Why was R900m earmarked for at-risk children not spent?

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The reality is that the foster care system has all but collapsed, according to a DA MP, which means these children’s future is being taken from them.

Normally, The Citizen would welcome it when a government department returns almost R1 billion back to Treasury, because the people need every available cent in the public purse to help them live a better life.

However, when it is revealed that the money not spent could have gone towards protecting children, then we have to object.

According to transcripts by the parliamentary monitoring group of a meeting of the portfolio committee on social development – obtained by Parlybeat – underexpenditure on social assistance totaled R900 million.

According to Parlybeat, MPs from all parties were amazed at the social development department’s explanation that the underspending was a result of “slow spending on foster care and old age pensions”. This was caused by a “lower-than-anticipated projected number of beneficiaries”, the department said.

DA MP Karen Jooste asked: “Does the department really expect anybody to believe that they issued fewer foster care grants because fewer children need them?”

Every day, children are abused, assaulted and raped. The need for caring people to foster and protect children is huge. If the department is to be believed and the number of applications for foster grants has declined from 32 000 to 12 000 in the past five years, the question is why?

Jooste claims the reality is that the foster care system has all but collapsed. Social workers are so busy with paperwork and clearing backlogs in applications that they neglect the preventative services which can help identify the most at-risk children.

This is unacceptable and we wonder how much of it is due to the ineptitude of the previous minister, Bathabile Dlamini. Whoever is to blame, this must be sorted out.

These at-risk children are SA’s future and their future is being taken from them.

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