Government to weed out social grant abusers

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A grade six Soshanguve pupil is struggling to come to terms with an incident of abuse in which his homework supervisor humiliated him and made him pick up food and rubbish off the classroom floor with his mouth.

Speaking at the launch of &39;Project Mikondzo&39;, Minister of Social Developoment Bathabile Dlamini said the initiative would “improve and extend the reach of the services of the department” as well as its entities, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the National Development Agency (NDA).

Dlamini said Mikondzo, which is Xitsonga for "footprints", will focus on 1300 of the poorest wards in the country.

Dlamini said, “at the top” of Mikondzo’s agenda was “access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) services”.

She said audits of ECDs would be conducted to obtain further information about the provisioning of ECD services and resources as well as look at “problematic areas, registration processes and infrastructure issues”.

The initiative would also aim to further educate social grant recipients, and protect them from “loan sharks”, who “continue to take advantage of or people, especially the elderly”.

Dlamini also pointed to the problem of people abusing the grants, saying the department had “uncovered many examples of young women who receive the child support grant on behalf of children when they don’t live with them nor provide for them.”

According to Stats SA’s 2012 General Houselhold Survey, four out of every 10 South African households relies on social grants as their only source of income.

The survey found that the percentage of people dependent on social grants had more than doubled in the last ten years, from 12.7% in 2002 to 29.6% last year.

“Grants on their own cannot solve all the problems,” communities must get involved as well, said Dlamini. "We must put an end to those abusing the grants, and the communities must report back to us about who is doing that," said Dlamini.

Former Director General of Social Development Vusi Madonsela said at the launch that social grants could be seen as a “barometer for poverty levels” and that there “should be improved efforts by government to increase employment so that we may see a decline in the need for social assistance.”

Call for help

As part of Project Mikondzo, the department of Social Development said it planned to open a 24-hour toll-free call helpline, through which “communities can report difficult service delivery matters.”

This would include a “command centre” to “improve response to gender-based violence wherever it occurs.”

One of the goals as well of Mikondzo is to “transform the NPO (Not-for-Profit Organisations) sector,” said Dlamini.

In January 36,513  NPO’s, which are funded by the department, were deregistered for various reasons, including non-compliance and fulfilling their responsibilities in terms of the NPO Act.

Director of the NPO directorate Mpho Mngxithama said that 21,000 of these had submitted reports and that it “was important to reach out to the remaining organisations.”

Mngxithama said there are currently around 100,000 NPOs in the country.

The department would embark on an “NPO Roadshow” to “make NPOs aware of” the correct registration process, compliance and support available to them.

The project also aimed to curtail substance abuse, and would embark on a “comprehensive anti-substance abuse campaign.”

The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC), established to “combat alcohol  and substance abuse” and chaired by Dlamini, in August unanimously agreed to table the Draft  Control of Marketing of Alcohol  Beverages Bill before cabinet for consideration.

The budget and overall cost of the project was not released.

Madonsela said that the department “will be campaigning treasury for more funds next year”, but that the current budget structure for this year would cover the project.

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