SA social services delivery ‘in crisis’

South Africa’s social delivery systems are facing a crisis and need urgent funding from the government, the National Coalition for Social Services (Nacoss) said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Nacoss, a body that represents 3 600 NGOs in the welfare sector, is already providing services to 11,5-million people — 25% of South Africa’s population — with an annual expenditure of R1,3-billion.

But the government only contributes 30% of that amount.

However, executive committee member Andre Kallis said Nacoss needs at least double the annual expenditure.

“It is a fallacy to think that corporate responsibility is so developed that it can provide for our needs.”

“Our country’s social delivery service system is in such a crisis that Nacoss is calling for drastic action,” said Solly Mokgata, chairperson of the organisation.

Mokgata said there is inadequate funding and care for adults and children with HIV/Aids, while homes for children and for the elderly are closing.

“We are servicing millions of people — abused children, women, the mentally ill, the disabled, the aged, orphans, families at risk and those infected and affected by the HIV/Aids pandemic. Whilst the government fails to recognise the suffering of the vulnerable, the welfare services of the NGO sector — that are in the frontline of service delivery throughout the country — are being systematically eroded and are disintegrating.”

One such home, the Royal Park Flats in Johannesburg, has already closed, putting 70 elderly people out on the street largely due to the shortfall between pension money and the amount of money it costs to look after each person, Karin Meyer from Age in Action said.

Nacoss said that 90% of the national social development budget goes to social security, but it is not enough for the government to give individuals an amount of money every month in social grants. They also needed social services to break out of their situation for good.

“Nacoss supports the grants but they must provide more funds for services, and we feel the department of social services must lobby the treasury for more funds,” Nacoss vice-chairperson Lynette Schreuder said.

The organisation has been lobbying unsuccessfully for additional funding and a policy document to guide provinces. It claims that the government has ignored them.

Too few social workers are left in the NGO sector to cope with the rising numbers of vulnerable people and NGOs cannot compete with higher salaries offered in the government and overseas.

In Pinetown, 24 of the 26 social workers have left, seeking greener pastures and leaving 1 900 foster-care families in the lurch. The courts, responsible for placing the children in foster homes, require regular reports. Without the reports there are no foster grants, Schreuder said.

Social workers in the employ of NGOs earn between R2 500 and R3 500 a month with a four-year degree, she said. The equivalent government salary in Gauteng is R4 000 to R4 500 a month, with added benefits such as housing allowances that the NGOs cannot afford.

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