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Strengthening SA’s social security net

Written by Amukelani Chauke
With over 16 million South Africans relying on social grants to get by, government is working hard to ensure those who are most in need receive the necessary support on an extended basis.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says government wants to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken care of.One of government’s top priorities is to ensure that vulnerable groups are taken care of and that there is adequate community and human development for all, explained Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Over the past 22 years, government has made a lot of progress in alleviating socio-economic challenges through interventions such as major investments in health, education and social security.

In an interview with Vuk’uzenzele, Minister Dlamini, who chairs the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster, said government has made strides in ensuring the overall welfare of vulnerable groups. The Minister said the entire cluster has been able to link up and work together to ensure that grant recipients are looked after and kept in the system from early childhood development (ECD) until they reach higher education. “What is important about this cluster is that you see the progress through the improvement of the quality of lives of people. For example, when children who receive social grants go to school they have something to eat at school [through the National School Nutrition Programme]. “If there is nothing at home, they will find it at school so there is a balancing act when it comes to our programmes,” she said.

Ongoing support for vulnerable groups

The Minister added that grant recipients within the system are tracked until they reach Grade 12, and the Department of Social Development ensures that the children are linked up with the Department of Higher Education and Training which is made aware of deserving students in the system. The Department of Social Development’s Isibindi model deploys trained community-based child and youth care workers in communities to provide care, protection and developmental support to vulnerable children and families. “The Isibindi model also feeds into education. For instance, 98 per cent of our children that fall under the Isibindi programme wrote exams.

“From this group a lot that obtained bachelors’ degree pass and almost all of them passed Grade 12,” she said. The rest are redirected towards Technical Vocational Education and Training colleges. Those who need assistance to improve their marks are also supported. “What we are trying to do is to follow the child from ECD onwards. Then we are able to see those who drop out of school, look for them and find out what the problem is. “We are no longer just giving grants out to young people, we also want to get outcomes and ensure that they go through the process,” explained Minister Bathabile.

ECD research and development

Minister Dlamini said government, through the National Development Agency, has entered into a partnership agreement with the recently established University of Fort Hare’s Early Childhood Development Centre of Excellence in the areas of ECD research and development. The centre of excellence has been set up to be an academic centre of both context-specific curriculum development and research in the area of ECD, and the university is working towards providing relevant, short learning courses, a Diploma in ECD and a Bachelor of Education.

Government also wants to ensure that cooperatives receive the necessary support to become more productive and create jobs. “We want to ensure that we increase our input when it comes to caregivers; we want them to serve in cooperatives and go to school; we want young women, who are practitioners in ECD, to train as full-time practitioners and we want to ensure that we improve the standard of ECD.” The Minister said one of government’s aims, going forward, is to ensure women are increasingly incorporated into the social cluster’s programmes.

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