Maverick Citizen

WELFARE CRISIS

Gauteng non-profits face closure after province cuts funding

Gauteng non-profits face closure after province cuts funding
llustrative image, from left: Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle) | Gauteng MEC for Social Development Mbali Hlophe. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi / Gallo Images) | The Gauteng Department of Social Development. (Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee)

Gauteng non-profit organisations voice urgent concerns after funding cuts and bureaucratic hurdles push essential services to the brink of closure.

‘It is a very sad situation because the department does not know what it is like to sit with these children. What are we going to do with the 46 children in our care if we have to close?” asked Nina de Caires, the director of Tshwane Child Welfare.

The 106-year-old organisation renders the full basket of child protection services, with eight service points across Tshwane as well as a child and youth care centre (CYCC) that accommodates 46 children.

De Caires expressed grave concerns about the organisation’s ability to continue operations. 

“We haven’t received funding since the beginning of April,” De Caires said. “Without subsidies from the government, we’re not going to be able to survive. So we are looking at possible retrenchments and even the possibility of closing our doors.” 

Since the start of the financial year, hundreds of non-profit organisations in Gauteng have not received confirmation that they will be funded by the provincial department of social development.

Tshwane Child Welfare is one of the organisations that have been affected. Some organisations have had to close; others have scaled back on the services they offer, and many are in precarious financial positions.

“The saddest part of it all is that I am not fighting for myself. There are 87 staff members. We reach about 17,000 people a year, and we feed 300 children a day. We work in Tish (townships, informal settlements and hostel) areas. There are organisations that have closed in those areas because of financial reasons and now those people are coming to us,” she said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng premier breaks promise to pay non-profit organisations by 24 May

Communication breakdown

Despite repeated attempts to engage with the department, the organisation has not received any answers. 

“The department said instead of going to the press we must try and consult and come to the department. We have done that and in spite of that, they have not communicated,” De Caires said.

The organisation has sent four letters to Mbali Hlophe, the Gauteng MEC for social development, none of which has been answered. 

“It is total chaos, a total disaster,” De Caires said. “We received two service level agreements (SLAs) with substantial cuts, which we questioned, and then afterwards they just said we were not compliant. So at this stage, I don’t know what the way forward is.”   

De Caires said she had not received any explanation for their status changing to non-compliant. 

“It is like sending someone to jail and you don’t know why and at this stage it is just sad because they never told us something was wrong — we thought everything was fine and now all of a sudden everything is not fine,” she said.  

“We are sending them [the department] a letter asking what were the problems that were picked up because we did have investigators here in October last year and we were not told that anything was wrong. 

“An auditor-general from the department was here recently and he told us ‘to keep up the good work’, so everything was fine but now suddenly it is not,” De Caires said.

Tshwane Child Welfare will only be able to render services until the end of June. 

“They [the department] do not know what it is like to take care of the 46 children in our care. They go to 15 different schools, and we manage their medical needs,” De Caires explained.

“If we are forced to close, what happens to them? It is very sad that we have had to come to this point.”

Contractual confusion

For 70 years, Rata Social Services has been a lifeline for children facing issues with their parents, abandonment, neglect and more. The services it provides range from investigations to fostering, adoption and court proceedings. 

In mid-May, the organisation received SLAs for four of its seven offices, which included the introduction of a 70/30 split in subsidy allocations. There were no clear targets in the SLAs, making compliance assessment challenging.

“How are they going to monitor us spending the funding? How will they say to us that to get this funding, you need to place x amount of children in foster care; you need to reach this many beneficiaries? Nothing of that sort was in those clauses,” Charmaine Fourie from Rata Social Services said.

The 70/30 split is a new clause requiring 70% of subsidies to be spent on salaries and 30% on operational costs. Previously, there was an 80-20% split and this new clause has forced some organisations to retrench staff members.

On 14 May, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi met NPOs and said that the 70-30% clause would be “suspended”, which is why Fourie was confused about the SLA she received. 

Fourie said they signed the SLAs because they feared that they would not receive their funding if they did not, but they included an addendum that stipulated that in the future they had the legal right to question the clauses.

The organisation has since then received two other SLAs, but has not signed them as Fourie is now unsure of the process after Lesufi said there would be a roll-over of funding from the two previous quarters.

“In other words, everybody that got funding will receive the exact same amount from the previous years’ SLAs for two quarters this year while the department finalises the investigations,” she said.

To do this, the department issued interim SLAs to organisations, which stipulated that this funding was only for the first two quarters of the year. 

Beneficiaries in dire straits

Despite signing interim SLAs to secure funding for the first two quarters, Rata Social Services, like many others, is yet to receive any financial assistance. This delay has left 33 staff members and roughly 12,000 beneficiaries in limbo, with operational costs mounting and services at risk.

“I am still waiting. We were lucky in the sense that we had some church donors that helped us so that we could still pay salaries,” Fourie said. 

The organisation has no cash flow and will have to borrow money this month to cover operational expenses.

With no funding in sight, Rata Social Services faces the grim reality of retrenchments and potential closures. The ramifications extend beyond the organisation, with concerns about the fate of vulnerable individuals left without support. 

“At this point in time, my heart breaks for the beneficiaries that are left in dire straits. I listened to this one lady who is paralysed from the waist down and she was asking, ‘Who’s going to help me make food? Who’s going to look after me?’ That is one person I know personally and there are thousands of people affected,” she said. 

Running on empty 

Annalene Rossouw, the director of the West Rand Association for Persons with Disabilities, said the situation was “chaotic” and she did not know whether the department understood the full extent of what was happening. 

Despite receiving initial nods for their programmes, including residential care and outreach initiatives, the organisation was yet to receive the funding that had been promised. 

Rossouw said the situation was extremely challenging as the organisation had depleted its reserve funds.

“There is nothing left. We still need to pay our utilities and the insurance, but we can’t because we have not received funding for two months,” she said.

“We were fortunate that in April we received a donation from someone and that helped us to pay the salaries. Now we are sitting with a situation where there are no funds, so the possibility is that our water and electricity can be disconnected at any time. We will have to buy food for the residents very soon and there is just no money.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘The stress levels are just awful,’ says NPO awaiting funding decision from Gauteng government

The organisation has 36 residents in its residential care facilities and 30 daily beneficiaries at its protective workshops, while its social workers see roughly 150 families a month where there are people with disabilities. 

With funds withheld, Rossouw painted a bleak picture of depleted reserves and looming utility disconnections. The inability to pay staff salaries and essential bills puts not only the organisation’s survival at stake but also jeopardises the wellbeing of vulnerable residents and beneficiaries who rely on its care.

“It is really heartbreaking. One of my auxiliary social workers received a phone call from a beneficiary [who] was abused by a family member and she can’t go out because it is towards the Magaliesburg side and we really don’t have the funding to pay for petrol,” Rossouw said.

Vulnerable lives in the balance

If the organisation had to shut down, residential beneficiaries would have nowhere to go, Rossouw said.

“Fourteen of those residents do not have families. We can’t just dump them in the street and close the doors. We will have to do something, but it is a desperate situation, and the department does not have the capacity to take over,” she said.

In Gauteng, there are only two government-run residential facilities that cater for such beneficiaries and both are at capacity.

“It is a crisis. What is going to happen to these people? They will land up in the street if we have to close our doors. All the beneficiaries here have some kind of brain injury and they can’t function on their own — they need protection, they need guidance, they need help with certain tasks and they need supervision,” Rossouw said.

“We take them to the clinic and we administer their medication. The first thing that is going to happen is they are going to lapse on their medication and some of them are epileptic and will start having seizures. What is going to happen to them out on the street?”

Payment date unclear

Daily Maverick asked the Gauteng Department of Social Development  about each of the NPOs we spoke to. The department’s spokesperson, Themba Gadebe, said their concerns had already been addressed and that payments would be made soon.

“In terms of how we go forward, in terms of communication with them and everything else that they will raise, there is a committee that was established to deal with those issues,” he said. 

Gadebe shared a press statement from 14 May in which Lesufi said that on 15 May the Gauteng government would start paying all the NPOs that had signed SLAs, with finalisation expected by 24 May.

A court order gave the department until 30 May to pay subsidies to the NPOs, but the department has not provided any further details on when the payments will be made. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    The money for the kitskonstabels had to come from somewhere – I’m guessing some other budgets were cut such as the welfare allocations.

  • Denise Smit says:

    All money used for Lesufis populist projects, why worry about people in need

  • Gretha Erasmus says:

    More people are going to die this year than in Life Esidemeni thanks to Gauteng Department of social development. Every week we are reading of a different care home forced to close. Most of them decades old, some over a hundred years old. All of them looking after vulnerable chiren or adults.

  • Gretha Erasmus says:

    Where are all the people going that were looked after by all these care homes forced to close? They were in care homes because they had no family to take care of them. Why are established care homes not receiving SLAs suddenly and who are the new entrants that are receiving SLAs? And who owns them?

  • William Kelly says:

    Where has the money gone? This is a total debacle. These poor poor people!
    If I were to close the doors my final act would be to put them on Lesufi’s front lawn with a full entourage of soical media posters, cameras and film crews.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    But . . . but . . . . I don’t understand. That nice Cde Lesufi said that all health care would be free after the elections thanks to the glorious liberation movements legislative interventions. This cant be right, what gives?

    • John Millar says:

      I don’t understand either – just two weeks or so ago he called a meeting indicating something must have gone wrong with the budget and that he would get these issues addressed immediately. Surely, he would not lie to the people?

  • M D Fraser says:

    Another fine example of just why we have to get rid of the ANC altogether and it’s cancerous offshoots such as EFF and MKP. Vultures of a feather gobble together.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    What are the measures of a caring Government.
    How you take care of mentally old people – Life Esidemeni – MAMOTH FAIL BY ANC. Court case, 94 silent deaths.
    How do you take care of child protection – Lesufi has not paid NGOs so they close down. BUT BUT BUT we have a new Government coming in and will rescue us.
    Put this as a condition of GNU.

  • The Premier and the ANC government somehow channel money meant for this community based organizations to fight for their political survival. I tell you this funds was utilized for ANC election campaigns.

  • Whatever DsD is cooking this year must be an exported. How on earth our Premier declare a war against substance abuse, yet closing all the rehabs in the province. If Organization are not complying to DsD standards why not dealing with those who are in charge than closing organization and increase an unemployment. Westrand Region as we speak today doesn’t have an organization that is rendering substance abuse services..

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