Child Protection Week: Solutions being sought for Child Protection NGOs
Please attribute the following to Head of the Western Cape Department of Social Development, Dr Robert Macdonald:
Child Protection Week, observed annually between 29 May and 05 June, is a time to raise awareness on the rights of children as enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution.
During the month of May, culminating into Child Protection Week, we remind parents and caregivers of the great responsibility they have of caring for and protecting their children. And where they may need support, we remind them of the services provided by the Western Cape Department of Social Development (WCDSD).
The different child protection services aim to transition vulnerable children from risk to resilience by using evidence-based interventions that mobilise and develop protective resources within their families, communities, and schools. This will allow children to grow into productive, aspirational, healthy, and independent individuals.
Among the services provided by the WCDSD: family preservation services like family therapy and couples counseling; prevention and early intervention services like Drop-in Centres where social workers and Child & Youth Care Workers provide basic services to vulnerable children to enhance their emotional, physical, and social development.
There are instances where we have to remove a child if it is believed they are being abused, neglected, or exploited. While we have alternative care facilities, one of the best options for these children is temporary safe care.
Earlier this month, Western Cape Minister of Social Development Sharna Fernandez encouraged people to become emergency, safety, or foster parents: “I encourage individuals who have the resources and the right temperament to consider becoming a foster parent, or a safety parent. There are so many children in need of a safe and loving home (by the end of April, there were 39 363 children in the foster system).”
Emergency parents provide temporary safe care for a period of 24 to 48 hours, while safety parents provide care for up to 90 days.
During a successful Safety Parents’ Recruitment Drive in Atlantis on 30 May, nearly half of the attendees volunteered to offer a vulnerable child safe care.
This week has also cast a spotlight on the funding challenges experienced by Designated Child Protection Organisations (DCPOs) in the Western Cape and across South Africa. Stakeholders have provided a compelling analysis of high staff turnover relating to low salaries and declining government and private sector funding for their crucial services.
We acknowledge that the last five years have been especially difficult for these sectors. The impact of a declining economy, the above-inflation public sector wage increases implemented nationally, and the shifting of funding toward disaster relief efforts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, have all placed pressure on funding available for NGO subsidies, both within Social Development and government in general. Given the recent sharp escalation in inflation, this has translated into shrinking allocations for child protection NGOs, along with other sectors that the department funds.
This has translated into below inflation (effectively reducing) allocations for child protection NGOs, along with other sectors that the department funds. Over the past 5 years DSD Western Cape has only increased its allocation to child protection NGOs from R164 million in 2018/19 to R200 million in the current financial year.
The WCDSD’s Child Protection and Families budget is R412,2 million:
- R200 million for Child Protection NGOs, for salary subsidies. – This includes 117 NGOs
- R119,8 million for NGO Child and Youth Care Centres. – 53 NGOs
- R74 million to Children and Family NGOs for Preventative and Early Intervention work. – 130 NGOS
- R18,4 million to After-School Services to Children – 110 NGOs
The Department had a recent engagement with the sector, and another is planned for mid-June to seek practical and sustainable solutions going forward. This engagement will be facilitated by the Children’s Commissioner and will also be attended by the Provincial Treasury.
NPOs are a very important partner to us, and we are committed to working with the sector to prevent closures of child protection NPOs. Where there have been NPO closures, the caseloads have been absorbed by DSD social workers. This has placed strain on the department’s social workers, and it is not sustainable, particularly considering that the department itself has inadequate staff to cope with the growing need for child protection services.
In this context, we would like to acknowledge the private sector donors as well as all of the volunteers, safety and foster parents for their role in supporting the child protection sector, and encourage them to continue assisting these organisations wherever they can.
For information on WCDSD’s services, please call our toll-free number 0800 220 250 or visit your nearest Department of Social Development local office. You can also visit https://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/social-development