Children’s home to shut down

2010-07-01 00:00

THE future of the Natal Children’s Home hangs in the balance with the management saying it could be closed down by the end of July.

This was revealed in a meeting held by the board and some employees yesterday afternoon.

The board has been involved in controversial undertakings, including renting out the rooms of the home to Comrades Marathon runners in May as a way of raising funds.

The Social Development Department intervened and moved the children to a place of safety.

The home, which was established in 1920, now has only six children under its care.

The donors and the department have withdrawn their support.

The Witness was tipped off yesterday about a meeting in which staff members were issued with retrenchment letters.

A close source said management told the employees that the home will close by the end of July.

“One would have expected the situation to have calmed down and management to rectify whatever needed to be rectified to bring things back to normal.

“The closure was unexpected, and despite people losing their jobs, there are children who have been exposed to all sorts of abuse in broken homes.”

Three of the six children presently in care at the home were allegedly molested by their father and the case has reached the courts.

“Having to survive such a traumatic experience is enough for these children. To be exposed to the squabbles of the management and the department of Social Development is too much for them. They should be placed in a proper children’s home,” said the source.

The home’s general secretary, Paul van Rensburg, confirmed that the staff were given retrenchment letters.

Van Rensburg blamed one staff member for the problems at the institution. He said the board believes the employee is behind the investigation of the home by the department and the current state the home is in.

“There’s no way that we can continue operating without Social Development funding, and if we hear nothing from them by the end of July, then we are closing the doors. The negative publicity we have been receiving has also done no good as donors have decided to withhold their support,” said Van Rensburg.

During the Comrades Marathon, the board rented rooms to runners to raise money while the children slept in tents and the garage, where they were found by a research team from the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature.

Speaker of the legislature Peggy Nkonyeni said the team of resear­chers made damning revelations about the home, which included allusions to possible physical abuse.

Social Development gave the board a turnaround strategy to work on and report back.

Department spokesperson Mandla Ngema said yesterday he was aware of the meeting at the home.

“We heard that there was a meeting where employees were told about the closure.

“If the board wants to go, they can go, but closing down the home is not going to happen.

“That home belongs to the community and the department will decide on how to deal with the matter,” said Ngema, without giving a time frame.

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