Abused kids left in lurch

2010-08-24 00:00

ABUSED children placed in places of safety by the courts are being sent home as a result of the public service strike and often back to the very situations where they were being harmed.

The Witness understands that it is illegal to move such children without the permission of a court.

Welfare workers in the non-governmental (NGO)sector were shocked to discover that this was happening.

They say the state welfare system is failing the vulnerable and — as happened in the last public servants’ strike — the NGOs are left holding the baby.

The irony is that the state has still not paid subsidies to some NGOs while others have not received the five percent funding increases that the province budgeted for in April.

Angry social workers in the NGO sector say that because of years of inadequate subsidisation they earn far less than their counterparts in the government sector, yet they do the same work. They also do not get the occupation-specific dispensation (payment that the state social workers get.

With the ongoing strike, they said, they are bearing the burden of helping vulnerable children, the aged and the disabled.

A social worker said NGOs are daily confronted by families who are dumped, and they have to dip into their meagre funds to buy groceries because they cannot turn the families away.

“This seriously affects our budgets, but we receive no compensation from the state for doing the state’s work,” she said.

Courts are also struggling to find places of safety to take children. In a recent case where the court could not find a place for two children who were sexually abused it had to turn to a private welfare agency.

NGO workers do not want to be named for fear of being victimised by welfare officials after the strike.

A worker asked how government-employed welfare staff could leave children in the lurch. “We work to a code of ethics. The government knew there was going to be a strike. Were no contingency plans made?” he asked.

The Witness contacted Social Welfare spokesperson Mandla Ngema to find out why children are being sent home from places of safety and why Social Development MEC Meshack Radebe did not make contingency plans to keep the children safe in these institutions.

He asked that an SMS be sent to him. This was done, but no response was received by the time of going to press.

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