report which shows that social grants have contributed immensely to decrease poverty levels in South Africa.

This democratic government inherited a divided nation, with high poverty levels and inequitable distribution of income. In 1994, the government started transforming policies and programmes from a racially based welfare system of apartheid to the one that is now inclusive of all people.

This deliberate agenda to transform the social protection framework has contributed to equitable access to basic services and community-based programmes. One of the main objectives was to implement measures of social protection for targeted groups such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities and victims of violence and abuse.

Looking at the significant political and socio-economic strides we have made since 1994, indeed we have a good story to tell. As we celebrate these successes of the current administration, we declare that the social living conditions of all our people are far much better than they were before 1994.

Social protection

The Department of Social Development provides comprehensive social protection services against vulnerability and poverty within the constitutional and legislative framework, and has created an enabling environment for sustainable development. We have been delivering integrated, sustainable and quality services, in partnership with all those committed to realising our vision of building a caring society. Our responsibility is to provide integrated social development services that enhance human development and improve the quality of life for all.

Looking back at progress made over the past five years, we are happy to share with you some of the most notable achievements for the period under review:

Expansion of social security coverage
We have expanded social security coverage by increasing the number of grant beneficiaries from 2.7 million people in 1994 to more than 16 million people by 2013 - 11 million of those are children while more than 2.8 million are older persons.

The qualifying age for the Old Age Grant for males and females has been equalised, thus enabling men to also qualify as beneficiaries from the age of 60 instead of 65 as was the case before. Another remarkable achievement has been the extension of the Child Support Grant until the age of 18. This phenomenal growth in the number of people benefiting from income support from 14 million people in 2009/10 to almost 16 million in 2013/2014 is perhaps the single most notable indicator of government’s commitment to fighting poverty.

Food for all
Government has rolled out the campaign on Food and Nutrition Security, which aims to ensure that poor and vulnerable households have access to food. Some of the key outcomes of these interventions include support for small scale farmers to enhance their productive capacity.

As part of the War on Poverty campaign, the department has been able to create profiles of households in poverty and to make interventions at household and community levels. The provision of immediate poverty relief in the form of food parcels and soup kitchens or nutritional centres continues to provide relief to households.

Anti-substance abuse
The fight against substance abuse remains one of the priorities of our government and is informed by our determination to create a drug-free society. Research indicates that drug and alcohol abuse is linked to a number of health risks and behavioural problems such as exposure to HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence and crime.

In March 2013, the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act, 2008 (Act 70 of 2008) came into force. This far-reaching legislation provides for a comprehensive national response for the combating of substance abuse. It also provides for mechanisms aimed at demand and harm reduction in relation to substance abuse through prevention, early intervention, treatment and reintegration programmes. This forms part of the department’s contribution to the national goal of ensuring a long and healthy life for all South Africans.

The department has made strides in the fight against drug and substance abuse.

  • Anti-substance abuse Programme of Action was developed to implement 34 resolutions emanating from the 2nd Biennial Anti-Substance Abuse Summit held in Durban in March 2011.
  • Anti-substance abuse Programme of Action was approved by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Anti-Substance abuse. 
  • The community awareness campaign for Anti-Substance Abuse was developed and rolled out as part of the implementation of the programme.  
  • The implementation of the Ke Moja (I am fine without drugs) awareness campaign is reaching many young people in all provinces. The recent visit by President Zuma in Eldorado Park formed part of this campaign. 
  • We developed a social mobilisation strategy which seeks to empower communities to play a more active role in the fight against substance abuse.
  • The new Central Drug Authority board members were also appointed and inaugurated on 18 March 2013. 
  • The National Drug Master Plan was approved by Cabinet in June 2013 and capacity building conducted in the provinces.

Early Childhood Development (ECD)

Early Childhood Development is a vital link in the range of services aimed at achieving positive social and educational outcomes.

In the past five years, access to ECD services has been broadened significantly. By the end of the 2012/13 financial year, more than one million (1 009 022) children were accessing ECD services throughout the country. The number of children directly subsidised by the State has increased from 432 727 in 2009/10 to more than 545 347 in 2013. Similarly, the number of registered ECD facilities has grown from 16 250 in 2009/10 to 21 023 by the end of 2012/13.

The 2012 ECD conference which was attended by role players from all spheres of government, ECD practitioners, academics and other development partners resolved to review and harmonise existing policies in order to ensure universal access to ECD services. This resolution made ECD compulsory so that children from rural areas and informal settlements could have access to the right to education at an early stage of development.

Child Protection Services
The Children’s Act, 2005 (Act 38 of 2005), which came into force in April 2010, transformed the traditional manner of child protection organisations’ service delivery model and has ensured inclusive services to all children. Through this Act, many vulnerable categories of children previously excluded from statutory service provision are now receiving services.

The Act provides for the establishment of the National Child Protection Register, which consists of two parts.

  • Part A of the register has a record of abuse or deliberate neglect inflicted on specific children and the circumstances surrounding the abuse or deliberate neglect inflicted on the affected children. It also keeps record of persons who have been convicted of crimes against children and the findings of the children’s court involving cases of abuse against children.
  • Part B of the register has a record of persons who are unsuitable to work with children and the information can be used in order to protect children in general against abuse from unsuitable persons. This register has been operational since 1 April 2010. 

To further encourage the protection of children, the Child Protection Week (CPW) Campaign is celebrated annually to inform, raise awareness, advocate for children’s rights, educate and mobilise families and communities about their responsibility towards the protection and care of children.

Alternative care
The concept of Child and Youth Care Centres has changed from being an alternative care option to children to a specialised service to children. This has thus increased access to alternative care services, especially foster care, from approximately 78 000 foster children in 1994 to 372 960 beneficiaries and 532 159 foster children at the end of March 2013.

Adoption services
Adoption is widely considered to be one of the best options and solutions to address the plight of orphans and vulnerable children in communities. The value of adoption is that it promotes the goal of permanency planning by connecting children to other safe and nurturing family relationships intended to last a lifetime.  Adoption may in the long run assist in reducing the number of children in alternative care and it is the most cost-effective, long-term option for caring for children who cannot be returned to their families.

Some of the achievements with respect to adoptions include the following:  

  • The major outcomes of the research study on adoption were an increased knowledge and change of attitude of the public regarding adoption services and the Africanising of adoptions and mechanisms of dealing with cultural barriers.
  • The Department of Social Development cooperates with the International Social Service, which is a global network of social workers in respect of rendering inter-country social services. 
  • In terms of the management of unaccompanied foreign minors, the department has established two steering committees in Gauteng and Limpopo, as these were the hotspots for unaccompanied foreign minors. Guidelines on how to manage this category of children have been developed and officials in the provinces have been capacitated and trained.

Child and youth care services
The department has identified and developed a community-based model known as Isibindi Model. The Isibindi model deploys trained community-based child and youth care workers in communities to provide developmental support to orphans and vulnerable children and families.

The model primarily focuses on improving and expanding access of young people to social and economic opportunities. The department continues to provide technical support to all provinces as part of the national roll out. Similarly, the department monitors the implementation of this model by collating and coordinating reports and presentation to various management structures.

Protecting our children
The Children’s Act of 2005 and Child Justice Act of 2008 (Act 75 of 2008) are but some of the legal instruments that seek to protect children in alignment with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2003, Cabinet adopted a National Plan of Action for Children, which is geared towards strengthening intersectoral coordination and improved monitoring and reporting on the status of South Africa’s children.

Gender-based violence
The department’s victim empowerment programme (VEP) forms an integral part of government’s goal of protecting the rights of women and children. The VEP aims to make the criminal justice process more victim-friendly and effective to address the needs of all victims of crime and violence with special focus on vulnerable groups like women and children, people with disabilities and older persons and victims of human trafficking.

VEP focuses on programmes and services that protect, support and care for victims of crime and violence. VEP also promotes and upholds the rights of victims. The department in partnership with the Vodacom Foundation and other stakeholders has launched a 24 hour Command Centre as a pilot project to assist victims of gender-based violence.

Victims’ Rights Charter
To provide relief to victims of crime and violence, government introduced the Integrated National Policy Guidelines for Victim Empowerment in 2009. The implementation of the VEP Policy Guidelines is intended to achieve a society in which the rights and needs of victims of crime and violence are acknowledged and effectively addressed within a restorative justice approach.

The department facilitated the establishment of shelters for abused women in South Africa and developed a Shelter Strategy that served as a guideline for service-providers rendering services to abused women. To date more than ninety seven (96) shelters have been established in South Africa. Minimum standards for service delivery in shelters were also developed to standardise services in shelters.

The department established the national and provincial VEP forums to ensure effective coordination and communication between all relevant stakeholders. The forums also serve as a platform for the department to provide strategic direction with respect to VEP.

Other key achievements pertaining to victim empowerment include among others the following:

  • The department developed a strategy on the engagement of Men and Boys on awareness and prevention of gender-based violence. The main objective of the strategy is to facilitate and consolidate partnerships with civil society organisations that render services to men and boys in relation to gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence. There is an increasing movement in the country towards full participation of men as equal partners in the fight against gender-based violence.
  • We developed VEP-specific guidelines for services rendered to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and transnational and serious crimes.
  • The department also developed a National Resource Directory for victims of crime and violence to provide clear information on the location of VEP services and ensure accessibility of services.
  • The department continues annually to raise awareness and empowered communities on their rights regarding gender-based violence during the 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children campaign.

Significant strides were made with respect to strengthening families and supporting community interventions which foster social cohesion. In this respect in May 2013, Cabinet approved the White Paper on Families which provides a policy framework for integrated services to families. This will ensure that the department plays central role in achieving its goal of restoring family values and responsibilities as a key element of building cohesive communities. 

Services to older persons
In order to promote the safety and well-being of older persons, the department reached a number of milestones. The most notable of these has been the repeal of old legislation for older persons by introducing the Older Persons Act, 2006 (Act 13 of 2006). The new legislation introduced a shift of services from institutional to community-based care for older persons and deals effectively with the plight of older persons by establishing a framework aimed at empowering and protecting older persons as well as promoting and maintaining their status, rights, well-being, safety and security. As prescribed by law, the department also establishes and registers residential facilities to older persons.

Amongst many achievements of the last five years, the establishment of the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities by President Zuma in 2009 further stands as a testament to this government’s commitment to promote, facilitate, coordinate and monitor the realisation of the rights and empowerment of women, children and people with disabilities.

Our government has committed itself to the empowerment of women, children and people with disabilities by ratifying various regional and international instruments that have set new benchmarks and targets for government to achieve.

Some of the instruments include:

  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa in 2004.
  • The African Union Heads of State and SADC Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa in 2004.
  • The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which was adopted by SADC Heads of State at the States Summit in August 2008. Since then, South Africa ratified this instrument in August 2012.
  • South Africa has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1997 and in 2000 the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. We have also ratified other UN Optional Protocols.
  • We were one of the first countries to sign and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol without reservation in 2007, thereby committing the South African Government to respect and implement the rights of persons with disabilities as documented in the various articles.

Women empowerment:
South Africa’s good performance on gender equality is evident both in international and regional indices. On the Social Institutions and Gender Index of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Africa is ranked fourth out of the 87 countries in the 2012 index and was the top ranked country in Africa.

On the SADC Gender and Development Index, South Africa was ranked second in 2012 with a score only slightly lower than that of the top performer, Seychelles. On the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, South Africa has consistently remained in the upper levels, reaching sixth position in 2011.

In terms of women empowerment, before 1994, the South African Parliament had a mere 2.7% representation of women. Today we have increased the representation of women to 44% in Parliament and 42% in Cabinet. We would still like to see the same progress in the private sector and in the judiciary. To date we have very few women judges, one judge president and only two women judges in the Constitutional Court. 

South Africa has adopted significant legislative reforms and has developed policies which seek to promote and protect women’s rights in the home, in the community and in the workplace such as:

  • The Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act of 116 of 1998)
  • Prevention of Family Violence Act, 1993 (Act 133 of 1993). 
  • The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007), commonly referred to as the Sexual Offences Act. 
  • The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 (Act 4 of 2000) 
  • The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013 (Act 7 2013)
  • Protection from Harassment Act, 2013 (Act 17 of 2011).

Our judiciary is also working hard to accelerate the conviction for rape and other sexual offences as we address gender-based violence.

Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill
The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill which was tabled in Parliament in November 2013, is now at its final stages of being enacted after it was endorsed by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Once enacted, the WEGE Bill will become a powerful instrument to advance the objectives of gender equality and women empowerment and enforce compliance on the empowerment of women on the existing legislative framework both in the public and private sector.

Persons with disabilities
Post-1994, South Africa has done well to recognise the rights of persons with disabilities through the enactment of the country’s Constitution in 1996 and the subsequent release of the Integrated National Disability Strategy in 1997, and other pieces of legislation.
Children with disabilities were generally not welcome in ordinary schools prior to 1994.  Today, all children between the ages of seven and 15 have to attend school by law and this includes children with disabilities. Our inclusive education policy makes it clear that children with disabilities should be accommodated in local schools and that they need to be provided with the support they need to learn. 

We are currently finalising the National Disability Rights Policy, which constitutes the first step towards domesticating the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities across government.

The road ahead may be long, but when we look back, despite the many challenges, the evidence that we have a good story to tell is overwhelming and it confirms that South Africa is a much better place to live in now than it has ever been before.

Government has also improved its outreach and community mobilisation programmes in order to ensure that communities are informed on government programmes and services, and that they are also empowered to actively participate in community-based planning and decision-making processes.

I thank you

For enquiries:

  • Ms Lumka Oliphant, Head of Communication, Dept. of Social Development. Cell:  083 484 8067
  • Ms Kenosi Machepa, Head of Communication, Dept. of Women, Children and People with Disability. Cell: 072 571 2221
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