Editorial | Payments must be given urgent priority

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The pressing necessity of the work being done to protect at-risk children by numerous non-government organisations in the Eastern Cape cannot be overemphasised.
It involves thousands of vulnerable youngsters who are found to be in dangerous and abusive circumstances – in both urban and rural areas – and requires money to pay for travel costs and the salaries of hard-working caregivers.
But many organisations complain of not having received their subsidies from the department of social development for between three and six months – a perilous situation for them which could well force some to curtail their work or cease functioning altogether.
But what is even more troubling is the lack of communication from the department as to why there are delays with the grants.
Admittedly, the department has had its fair share of hiccups in the past few months – teething problems with a new payment system and then a gas leak at its head office in February which caused battery acid to damage NGO subsidy files.
These, however, do not appear to be insurmountable obstacles – and surely if there are still complications, it is incumbent on officials to at least keep the child and youth service groups fully abreast of what is going on, and provide a timeframe as to when they can fix it.
While department head Ntombi Baart has indicated it is busy with contingency plans to fast-track the process of keeping payments up to date, these measures need to gather far more impetus.
Given how critical the needs are for a group like Uviwe – which runs a programme for more than 1,000 children in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas and has been waiting for money for six months – there should be far more efficient fallback arrangements to provide emergency funding.
If organisations are forced to close, the responsibility for cases handled by their social workers would revert to Bhisho so it just doesn’t make any sense for the department not to do all in its power to keep these crucial NGOs afloat.

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