/ 29 November 2007

State allocates extra R87m for the poor

An extra R87-million has been allocated to help people living in extreme poverty, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Thursday.

The money was in addition to funds already given to provinces for relief, he told reporters after meeting provincial ministers of social development in Durban.

”This is an important intervention from the government, especially in light of the steep rise in food prices, unemployment and other difficulties that have worsened the circumstances of the extremely poor,” said Skweyiya.

The money was aimed helping individuals and families to cope in the short term while seeking long-term solutions to their financial plight.

The Social Relief of Distress grant would be distributed in the form of cash or food parcels, depending on household needs.

The allocations were R9-million to the Eastern Cape; R3,9-million to the Free State; R11-million to Gauteng; R5,6-million to Mpumalanga; R2,6-million to the Northern Cape; R7,6-million to the North West; R4,5-million to the Western Cape and R24-million to KwaZulu-Natal.

Skweyiya said the money was not intended to promote dependency.

”It is a short-term measure to assist those in distress until they get back on their feet,” he said.

Skweyiya said African children were failing at school because they were simply not eating enough and getting enough nutrition.

”White and Indian children are passing every year because they get the best food.”

Skweyiya said R9-billion had been set aside for early childhood development countrywide for the next three years.

”We want crèches for each and every child in each location … it’s up to the community to decide who should take up the challenge to help the children.” he said.

Crèches to be set up were meant for children up to four and five years old.

By the fifth year, the Education Department would take over and look after these children until they finished school.

Sweyiya said the number of people receiving grants in South Africa had increased from two million in 1999 to 12,3-million this year.

Not all those qualifying for grants were aware of this form of state assistance, Skweyiya said.

”Africans don’t know about it … that’s why you don’t find whites and Indians on street corners, it’s only the Africans on street corners because they don’t know about the grants.”

‘Horrible situation’

Another issue discussed at the meeting was the setting up of a tribunal, because thousands of people who had applied for grants did not receive them.

”It will be set up soon to rectify the horrible situation,” he said.

He could not give a figure on how many people did not receive their grants yearly. He, however, stressed that people affected by HIV/Aids did not receive grants.

”Only those with disabilities receive the grants,” he said.

Skweyiya said the department was also planning to recruit ”lots” of matriculants to do social work.

”Many social workers are leaving South Africa because they are not getting paid enough … we are planning to increase their salaries,” he said.

The minister also discussed plans with the provincial ministers to test each province to check their readiness to implement the Children’s Act.

”It was passed two weeks ago and would be affected on April 1 2008,” said Skweyiya.

He could not say how each province had measured up.

Answering a question on spanking, Skweyiya said: ”As a parent, you must look after your own child — don’t let the state look after them.”

He said the role of parents in society had diminished.

He said the Social Development Department had had discussions with Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and other countries about the running of social services in South Africa.

”The countries are interested in the way we run things here … Some of them want to take it up as a policy in the fight against crime,” he said.

”They also want to know whether it is worth investing money in children — I said I believe spending money on children is the best investment,” said Skweyiya.

He said such an investment would ensure getting the best out of ”our own people”.

”Children are failing because we have not invested enough in them,” he said. — Sapa