Statement by Minister of Public Works, Geoff Doidge, MP on the occasion of Social Protection and Community Development Cluster media briefing

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cape Town, Parliament

Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media

Good morning

Welcome to this, the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster's first media briefing since its inception in May 2009. The briefing will focus mainly on progress made in the implementation of Government's Programme of Action for the financial year 2009/2010. In this regard, the briefing aims to give an update on the priorities approved by the May 2009 Cabinet Lekgotla and further articulated in the President's State of the Nation address in June 2009. We are fully confident, as a cluster that the progress we have made thus far contributes significantly towards providing protection to our people against vulnerability, especially in the precarious economic situation.

In his State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma directed all of us to act together in order to mitigate the impact of this economic downturn on the most vulnerable in our society. The President's directive resonates with the fundamental mandate of our cluster: Social Protection and Community Development - to coordinate across government all programme activities aimed at providing a protective shield against various contingencies of life.

The Social Protection and Community Development Cluster comprises the Departments of Social Development (Chair), Public Works (Deputy Chair), Human Settlements, Arts and Culture, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Environmental and Water Affairs, Labour, Rural Development and Land Reform, Transport and Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability.

The report traverses progress achieved in the following strategic priority, based on the work undertaken by Interdepartmental Task Teams headed by various lead departments:

* Comprehensive social security
* Sustainable and affordable human settlements
* Promotion of basic services
* Implementation of ISRDP / URP
* Expanded Public Works Programme
* Promotion of social cohesion
* Comprehensive Anti-Poverty Interventions
* Improved food security

Comprehensive Social Security

On the issue of comprehensive social security, we are happy to report that the Interdepartmental Technical Task Team on Comprehensive Social Security has met its deadline. The cluster has completed the drafting of the Consolidated Government Document on Comprehensive Social Security, containing a package of strategic reform proposals. The document will be released as a basis for public consultations once it has been considered and approved by Cabinet.

As government, we are determined is to create a comprehensive social security system that is built on the fundamental principle of solidarity. The reform proposals advocate for a system that ensures that the majority of South Africa's poor benefit from expanded non-contributory or social assistance measures. Similarly, the proposals advocate for the introduction of reforms that lay a foundation for an inclusive retirement system that is consistent will international trends, which will protect the majority of South Africa's working population against income reversals during job losses and income replacement upon retirement. The Consolidated Government Document also covers proposals on the expansion of coverage of the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the introduction of a no-fault system of Road Accident Insurance as well as National Health Insurance, etc

In a related development, we are happy to report that we are making steady progress with phasing-in the equalisation of eligibility for the old age pension. As of the end of September 2009, there were 17 800 men aged 61 to 64 years receiving the old age pension. The Social Assistance Act provides for men of 60 years to qualify as from April 2010 and the National Treasury has made the necessary budget allocation for this final phase.

We have equally made considerable progress in respect of the extension of coverage of the Child Support Grant. Since the beginning of this financial year, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has registered in excess of 442 000 children up to the 15th birthday. As you are aware, Cabinet has approved the gradual extension of coverage of the Child Support Grant, over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), to eligible children from their 15th to 18th birthday. This extension will benefit approximately 2 million children from poor households. The total cost, over the MTEF, will be R1.3 billion, R2.6 billion and R3.5 billion respectively.

As government, we strongly reject any notion that suggests that poverty is the fault of the poor. Accordingly, we will spare no effort in tackling child poverty. We believe that the primary responsibility to provide for the wellbeing of the child rests with the family and that government can only do so much to protect such a child against the risk of falling into abject poverty. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of the caregivers to ensure that children receiving social grants remain in school. Education is a weapon by means of which we can stem the tide of the inter-generational transmission of poverty - a true means by which children can extricated from the family cycle of poverty.

Promotion of national Identity and Social Cohesion

Government is deeply conscious of the need to promote national identity and social cohesion. It is our firm belief that this process cannot be meaningfully pursued without the active involvement of our communities. To this end, government has introduced campaigns to popularize national symbols. For the period under review, a total of 30 000 hand-held flags were distributed during the commemoration of various national days. In addition 18 500 national symbols leaflets were distributed to schools and to different stakeholders.

The national conference on Social Cohesion was postponed to a later date in 2010. This postponement creates the time and space for more community mobilisation activities to be held as an active build-up to the conference, in addition to activities already in October 2009.

As at end of September 2009, the Cluster had profiled 23 447 households out of a target of 150 000 households. The profiled households received immediate services, e.g. Social Relief of Distress, food parcels, other grants, Early Childhood Development services, health screening, school transport, food gardens and seed packs, and water tanks, etc.

We have developed a five year roll out plan for the War on Poverty which has been submitted to Cabinet for approval.

Ensure sustainable and affordable human settlements

Ladies and Gentlemen, housing is a basic need. It is therefore our government's intention to improve the quality of life of our people and pursue those activities which make for stronger, better planned and sustainable human settlements.

Government is committed to helping our citizens secure a roof over their heads. In this regard, the Housing Development Agency has been established to assist provinces and municipalities with the acquisition of appropriate land for human settlements development. To date the HDA has received the land acquisition and assembly plans for six provinces and three metropolitan municipalities. The HDA is currently developing the Macro Coordination and Alignment Framework to ensure that existing and new human settlements development are delivered in a coordinated and integrated manner by government departments and spheres of government.

Improve food security
The issue of food security is also one of the cluster priorities. The high price of food and basic commodities has affected the purchasing power of poor households. As government, we believe that we must work with poor households to help to be better able to respond to the challenges of food insecurity and to protect the poor from the adverse effects of spiralling food prices. With this in mind, government has introduced various measures to enhance households and community food production, primarily for consumption and to generate income from the sale of surplus food. The households are provided with agricultural starter packs such as implements, vegetable seedlings and fertilizers. To date, the programme has been rolled out to 8 234 households country wide.

As an immediate intervention to mitigate vulnerability, the Cluster has spent R113m on Social Relief of Distress Programme to households across all nine provinces.

To complement the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are implementing the Tele-Food Fund to finance grass roots micro projects. To date the fund has assisted eight projects which have been approved by FAO for implementation in South Africa.

In support of all the foregoing programme activities, the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has initiated a Rainwater Harvesting programme aimed at ensuring that clean water for consumption and household food production is made available through low cost water harvesting techniques.
Working together with civil society and the corporate sector, government has successfully established the South African Forum for Food Security which culminated in the launch of Food Bank South Africa. While in other countries the focus is on the acquisition and distribution of surplus food, we have incorporated the element of food production and trade by producer corporatives of the poor themselves in this approach. This initiative is consistent with our intention to stimulate the rural economy to provide livelihoods for people in rural areas.

To date four food banks have been established in four provinces namely, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. I must say, and do so with considerable pride that taken together, these Food Banks distributed between 400-600 tons of food via 900 agencies to more than 100 000 people who are desperately in need of emergency food relief. The national target of establishing two food banks by March 2010 was achieved earlier.

Our intention is to ensure that there is at least one food bank in each province complemented by a network of village food banks in the rural areas. We are grateful to the civil society and the corporate sector for their cooperation in setting up the South African Food Bank and the Community Food Bank Networks. This is the kind of partnership that our country needs during these hard economic times. It is our conviction that the national food bank system and community food bank networks can lead the charge in the war against food insecurity and poverty.

Expanded Public Works Programme
The provision and expansion of remunerative employment opportunities which include the disadvantaged groups and individuals are included in our government's thrusts to reduce poverty and improve income. In this respect a key element of our programme, in this time of economic turmoil, is to intensify the implementation of the social sector Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

The goal of this programme in the cluster is threefold: fast tracking the provision of public services, skills development and creating work opportunities. In the Social Sector Cluster the focus is mainly on two key programmes, namely Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Home Community Based Care (HCBC).

The Cluster has registered 688 ECD sites as at end of September 2009. About 8 014 new children are being subsidised as at end of September 2009. This brings the total number of children receiving subsidy to 419 217. This number will increase as we continue to register new facilities.

Following the successful implementation and remarkable achievements of the first phase, work has begun in earnest to implement the second phase of this programme. To accelerate the pace of delivery a number of key interventions have been initiated.

One of the challenges experienced in this programme is the unavailability of accredited training service providers. Where such service providers exist, they are largely based in urban centres. To address this, the Department of Social Development and Department of Health are working jointly with the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) to expedite the accreditation process. To date 98 service providers have received full accreditation and 44 received provisional accreditation. The Department of Public Works' EPWP Training support unit, in collaboration with sector Departments and the HWSETA, have responded to the shortage of accredited service providers in the sector by piloting an Emerging Training Providers Capacity Building Model in 2008/09 financial year. This is a comprehensive Model which ensures mentoring of the Emerging Providers by Advanced Lead Providers and facilitating Emerging Providers as SMME, including access to SEDA Funding Support. Four of the five Emerging Providers received full accreditation and two of those have been linked to SEDA and are currently undergoing SMME Development with support. EPWP Training Support Unit is rolling out the Emerging Training Providers Capacity Building Model in all 9 Provinces. Twenty Emerging Providers are undergoing training on accreditation procedures and processes in this current financial year.

The sector is facilitating access to the EPWP Incentive Grant of the two initial Programmes, viz., ECD and HCBC. This intends to address sector budget shortages for purposes of job creation. A draft MTEF 2010/11 Proposal indicating a request of R235, 839, 869 for the creation of 10 377 additional work opportunities was submitted to the National Treasury's MTEC. The Draft Proposal is being refined for final submission to the National Treasury by the end of November 2009.

With regard to the standardization of working conditions for community caregivers, the Department of Health is leading the finalisation of the Community Caregiver Policy Framework. Consultations have taken place with key stakeholders in the sector and the process is nearing completion. One of the criticisms of this programme is the discrepancies in the payment of stipends. Once completed, the Policy Framework will also bring uniformity in terms of payment of stipends to community caregivers across all nine provinces. We will therefore move swiftly and decisively to finalise this process.

The DPW EPWP, in collaboration with the Departments of Social Development, Health and Education are engaging with NEDLAC and the Department of Labour in the revision of the minimum basic conditions of employment for EPWP workers to ensure a fair code of practice in dealing with these workers.

As of September 2009, a total of 42 827 community caregivers receive stipends. Of this number, 30 932 receive a stipend of R1 000 while 11 895 receive a stipend below. As a cluster we endeavour to make better use of this programme by specifically targeting individuals and households affected by job losses and preventing such families from sliding into deep poverty.

In pursuance of Vision 2014 and the Millennium Development Goals, our government is committed to delivering a package of poverty reduction programmes and safety nets that protect the poor and vulnerable among us.

Taken together, this report shows that the cluster has made considerable progress towards the implementation of Government's Plan of Action for 2009/10. The primary reason for our achievements has been the hard work and cooperation by all the cluster departments. I am truly thankful to all my colleagues in the cluster all of whom have made very valuable contributions to the implementation of the cluster priorities.

The introduction of the Community Works Programme (CWP) as part of the EPWP has added an additional dimension to the improvement of the lives of poor people. For the first two quarters this programme has reported the creation of more than 11 000 work opportunities.

I thank you.