Vulnerable children desperate for help may find themselves with no one to talk to as Childline Eastern Cape faces having its telephone lines cut.
The non-profit organisation (NPO), with its main office in East London and satellite offices in Libode and Mthatha, receives about 800 calls a day on its crisis helpline.
Counsellors are asked to counsel traumatised rape victims and abused children.
But last Friday, Telkom gave the NPO seven days to settle its bill, or its lines would be suspended.
The centre is experiencing a serious cash flow crisis and has also been unable to pay the August rental for all its offices.
Its woes started in April when the provincial department of social development slashed its budget, which plunged a number of NPOs into a financial crisis.
Childline’s annual budget was slashed from R905 502 last year to a mere R253 000 this year.
It was only after the Dispatch reported on the crisis that social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi announced a rescue plan of R6.7-million for all affected organisations, including Childline.
At the time, provincial police spokesman Captain Khaya Thonjeni confirmed that their Thuthuzela centres at Grey and Cecilia Makiwane hospitals relied solely on Childline for support.
As part of this rescue plan, Childline director Asha Abrahams said the department promised to add R401 000 more in July, but the funds had yet to be deposited.
As a result, Childline owes its creditors thousands, including the R2 500 telephone bill, as well as R170 00 for August rent.
Abrahams told the Daily Dispatch they had been struggling to make ends meet since March.
She said the department was meant to have given them their grant by April, but the budget adjustments had meant rent payments were delayed and there were defaults.
“After we met the [social development] portfolio committee and were given service level agreements, we thought we would have some relief, but to this day no money has reached our organisation,” she said.
Department spokesman Mzukisi Solani said Childline had itself to blame because its managers had failed to submit all the required information on time in order to get the cash that the department’s head, Ntombi Baart, had promised.
Baart had made the promise when she tabled the rescue plan in July.
This followed a Dispatch exposé on the possible shutting down of some of the centres and retrenchment of staff.
NPOs affected included East London Child Welfare, Childline, Christelike-Maatskaplike Raad (CMR) in King William’s Town, and Uviwe Child and Youth Centre in Port Elizabeth.
The adjustments would see CMR receive R1.2-million more, East London Child Welfare an extra R1.3-million, Childline R401 000, Uviwe R1.3-million and CMR (PE) R1.9-million.
“Childline initially refused to sign the service level agreement (SLA). On August 13, they signed but we were unable to scan the SLA due to an outstanding signature and it was submitted back to them.
“It was re-submitted on September 4. We requested a current bank statement, but Childline only submitted it on September 7,” said Solani.
He said the money would be processed on Thursday.
Telkom spokesman Themba Khumalo could not be contacted for comment.