Premier & Minister impressed by upgrades to youth secure care centre
Joint media release: Premier & Western Cape Social Development Minister impressed by multi-million-rand upgrades to Eerste River youth secure care centre.
Premier Alan Winde and Western Cape Social Development Minister Sharna Fernandez yesterday toured the Horizon Child and Youth Care Centre (CYCC), which is currently undergoing a R104 million upgrade to improve services.
The centre is a multi-programme facility for male awaiting trial and sentenced youth aged between 13 and 20. However, residents at Horizon CYCC are currently aged 18 – 21. Once the upgrades are completed, it will have capacity to house 195 youths.
While the provincial Department of Social Development manages seven residential child and youth care centres in the province offering varying levels of care, Horizon CYCC is a level 4 secure care centre, which offers various interventions such as:
- Substance abuse treatment;
- Education and vocational initiatives;
- Sports and recreation programmes; and
- Therapeutic interventions.
These interventions form part of the Western Cape Government’s (WCG) “Vision Inspired Priorities” outlined in the Provincial Strategic Plan (PSP) to enhance safety and well-being for residents. The upgrades under way at the facility for at-risk youth, some who have committed crimes, is a clear commitment to this plan.
At a meeting with centre management and officials from the provincial Department of Social Development yesterday, the Premier and Minister were given an update on the construction project. It was also an opportunity for the facility’s employees to raise a host of challenges facing them and the offenders, which include:
- A highly legislated and regulated environment which can be restrictive;
- Budgetary constraints exacerbated by load shedding due to the need to fuel generators; and
- Staff shortages.
Despite these issues, the centre’s staff are dedicated and passionate about what they do. “These upgrades should help improve services aimed at helping to rehabilitate the young people who pass through the centre,” said Premier Winde.
Minister Fernandez remarked: “It takes a special kind of individual, like the officials who work at the centre, to do this type of work.”
The Premier added: “This is a difficult environment in which to operate. Dealing with young offenders in a caring, responsive manner is not easy. But this facility – owned by Western Cape Social Development – is doing exactly that with limited resources.”
Some of the achievements the DSD-owned facility can boast include:
- The establishment of a centralised management, admission and administrative support system for youth in alternative residential care;
- It has created a central, multi-disciplinary team comprising social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists and nurses;
- It has implemented an early discharge policy, the only one in the country and:
- It has set up its own emergency response team to help deal with centre-based violence.
The Minister was candid, admitting the system to care for and rehabilitate young people who commit crime is under severe strain. It was noted that 60% of the secure care population is aged 18 – 21.
Premier Winde himself reflected: “There was clearly a need for improvement, which is happening through these upgrades. But budgetary pressures will make it much tougher to commit to future developments.” He added: “It is, however, evident that the staff at Horizon Child and Youth Care Centre, as well as the Provincial Social Development Department are doing commendable work with the resources available to them to help these young people turn their lives around by offering them dignity, hope and opportunities beyond a life of crime.”
Once completed, the newly refurbished building will have classrooms and arts facilities.
The upgrades should be concluded by May 2023.
*According to the Child Justice Act, when crimes are committed by minors, a judge can sentence them to serve terms in secure child and youth care centres, and be accommodated until age 21.