Children at homes face bleak and hungry Christmas

December 22, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja



Hundreds of children may go hungry this festive season as the Gauteng department of social development failed to pay grants due to the homes that care for them.

Places of safety and children’s homes, due to receiving their seasonal payments from the government, were left cashless as social development cited noncompliance with various regulations as the root cause.

Epworth Children’s Home didn’t receive funding

Epworth Children’s Home in Germiston did not receive its funding. The home was told it was not compliant with fire regulations earlier this year, but the cost to fix this was astronomical.

To fund the demands of the department outside of their initial agreement, said Epworth’s Penny Lundie, one of the houses which served as a home for children had to be sold.

Adjustments were made and eventually compliance was achieved, but there’s been nobody available at the department to resolve payment.

Now, it’s less than a handful of days before Christmas and Lundie are worried about January.

It’s absolute nonsense, said the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) provincial spokesperson on social development, Bronwynn Engelbrecht. She alleged hurdles were placed in front of places of care to comply outside of initial contracts signed with social services.

Engelbrecht said compliance with the law was critical, but it should not come at the expense of children. “This is not a burden that a child in need should be carrying,” she said. “I find it absolutely tragic that the government is unable to fulfil their constitutional duty towards these children.”

The Children’s Act makes provision for the issuance of temporary certificates to enable the uninterrupted flow of funds to the homes, but nothing has been done.

Yabana Children’s Home

Yabana Children’s Home in Pretoria yesterday received a letter from the department wherein it said funding would not be made available.

This was due to the fact that Tshwane municipality has yet to approve building plans submitted in 2017.

However, this condition for funding was not present in the home’s annual agreement with the department, signed in February this year, nor was it in the original registration agreement five years ago.

Yabana founder Carine Goosen is at her wits’ end. Just as at Epworth, funds to put food on the table for the children and to pay staff are not available. Both homes are now completely reliant on the goodwill of donors.

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“We are between a rock and a hard place, dependent on two government departments to get anywhere. I have sent over 40 e-mails to the municipality, practically begging them for help, but it all fell on deaf ears.

“Social development now refuses to extend our agreement or to pay a cent unless we get the plans approved,” Goosen said.

“I cannot believe that government can be so stone-cold when it comes to taking care of children.”

It’s an indictment on government, said Engelbrecht, who has rallied councillors and local communities to help.

Civil intervention

The Citizen introduced her to Tania Herwill, a Bedfordview resident who has started a civil intervention campaign and has been collecting donations for the homes. Herwill has also engaged the Scouts, who have made several halls and facilities available for drop-offs of assistance.

Engelbrecht said: “This goes beyond politics, it’s about community, and I am ashamed to share a legislature with people who don’t seem to give a damn.”

Epworth’s Lundie noted: “It’s not just about putting food on the table, it’s about keeping the lights on. We have a massive outstanding bill with Ekurhuleni that we simply do not have the funds to settle. Soon we will be cut off and then, what do we do?”

Local DA council whip Simon Lapping is intervening to aid Epworth to keep the lights on and has approached the city for an extended payment plan facility.

“When organisations are under a financial strain, there are various levers available at the council to create some breathing space. We must work together to ensure that no child is neglected this festive season. We cannot allow this to happen,” Lapping said.

Jacaranda and General Louis Botha Children’s Homes finally received their funds after Engelbrecht put up a fight.

Paul Kruger Children’s Home’s funding may or may not happen. Engelbrecht is visiting each establishment to see what the problem. “I have received reports that there are many more homes that will go hungry this Christmas,” she said. “I will find them. And we will help them.”

Efforts to get a comment from the Gauteng department of social service had not been successful by the time of going to print.

Engelbrecht will coordinate all efforts from the public wishing to contribute. E-mail her at Bronwynne@da.org.za and contact her on whatsapp 082-376-1022.

– news@cypher9ja.co.za