Bud­getary con­straints af­fect so­cial wel­fare ser­vices

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Vin­cent Gono Gono Fea­tures Edi­tor

BUD­GETARY con­straints dog­ging the Gov­ern­ment have af­fected its com­mit­ment to foster equal op­por­tu­ni­ties to vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren that are housed in or­phan­ages that are strewn in towns and cities as well as other so­cial wel­fare ser­vices.

The Min­istry of Pub­lic Ser­vice, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare says it is work­ing round the clock to en­sure that the gap be­tween the vul­ner­a­ble and those that are liv­ing com­fort­ably is bridged by pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary sup­port even with the small purse at its dis­posal.

A num­ber of or­phan­ages and old peo­ple’s homes in the coun­try have not been spared the agony of the coun­try’s cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion that has seen the price of ba­sic com­modi­ties soar­ing be­yond the reach of many.

The sit­u­a­tion has not been helped ei­ther with a se­ri­ous donor fa­tigue seem­ingly crip­pling in liv­ing a so­cial mal­ady that needs a lot of State sup­port, which is ei­ther not forth­com­ing or comes in dribs and drabs as so­cial wel­fare it­self is heav­ily bur­dened.

Our Fea­tures Edi­tor, Vin­cent Gono (VG) talked to the Deputy Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Ser­vice, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare Cde Love­more Matuke (LM) on these is­sues and more. Ex­cerpts of the in­ter­view are below.

VG: Hon­ourable Matuke, what is the Gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion on as­sist­ing the vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren espe­cially in this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion where the coun­try is strug­gling with a lot of other ba­sics?

LM: We have been proac­tive in that area. We have pro­grammes as Beam (Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion As­sis­tance Model) that we are still pur­su­ing as part of ef­forts to en­sure the right to ed­u­ca­tion is guar­an­teed to every child. We have sup­ple­men­tary feed­ing in schools across the coun­try that we are run­ning to­gether with the Min­istry of Pri­mary and Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion. We will be vis­it­ing prov­ince by prov­ince the chil­dren and old peo­ple’s homes to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and see how best we can help. They are an im­por­tant con­stituency of our min­istry and have rights too.

VG: There have been some glitches with Beam, where there seem to be a num­ber of anom­alies and where pupils even on the pro­gramme ended up be­ing ex­pelled from school. Has that been re­solved?

LM: We have heard those re­ports but we are say­ing we need to re-look at the model and see how best those who are sup­posed to ben­e­fit do so with­out fac­ing prob­lems of be­ing ex­pelled. The prob­lem was with as­sess­ing the de­serv­ing chil­dren. We how­ever, urge schools not to ex­pel those whose school fees are paid by the Gov­ern­ment. Our big­gest chal­lenge is the re­lease of money for most of our so­cial wel­fare ser­vices by the Trea­sury. You are aware of the com­mit­ments and the chal­lenges that the coun­try is fac­ing so it’s not al­ways the case that we may have enough money to pay the fees. Our part­ners are also strug­gling but we are hop­ing things will get bet­ter. VG: The is­sue of food hand­outs and grants for the el­derly.

Are they still ex­ist­ing and how are they ac­cess­ing them? LM: Since 1980 peo­ple were re­ceiv­ing food hand­outs but that was not sus­tain­able. We then thought of long last­ing so­lu­tions and pro­grammes for the vul­ner­a­ble. We came up with house­hold projects such as com­mu­nity gar­dens with small ir­ri­ga­tion and even talk of the re­vival of the Zunde raMambo con­cept as part of the sus­tain­able so­lu­tions. But as I men­tioned be­fore, we don’t nor­mally get what we are sup­posed to get as a min­istry. Sec­tion 33 of our Con­sti­tu­tion if I am not wrong pro­vides for grants for old peo­ple but we have been lim­ited in dis­burs­ing these by bud­getary con­straints. We have also been fac­ing dis­burse­ment glitches where the money would end up in the wrong hands be­cause it was sent to them by means of phones. We are still look­ing at that and cre­at­ing a data­base so

that there are easy of fol­low ups even with our of­fi­cers.

VG: A lot of these pro­grammes are lim­ited to ru­ral ar­eas, giv­ing the false im­pres­sion that poverty and the vul­ner­a­ble are not found in towns and cities as well. What is be­ing done to close that gap and undo that no­tion?

LM: Thank you for that ques­tion. It is true that much of our pro­grammes were con­cen­trated in ru­ral ar­eas, much so be­cause that is where much of our pop­u­la­tion is but you are go­ing to see a change. Ur­ban ar­eas are go­ing to be part of the plan too. The Pres­i­dent gave us an or­der not to spare the ur­ban poor. There are al­most an equal num­ber of poor fam­i­lies in town to those in ru­ral ar­eas and there are peo­ple who are liv­ing in towns per­ma­nently so we are de­bunk­ing that mis­con­cep­tion that the poor who de­serve as­sis­tance are in ru­ral ar­eas.

VG: There has been an out­cry over the kind of ser­vices at or­phan­ages where ba­sic food­stuffs and cloth­ing have not been pro­vided. What is your re­sponse to that?

LM: Those re­ports may be true. A ma­jor­ity of or­phan­ages have not been re­ceiv­ing grants, some can­not even re­call the last time they got the money and have largely been de­pen­dent on the few donors that still have some­thing to spare. But over the last few years, Gov­ern­ment has been push­ing for all or­phan­ages in the coun­try to pro­vide fam­ily-style homes, with a small num­ber of chil­dren of var­i­ous ages liv­ing with a “mother” — a model that de­mands sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial sup­port which, un­for­tu­nately for the ma­jor­ity of chil­dren’s homes, has been dry­ing off.

VG: The other is­sue is that of pen­sion­ers. Are you aware of the kind of life they are liv­ing, it’s ac­tu­ally a pity as most of them no longer af­ford the ba­sics?

LM: The Gov­ern­ment is fully aware of the trou­bles they go through and we have started to en­gage with other line min­istries so that they do not spend time and money lin­ing for amounts that are far less than their bus fare. A de­ci­sion to in­crease their pen­sions is be­ing looked into and we hope very soon they will get some­thing. We are even look­ing at pay­ing them in time and we just hope things will be right in the econ­omy so that they en­joy the ben­e­fits of their labour.

Cde Love­more Matuke

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