Suffer the little children- MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s cuts hit abused youths

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Child Welfare East London ceased operations on Monday due to drastic state budget cuts.

This week the organisation was forced to retrench all 12 full-time social workers after the provincial social development department cut its annual budget from R2.2-million in the last financial year to just R235000 from April 1.

ALL LOCKED UP: One of the houses of safety in Southernwood that has been closed due to lack of funding from the social development department Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA

The NPO celebrated its 100th year last year and is a lifeline in more than 3000 cases of child abuse and rape victims from 23 service areas in the Buffalo City Metro.

Yesterday, the CWEL board of directors was locked in a meeting with senior labour department officials to find an organogram to accommodate the financial cuts.

One of the casualties of the closure, social worker Sibusiso Sikrenya, 29, of Southernwood in East London, said their retrenchment did not only mean losing their jobs and income, but, in his caseload alone, 900 abused children under his care would no longer get his support.

Sikrenya’s pay supported four people.

“I also have car payments that I must make at the end of the month.

“I don’t know where I will get that money now that I have been retrenched,” Sikrenya said.

“We had tried to engage the social development department on the cuts before they were effected but we never got any response.

“We receive no support from them.”

Hundreds of families who used to receive relief from physical abuse and psychological support from the centre will now be turned away as it battles to manage its new financial position.

Sister newspaper Daily Dispatch visited the offices and saw three women standing outside the locked gates.

The centre has been locked since last Thursday when the 12 social workers were retrenched.

Nosipho Gontshi said she had handed over to the centre three children whose ages range from four to eight.

They lost their mother two years ago after a stray bullet struck her in a gang-related attack in Ziphunzana.

Gontshi said she was at a very advanced stage in accessing foster care grant through the assistance of CWEL. It was after years of trying to get help from the department of social development that she was referred to Child Welfare and only now did she have hope that she would be able to access some assistance from the department.

“I don’t know what to do now because this was my last hope.”

Another woman at the gate said she was from Vergenoeg where three children were left with their father and another suffered multiple instances of rape.

The three children were taken to safe homes by the centre but had to be brought back closer to East London, while the centre was in the process of getting them birth certificates.

Two weeks ago, CWEL director Tracia Haywood confirmed to the Dispatch that the centre was facing a dire funds shortage along with several other NPOs across the province.

They included Sanca Eastern Cape, which handles around 1500 cases of drug and alcohol abuse a year, as well as the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society.

The Nelson Mandela Metro-based society has already received communication to the effect that its funds would be cut by the social development head office in Bhisho.

The Dispatch reported on the plight of these centres two weeks ago. The report confirmed that the PE Mental Health Society’s budget has been slashed from R2.5-million to R1.09-million.

The department’s reviewed organogram for this year reveals that the society will be forced to retrench four of its eight full-time social workers and three of its chief social workers.

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