The Children’s Act – Time to redress the imbalance
Youth Day, on 16 June, is always a celebration of our country’s most precious jewels, our children. The Children’s Act (Act 38 of 2005) is the only legislation available to ensure for the care and protection of our children, who are naturally society’s most vulnerable group.
However, children with disabilities are even more exposed and certainly the most deprived group of children, not only in South Africa, but in the world too. This is an atrocious state of affairs. Although there are mentions made in the Act of children with disabilities, these are brief and inadequate, and hardly in line with the magnitude of their vulnerability. This is why so often, children with disabilities are denied their rights and fall through the cracks when it comes to proper healthcare, early childhood development and education. Sadly, they often remain in this disadvantaged position their entire lives.
Various sections of the Children’s Act make provision for the Minister of Social Development to develop national strategies for certain children’s categories, such as child protection, subsidies for child and youth care centres, and drop-in centres, among others. Although the care for children with disabilities falls within these categories, no dedicated ministerial strategy is in place for this specific youth group. This creates a major problem since without a national strategy for the inclusion of children with disabilities, the country will simply not be able to place the spotlight on this group’s heightened vulnerability and further marginalisation.
According to André Kalis, Specialist: Advocacy, Policy and Children’s Matters at the National Council of & for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), “As is stands, it is within the Minister’s power to create an appropriate strategy outside the Children’s Act. However, without a direct mandate highlighted in the Act, the Minister is not legally obligated to do so. Why this has not yet happened is troubling. The NCPD therefore calls on the Minister to make provision within the Act to develop a national strategy for the inclusion of our children with disabilities.”
An unfortunate oversight in the Act relates to children with disabilities’ access to education. In South Africa, an overwhelming number of children with disabilities of school-going age (between 500 000 and 600 000) don’t have access to schools. Likewise, younger children in the age group zero to six are not absorbed into early childhood development facilities and programmes. “The question remains: how are these children cared for? Who are their carers? What is the quality of their care? What, if any, educational, developmental and stimulation input do they receive? Anecdotal evidence suggests that these children in general are simply languishing at home, deprived of early childhood development as well as any formal learning”, says Kalis.
The inadequate provision for children with disabilities by the Children’s Act is further illustrated. At a recent meeting of the National Child Care and Protection Forum, the Department of Social Development presented a report on progress made relating to the implementation of the Children’s Act. In the report, various child protection fields and categories of children (such as street children and child labour) were reported on, but nothing whatsoever was said about children with disabilities. This serves as confirmation that on a governmental level, children with disabilities do in fact fall through the cracks of the country’s childcare and protection system.
Without the regulation of strategies that specifically relate to children with disabilities, the Children’s Act remains toothless and ineffective. It leaves organisations, such as the NCPD, with little legal recourse in order to take appropriate steps against the government in their failure to protect children with disabilities.
Kalis adds, “25 years into our democracy, we have reached a point where the Children’s Act still does not reflect the desired progress regarding the integration of children with disabilities into society, and how their rights are legislatively ensconced.”
“The development of an inclusive national strategy for our children with disabilities is crucial to their livelihood. Without it, these children will continue to be robbed of their rights, while suffering on the fringes of society,” concludes Kalis.
Book Launch : Lyrix by 2J Harmonix
Rehabilitation International wheelchair donation
Rehabilitation International kindly donated 10 motorised wheelchairs to us via the Disabled Person’s Federation in China. One of the wheelchairs were handed over to us at the Chinese Embassy last week.
Pictured below LtoR: David Matlakala (NCPD), Mr BIAN Ge, Danie Marais (NCPD) and FU Yangyang (Chinese Embassy).
Pictured left : Bonisile Ntombela (Phumula) of Germiston
Betjie Scippers is a 60 year old lady from Matjieskloof Springbok. She has been unable to move out of her home for several months as she did not have a mobility aid and all applications for assistance were unsuccessful. Thankfully, Vedanta Zinc International rose to the challenge and gave Betjie her own wheelchair!
Betje is pictured above with Brunhild Strauss (NCPD Northern Cape)
Tune into Radio Sonder Grense every Sunday evening at 17H30 to learn more about disability and the way in which it affects individuals and their families. We will be dealing with the following topics during July –
7 July : Challenges of older persons with disabilities
14 July : Impact of dementia on older persons & their families
21 July : Impact of depression on older persons
28 July : The role of technology in the life of a person with a disability
Can I return to work post-disability?
We recently received this interesting information after following up on a query from a man who wants to return to his employment, even though he is a long-haul driver and he now has a below-knee prosthesis.
In terms of returning to driving trucks, there is no legislation that limits one from driving trucks with a below knee prosthesis, but the individual will be required to be re-tested in a truck by a licencing examiner to ensure that they have sufficient control of the vehicle while driving. They will also need to change their licence to reflect the fact that they drive with a prosthetic leg.
Having said that, it is not everyone that can drive again using a prosthetic leg as it depends on many factors. The lower the amputation the better one’s chances as adequate proprioceptive feedback from the residual stump is needed, to know where the foot is and how hard one is pressing on the pedals. It all comes down to how comfortable the individual is using the prosthesis.
It may take a couple of years for an individual to adapt and learn to understand their prosthesis well enough to be able to drive with it.
Ultimately, it will be a matter of negotiation with the employer as to what type and size of vehicle the individual drove previously, the level of amputation and the type of prosthesis, whether the employer has instructors on-hand to help with re-training, and their willingness to subject their vehicles to possible risk for an individual who is learning to drive again.
AAC and Disasters : Are you ready?
This webinar focuses on actions and resources key to disaster preparation, response, relief and recovery. A family’s perspective will be highlighted and the importance of planning, as well as staying flexible, will be discussed. Also under discussion is long-term recovery issues and the emotional toll disasters inflict on those impacted.
Date : 19 September 2019
Time : 19H00 – 20H00 ET (01H00 – 02H00 SA time)
White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- The content of the White Paper and its implications;
- Concepts like impairment and disability;
- How staff with impairments may be reasonably accommodated
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