Issued by Edmund van Vuuren, MPL

Madam Speaker, Hon Premier, members of the executive, members of the Provincial Legislature, officials from different Governmental Departments, dignitaries, invited guests and the warm people of the Chris Hani district. I humbly greet you.

The department of Social Development plays such a pivotal role in our society, especially within the boundaries of the Eastern Cape.

Because of the importance if the department’s service and beneficiaries, monitoring and evaluation and regular, meaningful oversight is of vital importance.

From 20 to 23 August this year, the portfolio committee on Social Development visited 6 projects within in the Chris Hani district.

What we found is that many organizations which offer social services in the district, face the same difficulties as most in the rest of the province.

Madam Speaker, one of the major issues that is faced by non-governmental organisations, is that of late payments of subsidies that are due to them.

Some organisations must go months without any payment of subsidies. This does not only have an enormous negative impact on the staff, but there are dire consequences for the people who rely on the services that are offered by these organization.

I want to take this opportunity to salute all the staff who have worked long, hard hours without any form of remuneration as a result of the departments inability to finally establish a system for timeous subsidy payments.

Madam Speaker, education is key in the fight against alleviating poverty. I am deeply concerned that thousands and thousands of Eastern Cape children are not currently attending any early childhood development centers.

Madam Speaker, there are close to 800 000 children between the ages of 0 and 4 in the Eastern Cape, but only 6.8% of these are provided with Early Childhood Development services by the Department of Social Development.

Furthermore, only 73 187 children currently receive an ECD subsidy through the 1 757-government funded ECD centres in the province.

This needs to be urgently addressed if we are to ever end the poverty cycle and build a better future for this province.

Decades of neuroscience and behavioural research shows that children are more successful in school and beyond if they are given a strong foundation in the earliest years of their lives.

The Democratic Alliance believes that Early Childhood Development services play a critical role in providing that foundation, especially in terms of preparing children for schooling. It is therefore vital that government provides these crucial services to the children of the Eastern Cape.

Madam Speaker, the MEC indicated that the province requires an additional 2,825 ECD centres, over and above what is currently available, to meet the needs of the province.

In the Chris Hani District, there are 115 122 children who SHOULD be attending ECD centres, but only just over 9000 children are currently attending ECD centres. That means that there are over 100 000 children in this district who are NOT attending ECD centres.

Non Profit Organisations, who are reliant on assistance from government, are also battling as funding has been cut.

Madam Speaker, I am sure that all of us here are aware of the crippling effect that drug and alcohol abuse has on individuals, children, families and the community. Substance abuse is prevalent in all communities and we have to ask the question, is enough being done to combat the substance abuse epidemic?

According to a response to a parliamentary question at the beginning of the year, the Department of Social Development is currently only funding four NPOs that specialise in drug abuse across the entire province. Although there are state facilities that offer substance abuse treatment, the waiting lists are very long and people often loose hope.

This is in sharp contrast to the DA-governed Western Cape, where funded substance abuse treatment services have grown from seven in 2009 to 51 in 2017. Since 2014, the Western Cape has provided early intervention services to over 30,000 individuals, with in-patient services having helped over 5,000 individuals and close on 10,000 additional individuals receiving out-patient treatment.

The surge of gender based violence has shook the country to its core over the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, this problem has not only existed in the last few months, but society has stood up and shouted that “enough is enough”!

Madam Speaker, there are only 20 shelters and safe homes for victims of crime and violence, including victims of gender-based violence. This is 20 shelters for the almost 7 million people who reside in the Eastern Cape.
The Chris Hani district has only 2 of these shelters and they can only cater for 22 people at a time.

The department do a great job at talking about gender based violence and talking about the daily struggles of victims of domestic violence, but there is a great lack in practical solutions.

Almost 90 000 older persons in the Chris Hani district receive an Old Age SASSA grant. The department of Social Development has a mere 8 residential facilities in the district who cater to the needs of older person.

Madam Speaker, Even more disheartening and alarming is that these 8 centres only cater for a total of 274 older persons. This means that a mere 274 older persons out of the almost 90 000 older persons who receive a SASSA grant in this district, can be looked after by the state.
The government is not doing enough to look after our elderly. Those who have come before us still play a vital role in our society. It is with them where we find rich history and heritage, but today’s society and government, sadly, does not seem to see their importance.

In the Chris Hani district, 16,4% of people live in poverty. This has increased since 2014. One of the ways that the department is attempting to alleviate poverty, is through providing early childhood development services. But yet, there are over 100 000 children in this district who are not attending ECD centres. How then exactly is this a successful tool for alleviating poverty? The number of children who are currently attending ECD centres has also decreased since 2014.