BRIEFING TO PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOR 2002-20 MARCH 2002

The Department of Social Development envisages introducing the following laws in Parliament during 2002:

(a) Probation Services Amendment Bill;
(b) Fund-raising Amendment Bill;
(c) National Development Agency Amendment Bill;
(d) Child Care Bill;
(e) Social Security Bill;
(f) Treatment of Substance Abuse Bill

It is envisaged that the Probation Services Amendment Bill will be tabled in Parliament during April 2002, the Fund-raising Amendment Bill be tabled during May 2002 and the National Development Agency Amendment Bill be tabled during May 2002.

The other envisaged Bills may only be tabled in Parliament late in 2002. In order to introduce these Bills they will have to be approved by stakeholders, the Heads of Social Development, MINMEC and Cabinet, be published for comment and be certified by the State Law Advisers by 8 August 2002.

PROBATION SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL

The Probation Services Amendment Bill which intends to amend the Probation Services Act, 1991, in order to be in line with new developments in the field of probation services and child justice, was approved by Cabinet on 23 January 2002, further published for comment on 8 February 2002 and submitted to the Chief State Law Adviser for review and certification on 30 January 2002.

The main issues this Bill aims to address are:

a) The introduction of assessment, support, referral and mediation services in respect of victims of crime;

b) to provide for the competency of a probation officer to recommend an appropriate sentence or other options to the court and for the mandatory assessment of every arrested child within 48 hours of his or her arrest: and

c) to insert the definition of 'family finder' whose main function would be to trace the parents or guardian of a child who is being prosecuted, so as to make them available to assist the child in court.

The proposed amendments are aligned with Government's strategic goal of crime reduction and the Minister of Social Development’s 10-point plan to address the matte of youth in trouble with the law.

The Bill is urgent as the implementation thereof will support and enhance the proposed Child Justice Bill, which will be dealt with by Parliament during 2002.

The provisions of the Bill have been discussed and approved at various probation advocacy group meetings attended by stakeholders, policy-makers and provincial probation officers. Provincial departments of Social Development were also consulted at various meetings during 2001 and approved of the Bill.

FUND-RAISING AMENDMENT BILL

The main issues this Bill aims to address are:

(a) the repeal of the Disaster Relief Fund, the SA Defence Force Fund, the Refugee Relief Fund, the State President's Fund and the Social Relief Fund; and

(b) the establishment of a new Social Relief Fund.

The management Boards of the various Relief Funds have, with the Minister's approval, resolved to amend the Fund-raising Act, 1978 in order to consolidate the Funds into one new Social Relief Fund. The rationale for the amendment is strictly financial, namely to curtail the cost of providing administrative services to all the Relief Funds.  Some of the Relief Funds are not active, but their administration is costly to the Department.

It is envisaged that the Bill will be presented to Cabinet during April 2002.

The Bill is fairly urgent due to the fact that the term of office of all the Board members expires at the end of June 2002.

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY AMENDMENT BILL

On 19 October 2001 the National Development Agency (NDA) was transferred from the Minister of Finance to the Minister of Social Development by Presidential Proclamation. The rationale for the transfer was the close link between the work of the NDA and the Department of Social Development in poverty alleviation.

In order to give effect to the transfer the National Development Agency Act, 1998 (No. 108 of 1998) has to be amended. Technical amendments to the Act involve substitution of the Minister of Finance with the Minister of Social Development. Substantial amendments involve amendments to the composition of the NDA's Board and the appointment of the Chief Executive Officer.

A Bill is currently being drafted and will be presented to the Director-General for approval during April 2002.

STATUS OF OLDER PERSONS BILL

This Bill intends to provide for the promotion of the status of older persons, their protection and well-being and the care of their interests. This Act when in operation will also repeal the Aged Persons Act, 1967. A draft guideline document has been developed and various stakeholders have been consulted.
It is envisaged to have a draft Bill ready for publication for comment by October 2002.

CHILD CARE BILL

The SA Law Commission is drafting a bill and the discussion papers on the bill have been published for comment.

SOCIAL ASSISTANCE BILL

Discussions on new social assistance legislation are currently taking place. We are hoping to introduce the bill into Parliament later this year.

PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF DRUG DEPENDENCY AMENDMENT BILL OR NEW BILL ON THE TREATMENT OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE

The Noupoort Christian Care Centre debacle (failure to register or deal with the registration of the Centre for almost 10 years) has shown that the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Dependency Act, 1992, is outdated, not applicable to the current substance abuse situation in the country and should either be amended or rewritten completely.

It is envisaged to start discussions with stakeholders and the various provincial administrations on the Bill during May 2002 and if all goes well a first draft Amendment Bill could be ready by September 2002.

CONCLUSION

All the dates referred to above are tentative dates as the timeframe for legislation for 2002 is subject to the Parliamentary legislative agenda which may affect our timeframe drastically.