Department of Social Development
The social development department recently briefed parliament on the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
According to the department, South Africa continues to experience high level of GBV despite intervention by the state and civil society.
Studies show that survivors of GBV experience high levels of post-traumatic stress and, therefore, helpline services become critical.
The department described the helpline as providing immediate access to emotional support, convenient for survivors and allowing the survivor to remain anonymous.
Sheltering services also break the cycle of violence by providing a range of services such as temporary safe accommodations, basic necessitation, trauma counselling and limited skills development.
However, the department emphasised that a Commission of Gender Equality study on the state of shelters reflected a number of challenges that need to be urgently addressed by all cluster departments in terms of service provision.
In terms of the justice, safety and protection pillar of the NSP, the department highlighted that the Draft Victim Support Services Bill, published for comment in July 2020, stood for the rights and protection of victims within the criminal justice system.
The department also pointed out that two policies are currently in development namely, an intersectoral policy on sheltering services and a policy on provision of psychosocial services.
Both policies call for effective service offering to victims of GBV.
“The intersectoral sheltering services policy is aimed at responding to issue of women accommodation beyond the shelter and psychosocial services aims to regulate the space for the best interests of victims of crime and violence.”
Challenges identified in the implementation of the NSP include limited capacity of staff within government departments and at local level to address GBV; inconsistent and inadequate funding for GBV programmes across the country; lack of accredited skills development programs in shelters; inaccessible psycho-social support services; lack of coordination within the sector with too many structures and committees duplicating services and thus impacting on service delivery and high levels of GBV cases.
Game changers include strengthening referral pathways; setting up locally coordinated GBV structures that report to provincial and national level; upgrading infrastructure of current shelters; rolling out the Integrated Information Management System for data collection on GBV matters; capacity building for frontline workers to prevent secondary victimisation for all the sectors and the effective implementation of the NSP with emphasis on Pillar 4 for the department.
Meanwhile, the department recently briefed the national council of provinces on the Social Assistance Amendment Bill.
The national assembly passed the bill and sent it to the NCOP for concurrence in June 2020.
The bill was tabled in parliament in April 2018.
The social development department called for comment on the bill at the end of 2016.
The bill lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament but was revived by the NA in October 2019.
The bill seeks to amend the Social Assistance Act of 2004 so as to:
• insert new definitions;
• provide for additional payments linked to social grants;
• provide for payment of benefits to a child-headed household;
• provide for social relief of distress in the event of a disaster;
• repeal the internal reconsideration process;
• provide for an Independent Tribunal to consider appeals against decisions of the Agency;
• provide for the establishment of the Inspectorate as a government component; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.
In terms of the appeals process, the bill proposes that appeals regarding grant applications can be lodged immediately upon receiving a decision from the South African Social Security Agency with the Independent Tribunal within a period of 90 days.
The proposed legislation also proposes that a primary care giver of a child or a child who heads a child-headed household are eligible for a child support grant.
The bill also seeks to empower the social development minister, in agreement with the finance minister, to prescribe an additional payment linked to a social grant.
The portfolio committee on social development, during deliberations, amended clause 7 of the bill with the insertion of “after consultation with parliament”.
In the briefing, the department highlighted that the amendment proposed by the NA stipulates that the “minister must, after consultation with parliament, appoint an Independent Tribunal comprised of appropriately qualified persons, as may be prescribed, to serve as members of the Independent Tribunal, to consider appeals against decisions of the Agency contemplated in subsection (2), in the prescribed manner”.