July 23, 2024

Numerous non-profit organisations caring for people with disabilities are on the verge of shutting down due to delays with funding contracts caused by the Gauteng Department of Social Development. Archive photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

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Department of Social Development has not finalised contracts with organisations providing vital services

By Masego Mafata and Daniel Steyn

15 May 2024

  • Organisations providing essential services to Gauteng’s most vulnerable residents say they were promised funding contracts by the Gauteng Department of Social Development, but have not received them.
  • In previous years organisations would know the outcome of their funding applications before the financial year ends.
  • A month into the 2024/25 financial year, some organisations have been called by officials to say they will receive funding, but have not yet received their contracts.
  • The department says half of service-level agreements have been concluded and that its financial team is “working around the clock” to ensure payments are made.

Non-profit organisations caring for people with disabilities are on the verge of shutting down due to delays by the Gauteng Department of Social Development announcing the outcomes of funding allocations and providing funding contracts to successful applicants. This leaves many people living with disabilities at risk of being without homes and places of safety.

Several non-profit organisations that depend on the department’s subsidies have had to close or are facing closure due to subsidies not being paid and uncertainty over whether they will receive funds from the department.

Organisations usually know whether they are getting funding for the new financial year by February or March. But this year, organisations were told they will be informed of the outcome of their funding application by the end of March. Funding adjudication was only completed in the first week of April.

Many organisations still have not heard back from the department. The Gauteng Care Crisis Committee, a voluntary network of non-profit organisations, said in a media statement on Thursday that as of 7 May, only 70 service level agreements had been received by its members, who between them had submitted a total of 267 business plans to the department. “Not one organisation has been paid,” the committee said.

Some organisations have been called and told they will be funded but have still not received service level agreements. The Gauteng Care Crisis Committee says that 15 of its member organisations have not heard back from the department about their funding applications, and at least two organisations have had their business plans lost.

The committee estimates that the organisations receiving funding from the department employ about 285 people and serve over 30,000 people.

The department’s spokesperson Themba Gadebe told GroundUp that more than half the service-level agreements have been concluded and that the financial team “is working around the clock to ensure payments take place speedily”.

The management of the West Rand Association for Persons with Disabilities (WRAPD) does not know if the organisation will be able to continue after May.

“There are at least 14 residents at our facility who have no family to take them in, should we close our doors. We had to scramble to find money for food in April,” said Annalene Rossouw, the organisation’s managing director.

It provides 24-hour care for 37 people with disabilities and runs a protective workshop and outreach services for people living in and around Krugersdorp. The organisation previously resorted to selling some of their assets to keep their doors open, but Rossouw said there is nothing left to sell.

“Since the beginning of the new financial year in April, we haven’t received any feedback or money from the department. We struggled to pay salaries in April and we will not be able to pay any salaries or any other expenses at the end of May,” said Rossouw.

It was one of the organisations that received a call from the department saying they have been approved for funding and that they would receive a service level agreement by 9 April. Only recently did they receive service level agreements for three of their programmes, but no funds yet.

July Mathebula, manager at the House Otto Self-Help Centre for quadriplegics, based in Kempton Park, said they received a service level agreement but still no funds had been deposited into their account.

“We handed over the signed service level agreement on 17 April and were promised that the funds would be deposited soon after we handed in the form, but we are still waiting for the money,” said Mathebula.

The last time House Otto received subsidies was in January, which was meant to last until the end of March.

There are five residents at House Otto and four staff members. Mathebula said the five residents depend on disability grants, which some use to pay boarding fees at House Otto. He said the boarding fees only cover a fraction of the organisation’s expenses.

“I had to pay staff members only half of their salaries in March. I wasn’t able to pay them in April, and we haven’t been able to buy food. People have been borrowing money where they can so we can at least buy food and eat. We just want to know when the money will come because we are suffering right now,” said Mathebula.

Mathebula, who is also living with a disability, has been a resident at House Otto for 16 years. He said the residents would have nowhere else to go should the organisation close its doors.

Similarly, Epilepsy Gauteng has signed a service level agreement for their residential and social work programmes but no funds have been deposited into their account.

“We couldn’t pay staff at the end of April. They are dedicated people so they have continued to work, but they are being hugely impacted by the delays in funding allocations because they have expenses and families to look after,” said Epilepsy Gauteng director Aileen Langley.

Collins Thobejane, workshop manager at Epilepsy Gauteng, says that he hopes a “Good Samaritan” will come to the rescue. “Our workshops are for people in the community who cannot work in ordinary job settings because of their disability,” said Thobejane.

“It’s also an opportunity for people who live alone to be occupied and safe during the day. People living with disabilities living alone are especially vulnerable to crime.”

Xolani Folothi is a beneficiary of the Gauteng Provincial Association for Persons with Disabilities (GPADP), another organisation facing closure. The 36-year-old Orange Farm resident said the association’s capacity building workshops have been useful for people living with disabilities, as they often struggle to find employment otherwise.

“We can see the difference these kinds of programmes make in our lives. Already, our voices as people with disabilities are not taken seriously, so the social workers at GPADP amplify our voices and help us get the services that we need in our clinics and our communities in general.

“GPADP also offers support groups for parents and caregivers of people living with disabilities which are really important because they can’t access that support elsewhere,” said Folothi.

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