Funding crisis shuts down children’s centres in Gauteng

Social development department’s funding adjudications have been finalised, but for many organisations it is too late

| By and

Staff members at the Epworth Child and Youth Care Centre in Germiston are scrambling to find placements for about 50 children before the centre has to close its doors at the end of May. Photo: Masego Mafata

  • Several non-profit organisations in Gauteng providing care for children and women have announced they are having to close their doors or are facing closure.
  • The Gauteng Department of Social Development’s funding decisions for the new financial year were delayed, leaving many organisations uncertain about their future.
  • The Department’s budget for non-profit organisation funding is R223-million less than last year.

Epworth Child and Youth Care Center in Germiston, founded more than 100 years ago, announced this week that it will be closing its doors on 31 May. It is one of at least 18 organisations who will have to close or scale down services if their funding is cut.

The centre’s director Penny Lundie told GroundUp that retrenchment notices will be issued to the centre’s 30 staff members. The 50 children at the centre, many of whom come from troubled homes, have been abused, or have lost their parents, will be moved.

When GroundUp visited Epworth on Thursday, some of the children were huddled around a staff member, asking questions about the closure.

The children wanted to know whether they would be separated from their siblings and to which homes they would be moved. The emotional staff member explained to the children that they were “trying to figure out the process”.

The centre had experienced delays in obtaining its five-year registration certificate, during which it continued to operate without funding from the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD). This caused a hole in the centre’s finances from which it is unable to recover.

The uncertainty and lack of communication regarding the centre’s application for funding in the 2024/25 financial year, which started on 1 April, forced the board’s hand, Lundie said.

The Gauteng Care Crisis Committee, a voluntary association of 67 non-profit organisations, on Thursday published statements by 18 non-profit organisations in Gauteng that have either announced closure or said they will have to close if their funding applications are not successful.

People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) is among the organisations that announced it will be closing. POWA runs six offices, two shelters, two Thuthuzela Care Centers, and five Victim Friendly Rooms (VFR). Its shelters accommodate 157 women and their children, and their VFRs reach over 6,000 beneficiaries per year.

The Nisaa Institute for Women Development said that it has closed its shelter’s doors. The women and their children at its shelters are being moved to other facilities. Nisaa is still rendering other services, such as its victim empowerment programme, but is not taking on any new clients.

West Rand Association for People with Disabilities (WRAPD) is among several organisations preparing to scale down services if its funding application is unsuccessful. WRAPD provides 24-hour care for 37 people with disabilities. Last year, WRAPD had to sell two vehicles to pay for salaries. “At this stage we don’t have any assets that we can sell to help us keep our doors open,” WRAPD director Annalene Roussouw told GroundUp.

“In previous years when the tranche payment was late, we could ask the bank for a short term overdraft to pay expenses for April but now we can’t do it because we don’t have a Service Level Agreement (SLA),” said Roussouw. “They [GDSD] haven’t told us why they are not giving us the SLA. There is really no communication, just press releases.”

Funding from the Gauteng Department of Social Development is paid in advance on a quarterly basis. The most recent payments were made in January, so many organisations only had funds to last them until the end of March.

The new financial year started on 1 April and funding decisions have not yet been communicated, leaving many organisations having to prepare for closure.

The GDSD, which will distribute an estimated R1.9-billion to non-profit organisations this financial year, announced on Wednesday that funding allocations have been finalised. But organisations GroundUp spoke to said that they have not yet heard the outcomes of their funding applications.

According to the Department’s statement, “successful non-profit organisations (NPOs) are being contacted as of the first week of April 2024, to come in to the Head Office for signing of SLAs. To manage the numbers NPOs will be contacted in various groupings ensuring efficiency.”

Organisations were assessed through “physical verification of the NPO at registered addresses, observations of services being rendered and also verification of the compliance status with the National DSD database,” according to the Department’s statement.

GroundUp asked GDSD spokesperson Themba Gadebe how organisations that are closing their doors will be supported in referring their beneficiaries to other organisations, in particular vulnerable people in need of full-time care. Gadebe did not address the question, but repeated that SLAs are in the process of being signed.

“Nothing but lies”

Facing widespread criticism over the past few weeks, the GDSD has attempted to dispel rumours of budget cuts and told NPOs in a statement that they “should not panic”.

Gauteng MEC for Social Development Mbali Mhlophe claimed in a TV interview that rumours of budget cuts were “propelled by a so-called researcher called Lisa Vetten who is working together with the DA who are intentionally and in a desperate plight to try and create discontent towards the governing party”. (Vetten is the chair of the Gauteng Care Crisis Committee).

The Provincial’s Treasury’s budget for 2024/35 clearly indicates the Department’s 2024/25 budget for non-profit funding is R223-million less than that for 2023/24.

In its media statement on Wednesday, the department said it received R11.4-billion in funding applications from organisations, “an amount far greater than the department’s overall budget”. The department’s budget for non-profit funding is R1.9-billion, according to the provincial budget, and its total budget is R5.5-billion.

Besides the budget cuts, mystery about new adjudication panels, an ongoing forensic audit of NPO funding, and unclear compliance criteria have added to the confusion and anxiety of NPO managers in recent months.

According to the Gauteng Care Crisis Committee’s statement, letters sent to senior Department of Social Development officials asking for clarity, have gone unanswered. In March, the Department of Social Development unsuccessfully sought a court interdict to prohibit NPOs from protesting the cuts.

GDSD spokesperson Themba Gadebe denied communication has been insufficient.

“The Department has consistently communicated throughout with various statements and also directly with various provincial leaders of sectors,” he said.

He also made several disparaging remarks about Vetten and the Gauteng Care Crisis Committee, claiming they are “lying to the public and attempting to raise anxiety and anger amongst NPOs towards our government on nothing but lies”.

TOPICS:  Social Development mismanagement

Next:  Disabled learners turned away from school

Previous:  Criminal complaint lodged against Benjamin Rattle, a South African serving in the Israeli military

© 2024 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

We put an invisible pixel in the article so that we can count traffic to republishers. All analytics tools are solely on our servers. We do not give our logs to any third party. Logs are deleted after two weeks. We do not use any IP address identifying information except to count regional traffic. We are solely interested in counting hits, not tracking users. If you republish, please do not delete the invisible pixel.