Chairperson, Ministers and Deputy Ministers, old people and poor women and children, despite the help they get from the government, are in limbo in a state of poverty. They cannot forego their grants, because then they will starve. They cannot improve their situation in life, because then they will lose their grants. They are between a rock and a hard place, and the government is confining them there. To add to their problems, there is an acute shortage of competent, qualified and dedicated social service professionals, and those that are in the employment of the department are despondent and demoralised. We need to have a proper solution to a problem that is clearly out of control. They have just too much to contend with.
Last year, the Minister pointed out that over 6 420 students had been given bursaries to register for courses in social work at several institutions of higher learning. How have these students been doing, and what more has been done since then to improve the situation in this regard?
On the unemployment side, the situation remains as bleak as ever. Using the narrow determination of unemployment, over a quarter of the economically active population in our country is unemployed, but if we use the broader definition, we have more than 40% of the people unemployed. Government knows the extent of the problem, but the measures it is implementing are totally inadequate. Any reforms regarding the retirement provisions for old age are vitally important. We then support the reforms and look forward to contributing to the discussion on this issue.
Even though recipients of social security in the two poorest provinces, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, increased, there are women-led households that are experiencing food insecurity in the rural areas of these provinces. Of all households often and always experiencing hunger, the majority are not receiving the social relief grants for which they are eligible.
We also realise that there are challenges with regard to the older people receiving grants at banks. We are also aware of the failure of the department in meeting the target regarding this. For the department to only concentrate on working with the Post Office is myopic. Cope believes that older people need patience and reassurance and easy access to services. Cope also supports the redefinition of disability and hopes that this will lead to the formulation of an exit strategy for those who do not fall into the category.
The SA Social Security Agency, Sassa, was established to facilitate proactive service delivery and the Integrated Community Registration Outreach Programme, ICROP, was initiated to improve the turnaround times for the processing of applications. Have these agencies lived up to these expectations? Is the Minister willing to assure the House that she is totally satisfied with the functioning of these agencies?
Hon Minister, a community newspaper in Cape Town recently reported that a syndicate from the Department of Health, the Department of Home Affairs and Sassa was funnelling grants to parents in respect of bogus children. Is this so, and can the Minister say with conviction that such a problem does not exist?
The Minister in her speech in 2009 did not mention the ICROP. Instead she talked about a new ... Thank you, Chairperson. [Time expired.]