Social development asks for extension to clear foster care grant backlog

21 November 2019 - 08:38 By Karabo Mafolo
Parliament has been told that the department will fail to finalise its 41,690 outstanding foster care cases before the November deadline.
Parliament has been told that the department will fail to finalise its 41,690 outstanding foster care cases before the November deadline.
Image: GroundUp/Karabo Mafolo

On Wednesday, just eight days before the deadline for the department of social development to clear a huge backlog of foster care court orders, deputy director-general for welfare service Connie Nxumalo told parliament: “We had a meeting with the Centre for Child Law and agreed unanimously to approach the [North Gauteng] high court to ask for an extension.”

Two months ago, there were 89,538 unresolved foster care court orders. On Wednesday, the committee was told there were still 41,690 unresolved cases.

The battle to resolve the backlog dates back to 2011, when the Centre for Child Law took the department to court. The court extended existing foster care grants to three years to give the department additional time to come up with a “comprehensive legal solution” to address the crisis in the foster care system.

Three years later, the department had not come up with a legal solution and was again taken to court by the centre.

The minister applied for the existing orders to be extended and this was granted, but the court told the department to come up with a comprehensive solution by December 2017.

The department missed the 2017 deadline. The centre took the department to court again. This time the court granted the department and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) 24 months to continue managing and paying the 200,000 foster care grants.

Foster care grants expire after two years. However, an extension can be given by the children’s court.

Applying for a foster care grant requires the applicant to have an unabridged birth certificate. This can take six weeks to obtain. Also, the unabridged birth certificate costs R75 and home affairs is not willing to waive that fee, said Nxumalo.

“We’ve communicated with the department of home affairs and they can only expedite the issuing of birth certificates [not waive it],” Nxumalo told the committee.

In the meantime, social workers were working to have the court orders resolved.

Many provinces have made significant progress since October. Among the reasons delaying the finalisation of the cases are incorrect information on court orders and a lot of cases still in court.

The Manguang metro has the most outstanding cases.

In the Western Cape 3,363 have not been finalised. The Free State has 2,576 unresolved cases, Gauteng 3,342, KwaZulu-Natal 9,500, Limpopo 3,360, North West 2,243, Eastern Cape 3,525, and Northern Cape 221.

Mpumalanga was the only province that could meet the November 28 deadline. It has 156 outstanding cases.

“As we anticipated, there was no way that at the end of November this would be resolved, but what’s important is that we’re doing what should’ve been done a long time ago,” said Mondli Gungubele, chairperson of the committee.

This article was first published by GroundUp.