Public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill were held in the Northern Cape on the weekend.
RESIDENTS in the Sol Plaatje municipal district want stricter laws prohibiting children from gaining access to alcohol.
During public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill that were held in the Northern Cape this weekend, residents related that easy access to alcohol was creating social disintegration and promoting alcohol and substance abuse.
The chairperson for the portfolio committee on social development, Nonkosi Mvana, said members of the public wanted the police to monitor shebeens and to also ensure that they adhered to laws that prohibited the sale of alcohol near schools.
Mvana added that residents also highlighted an inconsistency where the Children’s Act classified a minor as being below the age of 18 years, while the Schools Act did not compel children beyond the age of 16 years to attend school.
“This, according to participants, presented problems to social workers when they rendered services in schools,” said Mvana.
She added that participants called for the acceleration of the foster care application process.
“They raised a concern over the current foster care application process, which they said was protracted and exposed children to harmful environments that negatively impacted on their growth and development.
“They believed that the lengthy and protracted process prevented foster parents from applying for the foster care grant from the South African Social Security Agency.”
She said they also called for the Department of Social Development to provide social workers with accommodation closer to schools.
“It was mentioned that, currently, social workers were not able to speedily respond and attend to cases because they do not have access to transport.”
Mvana stated that some residents felt strongly that the bill did not adequately address the rights of unmarried fathers who supported their children.
“Other participants raised a concern that the bill does not address parental responsibilities of unmarried fathers.”
She added that participants argued that currently there were no laws that compelled unmarried fathers to fulfil their parental responsibilities.
“Other participants told the committee that the bill focuses more on the rights of children over the rights of parents. This, according to them, threatens the stability of families and results in their disintegration. They argued that there must be a fair balance between the rights of children and parents.
“Furthermore, they pointed out that the bill gave children the right to give consent on medical matters without the knowledge of their parents. The participants proposed that parents be held liable for medical expenses for their children and in turn should be involved in giving consent on medical issues on behalf of their children.”
Mvana said residents from Mothibistad in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District requested the committee to ensure that early childhood development centres (ECD) received the necessary support from government.
“Participants emphasised that ECD centres played a critical role in the overall development of children. The current lack of support from government undermines this essential developmental stage of children. The lack of funding to ECD centres undermines and contradicts government objectives, despite ECD centres being identified as a universal right and a public good by the National Development Plan.”
She stated that the skills gap and lack of training of early childhood practitioners were also raised as an area of concern.
“This leads to poor delivery of ECD services, which presents a significant risk of diminishing the potential of children to succeed in life. As a remedy, participants called for government to make available funding to empower and upskill early childhood practitioners.”
She added that there was a strong call for the bill to make ECD compulsory for all children from an early age.
“Participants also urged government to compel parents to utilise the child grants to pay for ECD fees to prevent its misuse.”
Mvana said further that participants had called on government to assist undocumented foreign children.
“These children are not able to write their matric examinations as they are required to have identity documents.”
She said members of the public wanted the bill to enforce the payment of child maintenance and prevent fathers from neglecting their children.
“Participants were of the view that current laws fell short in providing for the overall needs of children as they needed more than just financial support.”