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Children’s Amendment Bill Under the Spotlight

May 26, 2021

Department of Social Development

The Children’s Amendment Bill will be a key focus of the social development department during 2021.

The social development minister, Lindiwe Zulu, highlighted this in the department’s 2021/22 Budget Vote Speech.

The bill was tabled in parliament at the end of August 2020.

The bill’s explanatory summary was published in Government Gazette 43656 on 26 August 2020.

According to the explanatory summary, the bill seeks to amend the Children’s Act of 2005 to address critical gaps and challenges in the underlying child care and protection system.

The bill also responds to a High Court order relating to foster care challenges and seeks to contribute to a comprehensive legislative system on foster care.

Cabinet approved the bill in February 2019 for tabling in parliament.

The cabinet statement declared that “all children should enjoy access to services that are aimed at facilitating their safety, care and protection; and an effective social welfare system”.

The bill aims to amend the Children’s Act, 2005, so as to:

• amend and insert certain definitions;
• provide for children’s right to privacy and protection of information;
• further provide for the rights of unmarried fathers;
• extend the children’s court jurisdiction;
• further provide for funding of early childhood development programmes;
• provide for the designation and functions for a Registrar of the National Child Protection Register;
• further provide for the care of abandoned or orphaned children and additional matters that may be regulated;
• further provide for rules relating to care and protection proceedings;
• further provide for medical testing of children in need of care and protection or adoption;
• provide for additional matters relating to children in alternative care;
• further provide for matters relating to adoption and inter-country adoption;
• further provide for the hearing of child abduction matters;
• further provide for matters relating to surrogate motherhood; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The portfolio committee on social development held hearings on the bill earlier in May 2021.

Other developments highlighted include:

• Draft Older Persons Amendment Bill — aims to strengthen the coordination and monitoring mechanisms of the services that are rendered to Older Persons;
Fundraising Amendment Bill — tabled in parliament in October 2020 – seeks to consolidate the various relief funds into one national social development and relief fund;
• Finalising the migration of the Early Childhood Development function from the social development department to the basic education department;
• Green Paper on Comprehensive Social Security Reforms, the White Paper on Families and the White Paper on Social Development – public consultation on the cards;
• Strengthen child protection services including areas such as adoption, care and protection, foster care, and the protection of the rights of children;
• National Household Food and Nutrition Plan to be implemented;
• Policy on the Basic Income Grant to be finalised for tabling in cabinet for approval;
• Social Assistance Act Inspectorate to be set up;
• Draft Victim Support Service Bill to be tabled in cabinet for approval for consultation – addresses the lack of legislation that regulates the victim empowerment services that shelters that accommodate abused women and children are rendering – published for comment in July 2020.