Little care will go a long way

QUESTIONS have been asked about the relationship between the ministry of Social Development and the new ministry of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities.

QUESTIONS have been asked about the relationship between the ministry of Social Development and the new ministry of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities.

But as far as Social Development Minister Edna Molewa is concerned, her mandate is clear. She carries the responsibility of ensuring that vulnerable groups, including children and women, have access to all the services provided by the government to improve the quality of their lives.

"The new ministry [Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities] is there to ensure that there are laws in place that deal with the empowerment of the identified groups. It plays some kind of an overseeing function," explained Molewa.

Her ministry, on the other hand, has an R86billion budget, out of which it pays various forms of grants to children, the disabled and the aged.

Currently 13million South Africans are receiving grants of various forms from the Department of Social Development. Of these, nine million are children. Since April this year the child grant has been extended to include children up to the age of 15 years.

During her budget speech last week Molewa said there were plans to extend the grant to an estimated two million poverty-stricken children over the age of 15.

All these interventions are part of the government's poverty alleviation strategy. However, as Molewa pointed out, there is a need to come up with a more far-reaching solution aimed at fighting, as opposed to alleviating, poverty.

Molewa believes that one way of achieving such an objective is to break the vicious circle of poverty.

"We need to deal with inter-generational poverty where children born into poor families remain trapped in poverty and become poverty-stricken adults bringing up poor children," she said.

"While we are involved in poverty alleviation through the provision of the various grants . our ultimate objective is to strengthen the households, thereby breaking the chain of inter-generational poverty," said Molewa.

She said interventions to achieve this include giving education opportunities to children from poor families; creating co-operatives where young people from poor families - who are entrepreneurial - can start small business ventures; and involving some of the targeted groups in the government's extended public works programme.

Molewa also believes there is a need to build more secure centres where the youth can be placed and be provided with the necessary support to access opportunities such as education, skills development or support for their business initiatives.

An important aspect of such initiatives includes collecting data about the affected families.

In this regard, Molewa said the ministry had engaged 3000 unemployed youths - called Masupatsela - who are compiling data about families that are in need.

Molewa pointed out that all these initiatives were part of the government's integrated approach to service delivery and improving the quality of ordinary people's lives.

As part of that approach, the Social Development department heads the social protection and community development cluster - which includes the ministries of Human Settlements, Health, Education, Trade and Industry, as well as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

According to Molewa, it is this integrated approach that will see her department, for example, interacting with the newly formed National Youth Development Agency, when it comes to creating opportunities for young people - who currently rely on the government's grants to alleviate their dire situation.

Molewa is optimistic that her department (together with the other partners in government) will execute the mandate given by President Jacob Zuma.

She, however, believes that South Africans in general also have a role to play. In this regard, she has urged more South Africans to start adopting orphaned children.

The effect of HIV-Aids has increased the number of orphaned children and child-headed families.

Molewa explained that the government goes to great lengths to provide support to the vulnerable in the form of grants, but that at times these children need some kind of parental love that adoptive parents can provide.

Molewa pointed out that in some instances people do not necessarily have to live with a child to adopt him or her. She said adoption could entail making a commitment to educate or feed an orphan or a child from a poor family.

"For us as government, empowerment could even mean identifying a child from a poor family and giving him/her an opportunity to be educated," said Molewa.