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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SOUTH AFRICA: Govt adopts more focused approach to help orphans | Children | News Items
Tuesday 14 March 2006
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SOUTH AFRICA: Govt adopts more focused approach to help orphans

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


South African boys at a camp for children orphaned by AIDS

JOHANNESBURG, 21 February (PLUSNEWS) - The South African government has begun addressing some of the problems over its delivery of social services, particularly help to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), according to experts.

In the past two years, a strategy to address the shortage of social workers and a change to the law enabling OVC in foster care to access grants has produced results, said Selwyn Jehoma, the acting deputy director-general of social security in the Department of Social Development. "In 2002, we had 150,000 children registered under foster care, now we have 300,000."

But the government has come under constant flak over the delays in processing grant applications for OVC, which leaves families destitute for months, as highlighted by a new study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).

The foster care grant is about US $115 a month and is critical for families taking care of OVC, often grandparents, who have no other source of income. Foster parents or guardian can also apply for other grants such as care dependancy and child support which amount to about $30 each.

Insufficient capacity and inadequate resources are "two of the most crucial challenges" faced by the government departments battling with an increasing number of OVC and high levels of poverty, said Donald Skinner, one of the authors of the HSRC study.

The HSRC report, 'A situational analysis of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in four districts of South Africa' was conducted over a period of four years in the Free State and North West provinces, which have one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.

The government has adopted a policy to retain and recruit social workers by offering them incentives such as higher salaries to address the problem of capacity, said Jehoma. All the nine provinces in the country are expected to almost double the number of social workers over the next two years.

According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the AIDS pandemic has orphaned more than a million children in South Africa, which has the world's highest number of people living with the virus.

The government has also begun to take a more focused approach by developing a national action plan on OVC late last year, pointed out Skinner.

Under the action plan, mechanisms will be put place to fast track delivery of services such as access to birth certificates and identity documents, access to grants, protection from abuse and neglect as well as provision of psychosocial support and the monitoring of vulnerable households, according to the department.

"Last year, we also created a social services agency which will only handle the distribution of grants," said Jehoma. The justice department has also begun to set aside courts to deal exclusively with foster care cases to speed up the process.

The HSRC study has also called for closer cooperation between government agencies and NGOs, who also suffer from under-funding and staff shortages. Jehoma cited a campaign launched with church groups last year to identify vulnerable households as an attempt to work closely with civil society to help OVC.


Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Activists lament AIDS and rights abuses on International Women's Day,  8/Mar/06
Decriminalisation of sex-work sought as anti-AIDS mechanism,  3/Mar/06
More research needed into public sector AIDS impact - Mbeki,  27/Feb/06
Concern as MSF starts handover of HIV/AIDS treatment,  24/Jan/06
Gays and SANBS kiss and make up,  20/Jan/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

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