MEC backs down after budget cuts

Outrage over budget cuts to non-profit organisations, some of which officially closed this week costing a number of jobs, has pressured the social development department to negotiate a solution.

Social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s spokesman Mzukisi Solani announced yesterday that a meeting would be held with all affected NPOs on Monday to find an amicable solution to the funding crisis after massive budget cuts of up to 1000%.

Eastern Cape social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi

NPOs hit included East London Child Welfare, whose budget was slashed from R2.3-million to R253000, effectively from April.

This forced the centre to retrench all 12 social workers this week and close their Southernwood Sunshine Home centre for abused and abandoned children until an organogram which accommodates the budget cuts can be devised.

Other NPOs affected by the cuts are Childline, Sanca, Child Welfare King William’s Town (CW KWT) and the Christelike Maatskaplike Raad (CMR).

More social workers were retrenched this week, leaving thousands of vulnerable children and adults without any social assistance.

Childline, which is also based in Southernwood, has been left with two social workers after retrenching a third full-time social worker.

Solani said: “The department is committed to finding an amicable solution. It will hold further engagements with the organised formations.”

He said the cuts were also a result of a 2% provincial budget cut, “which impacted negatively on the operational budget as well as funding for services rendered by NPOs”.

It remains unclear what will happen with the cases that the South African Police Services’ Thuthuzela centres regularly refer to Childline for support when dealing with child abuse cases if no solution is found on Monday.

Childline manager Jacqueline Orsmond said they received three to four cases a day for face-to-face counselling from Thuthuzela centres in the region.

“Our cases are also made up of referrals from the courts,” said Orsmond.

SAPS has two Thuthuzela centres in the BCM region – one situated at Grey Hospital and the other at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital.

Childline also runs a victim empowerment programme which helps abuse victims cope with cross-examinations in court.

Provincial police spokesman Captain Khaya Tonjeni confirmed their Thuthuzela centres used the services of NPOs like Childline.

“We are not able to comment on the frequency of the cases and referrals. Our office is not in a position to provide such information,” said Tonjeni.

He did say that conviction rates increased when victims testified.

Two Sanca social workers used to be subsidised until the department pulled their funds.

Sanca regional head Roger Wiemann said: “We are now forced to cut our scope of reach in order to keep our social workers.

“Our beneficiaries are the ones that will suffer the most and the fact that the department is quiet on the reasoning behind the cuts is disconcerting.”

Sanca, which handles around 1500 cases of drug- and alcohol-abuse a year, also confirmed the budget cuts.

On March 28 and 30 the department tabled its budget to the social development portfolio committee, which revealed significant cuts to NPO subsidies.

The committee subsequently asked Sihlwayi to prove that the budget cuts would not compromise service delivery.

The budget cuts are biting at a time when the overall budget for the provincial social development services has increased by 9% from a revised estimate of R2403 459-million to R2632799-million.

The 9% represents an increase of R229.3-million from the previous financial year.

Solani defended the earlier decision to effect the cuts saying: “It is in line with the transformation agenda,” as the department has “to shift from residential and statutory services to community-based care services.”

He said priority was given “to provision of prevention and early intervention services on all service areas of the department”.

The DA’s Kobus Botha, who sits on the social development portfolio committee, said the lack of detailed response from the department was a sign of disrespect.

“We have been writing to the department urging them to deal with the issue but we have not seen any response to those written
e-mails,” said Botha.

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