Parliamentary state of the nation briefing week: Social Sector Cluster II
14 February 2008
Good day ladies and gentlemen,
We will be briefing you on the Programme of Action for Social Sector Cluster II, which focuses on comprehensive social security, poverty alleviation, land and agrarian reform and second economy interventions.
As the President announced, we are in the process of establishing a "National War Room for a War against Poverty." A project team was established, comprising the departments of Social Development, Provincial and Local Government, Trade and Industry, Agriculture and Land Affairs, Public Works and Health as well as provincial and local administrations.
This will ensure better alignment and co-ordination of all anti- poverty programmes with a view to maximise impact and avoid wastage and duplication. There are various programmes that we are going to implement this year to alleviate poverty in the short-term and to lay the seeds for its eventual eradication over time.
Poverty alleviation and comprehensive social security
Social grants are the cornerstone of the present social security system, amounting to about 3,4 per cent of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and reach over 12 million beneficiaries.
As the President announced, men will now qualify for the old age grant at the age of 60 years. This policy will be phased in over time. The phasing in process will involve the introduction of legislation into Parliament and while that process takes its course, we will have to prepare the management, administration and information technology systems.
We commissioned a study last year to investigate the review of the means tests of all the social grants. The findings of the research, undertaken by the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), reveals that our non-adjustment of the means test over the years, especially that of the child support grant, has led to the erosion of the value of the grants. We are evaluating the research recommendations and have discussed them within government. The outcome of these discussions may culminate in the means test levels being increased.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Social Security and Retirement Reform is making significant progress regarding the establishment of a mandatory retirement system and related social security reform. We will soon start the process of more intensive engagement with our social partners at National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), in order to prepare draft legislation towards the end of the year.
Statistics SA is currently finalising the mapping of poverty, as part of formulating a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy. Work is also being undertaken in the short term to identify vulnerable households in the country and to provide urgent assistance or social relief of distress. The President referred to interventions to assist children in the age group 14 to 18, who number around 4,9 million. The services include amongst others a phased introduction of the Child Support Grant to children above 14 years, education, nutrition in schools, healthcare, access to civic documents as well as prevention and treatment of substance.
We have progressed to the point where we are now reviewing policies and legislation, in order to improve the provision of social services to this group. See the annexure on work that has already been done to support and develop this age group.
Food security and land reform
We will continue with the Household Food Production Programme to improve food security amongst vulnerable communities. The Department of Agriculture will administer the farmer support fund Micro Agricultural Financial Institute of South Africa (MAFISA), which has assisted more than 6 000 farmers with a total amount of over R56 million. Livestock loans have now been included as an additional MAFISA product and the uptake will commence from April 2008.
The AgriBEE Charter is in the process of being gazetted and will guide empowerment efforts in the Sector. In addition, the Department of Agriculture is also finalising the formation of the AgriBEE Council which will be made up of key stakeholders. In line with Presidential Apex Priority number seven, the Land and Agrarian Reform Project (LARP) has been developed to provide a new paradigm for sector service delivery. The new framework for delivery and collaboration on land reform and agricultural support creates a delivery paradigm for agricultural and other support services based on the concept of "One-Stop Shop" service centres. These will be located close to farming and rural beneficiaries.
The objectives of the project are the following:
a. To redistribute five million hectares of white-owned agricultural land to 10 000 new agricultural producers.
b. Provide universal access to agricultural support services to the target groups.
c. Increase agricultural production by 10 to 15% for the target groups, under the Ilima-Letsema campaign.
The project will concentrate on defined focus areas; rely on aligned and comprehensive support to projects, joint planning and implementation, utilisation of partnerships with sector partners, decentralisation of decision-making and careful monitoring of the success and sustainability of individual projects.
National, provincial and local government will jointly lead in this new process to make accelerated land and agrarian reform a success. Thus far, the LARP has been launched in the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape provinces and KwaZulu-Natal. On 23 February, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs will launch this programme in the Free State.
We will this year also focus on providing support to the beneficiaries of resituated and redistributed land, to ensure that it is productively and sustainably utilised. Recent experiences of land reform projects that have failed or are under the threat of collapsing, have underlined the shortcoming of a singular emphasis on land acquisition and redistribution, at the expense of equal efforts on post-settlement support provision.
The Department of Land Affairs will on 18 February launch the Settlement Implementation Support (SIS) strategy. The scope of the SIS includes the Restitution, the Commonage and the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development as well as Tenure Security.
Second Economy Interventions: Social aspects of the Expanded Public Works Programme
One of government's key priorities is to ensure that each child, regardless of where he or she lives, attends a registered Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD). The ECD programme is a key part of the Expanded Public Works Programme, and a key contributor to our anti-poverty programme. It creates jobs for child-minders, especially in disadvantaged communities, and there are currently 331 762 children from poor households that receive subsidies from the Department of Social Development.
The President announced that we will need to double the number of children enrolled in ECD centres to over 600 000, through 1 000 new sites. We will act on the directive that more than 3 500 practitioners should be trained and employed, and that there should be an increased number of caregivers.
During the course of 2006/07 financial year, the Department of Social Development spent more than R350 million for ECD subsidies. In the new financial year, we will equalise ECD subsidies at R9 per child, per day in all nine provinces. The Department of Public Works has infused EPWP labour intensive guidelines into all projects, including capital works projects, to increase labour absorption. The department will also continue the massification of EPWP through construction-related projects of varying sizes, from building to maintenance and renovations and rehabilitation of unused government buildings and other properties.
The department has budgeted R794 million up to the year 2011 for the rehabilitation of 579 unused government buildings with a view to contribute to habitable human settlements and service delivery. A further R368 million will be spent on improving 1 800 government buildings, to make them accessible to people with disabilities. We will also continue with our efforts to eradicate mud schools and inadequate structures. We will endeavour to work in earnest to meet the targets we have set for the year.
Thank you for your attention.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
14 February 2008