Chair, I get the feeling that the important changes taking place in and around this department are having a generally motivating effect and that stakeholders are more encouraged than usual. Many of the changes will be the result of the transformation the department is undergoing in order to incorporate Programmes 3 and 4 - from what was the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities - to be more specific: children and people with disabilities.
The excitement generated seems to have spilled over into other areas that have long been desperately needing attention, such as the additional allocations being made in this budget to provinces to enable them to increase the number of social workers employed and to provide additional support to NGOs providing essential welfare services. The Gauteng Welfare, Social Service and Development Forum says it best:
This comes at a time when cutbacks in services to our country's most vulnerable people have been happening on an appalling scale, and many thousands of workers in struggling non-profit organisations (NPOs) have been retrenched.
The ACDP is aware of the tremendous anxiety caused by a lack of funds necessary to intervene where children and families are at risk or in crisis. And, like other stakeholders, we are daring to hope that the allocation will make a significant difference in many lives. Hon Minister, will the department be able to hold provinces accountable in ensuring that funds go where they are actually meant to go?
A major concern for the ACDP and, indeed, the country are statistics showing that there is a crisis in adoption in South Africa. The Actuarial Society of SA estimates that by 2015 there will be 3,5 million more orphans in South Africa, taking the number to a staggering 5,5 million orphans and, yet, at the same time, fewer orphans are being adopted.
Hon Minister, there are those who see the department as part of the problem as adoptions are being overcontrolled, causing serious delays at a high cost to the best interests of many children. Section 239(1)(d) of the Children's Act stipulates that the report of the social worker must be accompanied by a letter from the provincial head of department recommending the adoption. But in practice the department's scrutiny of the report can lead to a six-month delay in the process, preventing a needy child from being in the arms of a loving parent.
Hon Minister, what can and is the department doing to rectify this situation and ensure that delays and processes do not cause suitable parents to be disqualified or dissuaded? Would the Minister consider amending section 239 of the Act, to eliminate the unnecessary blockages hindering and discouraging adoptions?
The ACDP is pleased to see the department's focus on early childhood development. Nongovernmental organisations say that thousands of toddlers and children in our nation are in informal ECD centres that need to be put firmly on the radar of the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs and municipalities, which is not the case at present.
A more inclusive approach is necessary. Informal, unregistered centres are where most children are in care, and they need to be incrementally supported and assisted. Formal registration and related formal processes are beyond their reach. They need a range of support, including training and materials, of course, but also infrastructural improvements like sanitation, fencing, water supply and often even shelter.
Hon Minister, the ACDP implores you and your department to adopt a different, more incremental and more inclusive approach, ensuring co- ordination and participation between all relevant departments.
Lastly, the ACDP would like to acknowledge the work done previously by Social Development with regard to recognising the importance of family and notes with appreciation that the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution on "Protection of the Family".
The ACDP, along with many others, has been concerned for the longest time that the importance of the family has been ignored by those drafting influential goals that will determine the UN's budget and actions and, to some degree, South Africa's. We will be supporting this budget. Thank you. [Applause.]