Speech notes: Kobus Botha MPL: Consideration of report on oversight visits to child and youth care centres

“EC DA – Fix our broken child and youth care centres before it’s too late”

  • Report highlights hundreds of children between the ages of new burn’s to 17 years of age which is in government child and youth care facilities  are receiving poor quality services as quality assurance checks for compliance are compromised
  • A lack of inter-departmental integration at provincial levels, together with a lack of transparency on what happens at the provincial department the specific CYCC.
  • CYCCs also reported that there is lack of support for “real challenges” from SDS

Honourable Speaker all protocol observed

South Africa has come a long way since 1994 and there good stories and bad stories that can be told of our nation’s progress towards improved social well-being.

Our civil society’s constant constitutional engagements to ensure that our democracy works in favour of the ordinary man on the street is building momentum as it endeavours to keep political leaders accountable for unlawful and damaging decisions.

One such good story to tell is about the substantial goodwill that exists amongst the people of South Africa, free debate is tolerated, and many citizens now have access to various basic government services.

However, we would be naive to think that all is well when clearly we have fundamental problems, the most significant being the lack of sustained economic growth and the slow emergence of a class of entrepreneurs who will fuel job creation.

The above failures compound the suffering and well-being of many families in our country as they are struggling daily to provide and care for themselves and their children.

Yes, the country has indeed inherited a legacy of violence, extreme inequality and social dislocation from the former apartheid regime.

Yes, this has translated into high levels of domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

To substantiate the above statement the South African Police Services reports that 50,000 children are victims of crime every year, with sexual offences constituting about 40 percent of these cases.

The above children come from families and the primary responsibility for raising children rests with parents.

When parents are unable to do so, the State has a duty to assist them.

To assist with this responsibility the South African Constitution has a dedicated section on children’s rights.

Section 28, in my opinion, constitutes a ‘mini-charter’ of children’s rights and covers diverse issues important to child care.

Section 28(2) requires that the best interests of the child be of paramount importance in every decision taken.

To give effect to the constitutional requirements in Section 28, the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005, section 197 was specifically introduced to regulate all the associated complexities dealing with child care and safety issues pertaining to the establishment and management of various centres.

As provincial elected public representatives and in terms of our legislative mandate the portfolio committee exercised its right and responsibility to ensure robust oversight to determine if value was indeed created for money’s appropriated from this legislature.

Today’s report has taken 1 year and two months to be tabled by the multi-party committee chairperson and it talks to six child and youth (CYCCs) centres that were visited by the portfolio committee members during February 2015.

The report focuses on the following two types of centres, (1) “secure care”, and (2) “temporary safe care” facilities.

“Secure care” is for children with behavioural and emotional challenges. It also deals with children who are in conflict with the law.

The latter are placed in secure care facilities which are meant to be a safe and healthy environment for such children.

“Temporary Safe Care” offer short-term care for both children who have been found in need of care and protection due to abuse, negligence or have been exploited, as well as children who have violated the law and are awaiting trial or an inquiry.

By definition, these centres mean: and I quote; “a facility that not only receives and provides accommodation for children outside of their family environment, but it is distinguished from other child care facilities by the provision of therapeutic or developmental programmes or treatment”.

The above centres must be accredited organisations with the department of social development and must adhere to prescribed norms and standards for the establishment of child and youth care centres as per Section 197 of the Child’s Act.

This definition covers not just children’s homes but also places of safety, secure care centres, schools of industry, reformatories and shelters for street children.

The committee’s report highlights negative aspects such as a lack of board members, skilled staff shortages, no proper management, infrastructure problems and untrained security staff to protect staff and which can deal with violent child behaviour in centres.

I believe that the children and youth in state-run centres such as Enkuselweni, Erika, Qumbu and Bhisho CYCCs are receiving far lessor quality support than ones such as Sikhuselekile and John X Merriman that is managed by BOSASA, a private organisation.

The DA wants to use this opportunity to complement BOSASA for the improvement in the management and operational functionality of the John X Meriman and Sikhuselekile CYCCs.

In reference to BOSASA, can the MEC explain in detail as to why the BOSASA contract for John X Meriman centre has not been renewed as it affects the well-being of 45 children and various stakeholders?

I believe that the MEC must move beyond the rhetoric of “working together” and start forging true collaborative partnerships that collectively plan, implement, and evaluate sustainable cross-systems activities by all stakeholders.

I, therefore, call on the MEC to provide strong and consistent leadership in dealing with the findings and recommendations of the committees report.

She needs to set the strategic direction and guide a collaborative effort to fix what is broken at these centres with a sense of urgency.

The MEC must also encourage partners to put aside traditional turf perspectives, they must overcome resistance, and view their roles in new ways as to ensure the provision of fully functional youth and child care centres for our province.

Democracy has indeed improved the lives of many people and children in South Africa and we dare not let them down 22 years into democracy.

As the official opposition, we are concerned that Regulations setting out detailed national norms and standards (NN&S) for CYCCs are being compromised by some centre management in this report.

The findings in the report tabled requires the DA to be the voice of the children in various CYCCs and we call on the MEC to ensure that the provincial head of social development (HSD) conducts a provincial quality assurance (QA) check on all CYCCs in the EC.

We also believe that within two years of registration and accreditation of a CYCC an independent body must go and assess compliance and thereafter periodically every three years.

The DA also demands that the provincial HSD order a QA process at any time, if there are reasons to believe that any centre has failed to comply with the Act or the Regulations.

The DA believes that above corrective actions will assist the department to be in constant readiness to receive children in need.

I believe that our nation is at a crossroads, a tipping point, as economic growth slows down and unemployment keeps rising in our province.

The economic decline will continue to have a profound impact on the well-being of families, children and youth in our country.

The above may lead to increased delinquency, greater educational failures, lowered productivity, less economic competitiveness, and fewer adults prepared to be effective, loving, caring parents for the next generation of children.

In closing, our nation can and must do better to create opportunities that can help all children and families succeed.

Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela had this to say regarding children, and I quote “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats children”.

Frederick Douglass, also a Statesmen said and I quote “It is easier to build a strong child than to repair broken men”.

In light of all of the above, I believe that we should unite as a nation behind a shared vision.

A vision that brings us together and that will help us all to build a new caring society based on the principles of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all South Africans.

The DA supports the findings and recommendation in the report.

I thank you