20 December 2012

South Africa: Look After Children Over Festive Season

Pretoria — As festive season celebrations get into full swing, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has called on parents to take care of their children and not neglect them during the festivities.

"While the focus is correctly on 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," said the department's Mthunzi Mhaga on Wednesday.

"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," he added.

Under the South African Constitution 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, noted the department.

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

"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," said Mhaga.

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