24 February 2013

South Africa: Social Development?s Lack of Funds Putting Elderly At Risk

press release

The Department of Social Development has no budget for vital repairs and maintenance to a number of old age homes across the country. If the required maintenance and repairs are not done, the lives of the elderly could be at risk, as some of these facilities can be regarded as health and safety hazards in their present state.

The DA calls on the Department to determine whether there is any rollover of funds in its annual budget that can be reallocated to the maintenance and repair of these facilities. If not, we urge the Department to call on Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to allocate any rollover of funds from the budgets of other government departments and parastatals for this purpose.

In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, the Department reported its findings on the conditional assessments of 58 old age homes run by non-profit organisations. It is part of the mandate of the Department to monitor the conditions of old age homes that receive departmental funding.

The assessment found that the majority of old age homes were in fair to good condition, but that the total cost to ensure all facilities were in excellent condition would be R339 671 623.79. It also calculated that the cost to eliminate immediate risks is R145 192 440.58.

The Department also undertook an assessment of high-risk issues at the facilities. Only 5 out of 58 facilities did not have any high-risk issues. A facility is labelled high-risk if the building and its occupants are endangered by non-compliance with occupational health and safety regulations or any other regulation governing a specific issue.

Although the Department has fulfilled part of its mandate by assessing these old age homes it does not have adequate funds to deal with the issues identified.

I have written to the Human Rights Commission to ask that they investigate whether the Department is potentially violating the human rights of the elderly through its inability to ensure that vulnerable people receive statutory services at an acceptable level of quality.

The Department must ensure that it budgets sufficient funds to ensure that all old age homes are in an excellent condition and that the health and lives of the elderly are not at risk.

Mike Waters, Shadow Minister of Social Development

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