Hon Chairperson, hon delegates, hon Deputy Minister of Social Development, members of provincial executive councils, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, on Sunday, 1 June 2008, we marked International Children's Day under the theme "Listen to children". We have listened with our heads bowed in shame, as children of foreign nationals screamed for help on account of what was happening - what we call xenophobic attacks.
Speaking to us during the Take a Girl-Child to Work campaign, the girls of Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Mamelodi pleaded with the director- general and me to go beyond listening, by acting decisively to root out this social anomaly. Over the past two weeks, I have moved from settlement to settlement in order to better appreciate the situation. I have noted the positive actions of people from all walks of life who have given their time and resources to lend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters from across the continent and elsewhere.
Ndithi kuni bantu baseMzantsi Afrika: Ningadinwa nangomso! [To you, people of South Africa, thank you very much.]
Long after the aid has dried up and the tents have been folded up, the emotional scars of this unfortunate turn of events will remain with these children and their caregivers. Consequently, over the next few days we will work with social workers from various provinces and organisations to ensure that we begin to provide psychosocial support to these children. This, we believe, will reverse the tide and build for us a more caring society, but will not necessarily heal the wound.
This, we believe, fits squarely within the mandate of the department. Together with the provinces, we remain determined to create islands of hope amidst the sea of poverty that surrounds us. Our efforts have been challenged by rising food and energy prices. To address this and the root causes of poverty and inequality, we remain determined, more than ever before, to ensure that our response to poverty empowers people to access economic opportunities, while creating a comprehensive social security network to protect the most vulnerable in our society. This is reflected in both the Apex Priorities of government as well as in the Vote No 16 "Provincial Allocations".
Central to the objectives of the Apex Priorities is the war against poverty, which is anchored in quality education and health as an objective measure of building a caring society.
Given that poverty has both spatial and gender dimensions, we have allocated just under 60% of our resources to the largely rural and impoverished provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West. We are also actively engaged in reversing the description of poverty as a rural woman with a child on her back.
For us the passing of the Children's Amendment Act holds the promise of reversing this picture and is the dawn of a new era in the care and protection of children. To advance this prospect, we are relying on national, provincial and local government, as well as all relevant stakeholders, to implement the Act in a co-ordinated manner so as to maximise the limited resources available. It was with this in mind that last week during Child Protection Week we hosted a conference, "Getting South Africa ready to implement the Children's Act". We have allocated more than R22 million to this end.
Over the past 10 years we have been progressively widening the safety net for children through the care dependency, child support and foster care grants. The child support grant has been fundamental to these efforts and currently 8,6 million children are in receipt of this grant. A total of R19,3 billion has been allocated to the CSG, which has been increased to R210 per month and will further be increased to R220 from October.
The remaining challenge is the linking of social grant recipients to economic opportunities and other public services and goods. Consequently we are currently examining proposals to link certain child-related grants to health and education outcomes, as displayed in the internationally acclaimed programmes such as the Bolsa Familia in Brazil.
Integral to overcoming the effects of child poverty is early childhood development. Consequently we have renewed our registration drive of ECD places and centres. Already we have registered close on 2 000 ECD sites during the past year. Going forward, we intend to register another 1 000 new sites by March 2009. This will bring the total to more than 12 000 registered ECD sites throughout the country.
In order to ensure quality education and reach the objective of ensuring that every child in South Africa receives at least one nutritional meal a day, we will subsidise 600 000 children at a minimum of R9 per child per day during this financial year. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that our work permeates the lives of the poor by also lending a human face to the work of our government.
Such a human face requires of us to respond speedily and effectively to the needs and requirements of our people. It is with this in mind that as from the 1 June 2008 we have accepted all social grant applications from potentially eligible applicants even if they are not in possession of all the necessary documents. The South African Social Security Agency, or Sassa, will accept sworn affidavits deposed to before a commissioner of oaths testifying to, amongst other details, the names, age and parentage of the child or any other applicant.
Since this will go a long way in giving government a more human countenance, I take this opportunity to ask members of this House to assist in their constituencies with the issuance of such affidavits because all of you are commissioners of oaths. As can be witnessed through our programmes, accelerated and integrated service delivery remains a cornerstone of our war against poverty as in income support. Consequently, we will, amongst other measures, accelerate delivery towards the alleviation of poverty amongst older persons. In this regard, the old age grant has increased by 27% since 2004.
We are also working towards a progressive realisation of age equalisation with regard to the qualification for the old age grant, which we will implement as follows; 63 and 64-year-old men in 2008 once the law is amended; 61 and 62- year-old men in 2009; 60-year-old men in 2010. I urge all those eligible applicants to wait patiently until the Social Assistance Amendment Bill is passed during the course of this year.
In the meantime, we will ensure that Sassa reaches the poorest of the poor through the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme which involves the participation of the Department of Social Development, Sassa together with Home Affairs, Health, Education and the South African Police Service. Our aim is to enhance the quality of life of all persons, including older persons.
It is therefore heartening to note the success of initiatives such as the Golden Games in the Western Cape. These initiatives will be enhanced by the establishment of older persons forums in all provinces so as to provide a voice for the elderly.
Hon delegates, family violence and child abuse continues to eat away at the fabric which has bound our communities together. Together with other departments in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security, JCPS, cluster we have enhanced measures to tackle family violence and child abuse. Our work has also received the support of the European Union which has supported our service improvement initiatives in the King Sabata Dalindyebo, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City and the Lukhanji localities. These efforts will be complemented by the establishment of some children's homes and places of safety. This will, amongst other things, ensure that children in conflict with the law are separated from hardened criminals.
In order to deter young people from a life of crime and engage them in community development we will launch the Masupatsela Youth Pioneer Programme. These Masupatsela youth will form part of our broad National Youth Service Programmes. So far we have also trained 198 young people as voluntary assistant probation officers. I am pleased to announce that the department has permanently employed 140 of these young people.
Our own studies have linked maternal mortality with childbirth and have also indicated that currently there are just over 1,5 million maternal orphans in our country. Consequently, by this financial year we will improve the number of community-based cluster homes in provinces. This will ensure that the likelihood of having to remove orphaned children from their homes is minimised.
This requires added support to these households through the various home and community-based care programmes. These programmes are beginning to provide psychosocial support to these children. One such organisation is the Ububele Community Programme in Alexandra, which has innovatively partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand to train caregivers in the provision of this vital service. In honouring the work of Ububele, the department will scale up the model together with the University of the Witwatersrand, the Global Fund and the German Development Bank through KFW. All these actions, and those that are directed towards the upkeep of children, are to be co-ordinated by functional community-based childcare forums.
Unfortunately the pace of establishing these forums has been somewhat slow, mainly because childcare skills at that level are scarce. We have therefore, through the generous support of the United Nations Children's Fund or Unicef, partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand in order to train childcare forum facilitators. These facilitators will be at the frontline of ensuring that children's needs are ultimately addressed at a community level. The meeting of these needs requires that we have at our disposal all the necessary information in order to make the right services and policy choices. In order to meet these objectives we have allocated R11 million towards the development of a management information system for social services. This will complement our long-term plans for welfare infrastructure in provinces which includes the upgrading of social development offices in all the provinces and districts. In order to address the needs of vulnerable households we will have to attract, retain, and reorientate social services professionals. Consequently, the implementation of the recruitment and retention strategy for social workers remains important in realising our long-term objective of building a caring society.
In the coming weeks we will finalise our negotiation processes with labour so as to implement the proposed Occupation Specific Dispensation Bill for social services professionals in the public sector. The finalisation of these negotiations will enable us also to pay greater attention to conditions of service for social services professionals outside the public service. In the meantime we have already trained more than 1 126 social auxiliary workers and supported 1 428 social work students in the last academic year.
Through the bursary schemes, we will reach an additional 1 917 social work students with a view of guaranteeing employment to 5 000 of them by 2010. These initiatives have also offered us an opportunity to complement the international work we have conducted in the context of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Unesco, and the Management of Social Transformations, Most, Programme.
This initiative seeks to build solid bridges between communities, academics and policy-makers in the social sector and the realisation of the objectives requires at most, amongst other things, the strengthening of the South-South collaboration. This has motivated us to establish the Social Development Working Group of the India-Brazil-South Africa, Ibsa, trilateral.
These collaborations will also strengthen and guide the proposed National Anti-Poverty Strategy. The strategy will also address the multidimensional aspects of poverty through government and society wide actions. Given this multidimensional nature of poverty, we must also implement multidimensional partnerships. Such partnerships require the involvement of all sectors of society. This was our principal motivator in setting up the National Development Agency, NDA. Through supporting projects directed at meeting the developmental needs of poor communities, the NDA has developed expertise in social facilitation and community development. Through strengthening the institutional capacity of civil society organisations which provide services to these communities, the NDA is beginning to ensure sustainable forms of community mobilisation and asset management. Despite these excellent examples of groundbreaking work, the NDA continues to receive resources that are disproportionate to its mandate. I therefore take this opportunity to recognise the efforts of the board and staff at the NDA, and also wish to invite the donor and corporate sector to offer its support to the NDA.
In conclusion, let me recall the words of former President Nelson Mandela, who in reaction to the so-called xenophobia attacks said:
Remember the horror from which we come; never forget the greatness of a nation that could overcome its divisions ... Let us never descend into destructive divisiveness ...
Budget Vote 16 reaffirms our commitment to ensuring a united democratic South Africa and an Africa with a more human face which is emancipated from the brutality of poverty and inequality. I urge all members gathered here to lend their support to Vote 16. I thank you.