Honourable Speaker, Honourable Premier, Honourable Members of the Legislature, officials, media and guests – good afternoon.
Honourable Speaker, for citizens to access opportunity the state must ensure that services provided are efficient, cost effective and assist vulnerable people.
Grant recipients need the peace of mind and assurance that they will receive their grant on a sustained basis every month in an efficient, safe, sympathetic and secure manner.
It is not fair for the thousands of vulnerable grant beneficiaries in this province, who battle to survive day by day, to have to experience inefficient service, delays and non payment of their grants.
While there are many new improvements to this Bill, the Democratic Alliance is concerned about provincial capacity to implement these new provisions in this bill.
The establishment of Independent Tribunals Committees to be established at municipal level is a positive idea which was given by the public during the hearings.
Public involvement is integral to the successful running of an efficient Social Welfare system in this province.
While it is, Honourable Speaker, easy to legislate new laws and amendments and bills, it is quite another to implement these laws at ground level.
Honourable Speaker, implementation of legislation plays a vital role in getting systems up and running and given the serious chaos of social and health services in this province, this is a concern.
It must be asked of this Legislature Honourable Speaker whether indeed there is the required capacity to efficiently serve an ever increasing grant dependent population.
I refer to a statement made, during a briefing to the Social Development portfolio committee in Parliament, by the Director of Health in the Province, Dr Pillay, in which he said and I quote :
“We are not in any way close to rendering quality health care”.
This honesty is appreciated.
With the tremendous shortages of health care professionals in this province and the financial over expenditure by the department last year, this is a major concern that needs to be addressed.
Can the department really deliver on it’s mandate or is it bluffing itself?
Has a proper needs analyses and due diligence been undertaken in this regard Honourable Speaker?
Has a departmental skills audit been done? If so, how does the audit match up to the new requirements stated in this Bill?
How should this be done?
Honourable Speaker, the DA believes that in order to solve this capacity problem the department should consider the following:
1) All Social welfare offices be strategically placed so as to accessible to all people.
2) Social development training colleges be implemented to train up more social workers and staff – “fit for purpose” – who can deliver good service.
3) Social development offices be “one stop shops” allowing for as many social services – grant payments, counselling, medical facilities – so as to give a holistic service to the community.
4) A bursary drive be implemented to encourage people to join the Department of Social Welfare.
5) The DA would rationalise and computerise grant payments to increase efficiency in Social Welfare offices.
6) Alternative funding from NGO’s and private sector to boost salaries of social welfare personnel would be implemented.
This country must stop the dependency on welfare payouts.
Ever increasing welfare will become unaffordable and unsustainable in the long term.
Rather , Honourable Speaker, the DA would create opportunities that would encourage people to come off welfare – at least those that are able to do so.
Such could be integrating people into state organisations like the Defence Force and others where they be trained with a skill, be paid a stipend and become self sufficient over time rather than relying on perpetual grant funding from government.
Honourable Speaker, this Bill is an improvement to service delivery because it widens opportunity not only to applicants but also beneficiaries to ask for a review or appeal against a decision of Social Services for the refusal or withdrawal of a grant application.
In view of this Honourable Speaker, the DA feels that before accepting this bill it be referred back to Parliament so that they can fully interrogate the capacity issues within the department.
At this stage the Democratic Alliance cannot support the bill. Once the capacity issues are identified and solved the DA will wholeheartedly support this Bill.