19 December 2012

South Africa: Justice Department Calls Parents to Support Children

press release

The current dominant attitude of sharing and exuberance which always characterises the festive season should reinvigorate our collective responsibility to support our children.

While the focus is correctly on the safety driving measures and reducing fatalities on the roads during the festive season, the nation should not lose sight of those wailing voices of children abandoned by their parents and family members.

The welfare of our children should also be considered as we once again, together with our associates, friends and family blissfully glide through the traditional giving spirit of the festive season. There is a compelling need for collective action to encourage parents to support their children at all times.

The energy and vibrancy which we always exude in promoting and safeguarding human rights, as enshrined in the Constitution, should propel us to pursue those who neglect their responsibility to support their children.

In line with our country's Constitution, which state that every child has a right to family/parental care, basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services, there should be more people championing the maintenance of children for the country's prosperity.

The fact that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, which is responsible for the administration of the maintenance system and enforcement of court orders related to child support, receives in excess of two hundred thousand (200 000) new applications annually is indicative of the growing trend of neglect in our country.

In an effort to deal with the subsequent abuse of children as a result of parental and family withdrawal of social support, the department has identified child maintenance as one of its key service delivery priorities.

A maintenance turnaround strategy aimed at enhancing the quality of services at these offices has been developed and piloted with greater success in areas with high volume of applications. The strategy will minimise the time spent on queues, strengthen the investigation process used in tracing maintenance defaulters, and improve the payment system to ensure that rightful beneficiaries are paid in time.

The strategy will also change the experience of applicants at the maintenance offices and see the appointment of capable maintenance investigators to ensure that those who neglect their responsibility to support their children are brought to book.

Guided by the Maintenance Act, which brought the much desired efficiency, reduced the loopholes in the system and introduced several tighter mechanisms to enforce payments, the strategy will improve the lives of the beneficiaries and contribute towards the fight against poverty.

These improvements in the system should encourage parents and family members to apply for maintenance at their nearest magistrate courts so that all children are able to attend to school dressed and nourished for the benefit of the country.

There is nothing wrong in savouring the merriment of this Santa moment while anticipating a prosperous future, but let's also remember to invite children into the jamboree and include them in our plans for tomorrow.

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