News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Friday August 23rd 2019

Children suffer as NGO hit by funding cutbacks


With a high a high rate of substance abuse and HIV there is a significant number of children in Du Noon township requiring social assistance, yet Cape Town Child Welfare has had to close their offices in the township due to a funding cutback.

Residents, who used to be able to access a social worker every day of the week and even on the weekends as there was always a social worker on standby, are upset at the closure.

Without the NGO there, the only social services they can get are from the Department of Social Development who has a social worker in the area during the mornings only.

Residents say this is not sufficient to cater for the number of abandoned and neglected children in Du Noon.

The Cape Town Child Welfare offices closed down at the end of August due to the global financial crises which has seen funding for several Non Profit Organisation’s curtailed.

Cape Town Child Welfare Chief Executive Niresh Ramklass said funding from various donors had been decreasing and they haven’t received funding from the National Lottery for two years.

This impacted on the organisation’s ability to render services as even the Department of Social Development hadn’t increased their funding to them in the past three years despite inflationary increases “in almost all costs”.

The strain on finance meant they had to close down the Du Noon office at the end of August and the organisation was in the process of retrenching support staff who were not in subsidised posts, said Ramklaas.

The office rental space in Du Noon was also very high he said, at R100 000 per year.

They were in the process of retrenching eight support staff of which one was from Du Noon.

The organisation has operated in Cape Town for over 100 years and was requested by the Department of Social Development to start rendering services in Du Noon township three years ago.

Of their R23m annual budget, the Department of Social Development provided a subsidy of R10m and they experienced a shortfall of R5m, said Ramklaas.

“The outlook for the NPO (Non Profit Organisation) sector is bleak to say the least. This is a really tragic situation facing the entire NPO sector in our province and country. We are witnessing NPOs retrenching staff and downsizing their operations and facing closure all around us. The level of uncertainty pervading the NPO sector is grim.”

Du Noon resident Mesie Makuwa Mpukane, a mother of six young children, said Du Noon did not have a permanent office for social workers and it was pleasant when Cape Town Child Welfare opened up their offices three years ago.

“The township is over populated. There are too many kids being abandoned and neglected. We still feel strongly that there must be a social worker office in Du Noon,” she said.

ANC ward councillor Lubabalo Makeleni said if a child needed help they had to wait for a day until the social worker from the Department of Social Development was available.

“Problems can’t wait. People don’t have funds to travel to look for government offices,” said Makeleni.

Cape Town Child Welfare manager Ina Vermeulen said Du Noon had a high rate of substance abuse resulting in children being abandoned and neglected.

There was also a high rate of parents being infected by HIV/ AIDS and children became victims due to parents being ill or being infected themselves, said Vermeulen.

She said in Du Noon 239 children had been neglected or abandoned between April 2011 and March this year.

Department of Social Development MEC Albert Fritz’s spokesperson Melany Kuhn said NGOs, had to get creative in order to ensure their long-term sustainability.

“This (funding) is ultimately their responsibility,” said Kuhn.

“NGOs are independent organisations that cannot rely solely on state funding – this would make them a state agency, which they’re not. We are not oblivious to their challenges and have on many occasions made adjustments to the budget to allow us to channel more money to NGOs in dire need,” said Kuhn. — Peter Luhanga

Tags: Cape Town Child Welfare, Department of Social Development, Ina Vermeulen, Lubabalo Makeleni, Mesie Makuwa Mpukane, Niresh Ramklass

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