Department acts on final report into Serendipity Home | Western Cape Government


Department acts on final report into Serendipity Home

16 January 2015


The Western Cape Department of Social Development has initiated its action plan in response to the final report into the allegations levelled against the unregistered facility, Serendipity Home for the Aged.

After Minister Albert Fritz ordered an investigation into the serious allegations of elder abuse and neglect against Serendipity, the department commissioned NGO partner, Action on Elder Abuse South Africa (AEASA), to conduct the investigation into the unregistered facility.

Given the sensitive nature of this matter and the report’s findings, the department had to act within the law, specifically the Older Persons Act no. 13 of 2006, in the course of dealing with this matter.

It is important to note that according to the Act, all residential facilities (old age homes) have to be registered with the Department of Social Development. Responsibility is placed on owners of such facilities to ensure they are registered, and most importantly comply with the norms and standards set-out by national legislation.

In light of the findings of the investigation, the department wrote to the owner of the unregistered facility to give her a chance to respond, and to detail a set of deadlines for compliance with legislative requirements.

The findings of the investigation revealed that the facility does not comply to norms and standards as set out in legislation. The key findings were that;

  • There was no safety programme for residents and staff, as the facility did not have a fire and safety compliance report from the municipality,
  • The building structure is not safe and accessible for older persons, thus not complying to municipal bylaws,
  • The nutritional aspect of meals served did not comply to legislated guidelines and practices,
  • The facility does not provide evidence-based care to older persons,
  • The facility does not comply with applicable laws/regulations when administering medication to older persons, as no proper medication administration took place, nor did a trained medical practitioner administer medicine.
  • The facility does not have appropriate staffing to cope with the health needs of residents. There is no registered professional nurse appointed and home based carers are performing duties which form part of the nurse’s scope of practice.


The investigation further revealed how the failure to provide adequate healthcare to residents resulted in a history of residents being admitted to hospitals in a severely neglected state.

However investigators only received cooperation from one of the victim’s family, who allowed them to gather evidence including medical records detailing the extent of the injuries resultant from alleged neglect.

The department holds a zero-tolerance view to unregistered facilities operating with no intention of complying with legislation. In response, the department has begun to act on a plan of action with short and long-term priorities.

The department has notified the owner of Serendipity of her non-compliance to legislation, and the need for and steps required for her organization to be registered. In this regard, strict deadlines have been set.

  • The facility must appoint a registered and qualified professional nurse by the 19 January 2015.
  • In the interim the department is also in the process of contacting the relatives of 15 frail older persons, with the intention of having them removed and placed into registered facilities by the 19 March 2015.
  • In addition, the department has instructed AEASA, who conducted the investigation; to lay criminal charges based on the one case of neglect we were able to gather evidence on.

In the long-term, the Serendipity Home has been set strict deadlines for compliance with the Older Persons Act. The following steps must be complied with for temporary or permanent registration to be considered.







  1. The facility does not comply with applicable laws/regulations when administering medication to older persons.


Provide proof of compliance with applicable laws/regulations when administering medication to older persons.

30 April 2015

  1. Lack of a nutritional service that is safe and complies with relevant laws and practices.


Provide a nutritional service that is safe and complies with relevant laws and practices.

30 April 2015

  1. The facility does not provide evidence based care to older persons.


Provide proof of evidence based care to older persons.

30  May 2015

  1. Lack of appropriate policy and procedure  documents to direct the health team/staff members


Provide proof of appropriate policy and procedure documents to direct the health team/staff members.

30 June 2015

  1. Lack of a safety programme for residents and staff.

Provide proof of a compliant fire and safety report.


30 September 2015

  1. Lack of providing a building/facility which is safe and accessible for older persons, complying with municipal bylaws.

Provide proof of a report which indicates the building is compliant with bylaws and issued by the local municipality.

30 September 2015


The requirements and deadlines imposed are non-negotiable, and failure to comply will see the department act within the law to have the facility shut down.

During the course of the investigation other unregistered facilities in the Panorama area were exposed, and the department will be looking into these unregistered facilities too.

Minister Fritz has placed great emphasis on finding and pursuing unregistered facilities in the province, with the aim of moving them towards registration and compliance with national legislation, or if need be, shutting them down.

To strengthen our capacity in this regard, the department is in formal process of designing an inspectorate that will investigate all cases of unregistered residential facilities reported to the department. The inspectorate would be tasked with not only identifying unregistered facilities throughout the province, but also assess all human rights matters and operational norms and standards at all residential facilities.

The public can play their part by ensuring their loved ones are placed in registered homes, and can check the department’s website, for a list of registered residential facilities throughout the province, including additional information on service centres which provide key services for older persons. In addition, people can check whether a residential facility is registered and report unregistered facilities by contacting any one of our Regional Offices closest to them, or the Department of Social Development Hotline 0800 220 250.


Media Enquiries: 

Minister Albert Fritz

083 307 0192

Sihle Ngobese

Spokesperson for Albert Fritz, Minister of Social Developement

Western Cape Government

7th floor, 14 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, 8000

Tel : (021) 483 9217

Cell : 083 280 9199

Email :