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Dark cloud looms over NPOs

This year sees yet more panic as the programme manager for Springs and Kwa-Thema Welfare Society, Sanet van Moerkerken, explains the dire situation and what it could mean for them.

It now seems NPOs are in for another funding battle as they wait yet again to hear of their fate. Last year saw organisations fearing closure as the Department of Social Development (DSD) said they would cut all funding.

Later, the DSD renewed the funding and life returned to normal.

This year sees yet more panic as the programme manager for Springs and Kwa-Thema Welfare Society, Sanet van Moerkerken, explains the dire situation and what it could mean for them.

“In November, we were given two weeks to submit documents the department needed for us to get funding for another year.”

These documents included a business plan, proof of signatories from their bank, the identities of their board of directors and police clearance certificates, among others.

Van Moerkerken said they were told that a panel would be appointed to assess the validity of their documentation, but they have been waiting ever since.

“Our cut-off date for the submissions was November 20, and since then, there has been silence.”

Van Moerkerken says she cannot speak for the other organisations, but in the NPO group chats, it is said that nobody has seen or signed the new service level agreements (SLAs) for 2024.

“This creates worry because you can’t get the funds without signing the agreement.”

She adds this contributes immensely to the worries of not just herself but her employees.

“We don’t have money left because we have begun digging into our savings, and the social workers I employ have families to feed. They do so much and to be treated like this makes them feel devalued and unmotivated.”

Van Moerkerken says the organisation can’t take in any new cases.

“We have about 900 active cases and can only do so much. We have also been instructed not to take any new cases until the issue is resolved or there is some answer given to us.”

She says all cases henceforth will have to be referred to the DSD because it’s out of their hands. The Springs and Kwa-Thema Welfare offices will only open twice a week.

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“Residents should not think we do not want to work; we are just trying to save on resources.”

This is a personal matter for Van Moerkerken as she has been a social worker for a long time.

“I have been in the service for 33 years and this organisation has been running for 110 years. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a social worker.”

She laments the domino effect this could cause if they don’t receive their funding.

“We work with children, adults and the elderly. People’s lives are at stake. I didn’t want to say anything, but it is time the community is made aware of what is happening.”

Springs and Kwa-Thema Welfare Society will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 08:00 to 16:00. For information on how to donate to the organisation, email Van Moerkerken on cwsasprings@gmail.com

The response
“The department reiterates its call for calm as work to conclude the signing of SLAs is underway. The department is confident of the cordial partnership with NPOs to efficiently deliver the most essential services to the vulnerable in the province,” says the departmental head of communications at the DSD, Motsamai Motlhaolwa.

There is hope
Impumelelo, a home for quadriplegic residents in Pollak Park, has confirmed a departmental visit and the signing of their SLA. Chairperson of the organisation, Joseph Machweu, says things are a little different this year.

“We usually sign the SLA in January or February, but things were different this year. We were struggling and didn’t have money to pay people’s salaries, but we hope we will get the money before this month ends.

“They came, we read through the documents, and signed the SLA.”

Established in 2003, the centre houses seven quadriplegic persons who are receiving assistance from 10 staff members. The signing of the SLA guarantees financial aid for the optimal operation of the centre and secures the employment of staff members.

“We are relieved, we are going to plan for the next 12 months. We are in a good space of mind, and we are grateful for the continued support from the Gauteng Department of Social Development,” he said.

Accepting the SLA on behalf of the chairperson Machweu, Ntokozo Mahlangu, the centre’s administrator, said the SLA brought relief to the organisation.

“Now that we have received the SLA, we feel very relieved that our care for the wellbeing of the quadriplegic beneficiaries will continue and our workers will receive their salaries. It is a beautiful day,” he said.

Over 1 732 applications were received collectively tallying an amount of over R11.4b in financial requests – an amount far greater than the department’s overall budget of R5.5b.

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