Residents who can’t afford to pay their municipal accounts and are registered on the city’s rebates database will be recruited to work in the city’s expanded public works programmes.
It’s one of the ways the city hopes to change the dynamics of poverty.
Beverley Cortje-Alcock, the mayoral committee member for social and early childhood development, said the directorate would focus on helping poorer residents become more independent.
The city would tap into its rates rebate register.
“People are hungry, battling to pay their accounts. We’ve addressed that in one way, with the indigent grant, and they’re getting the rebates. But the city doesn’t want people to be on the indigent register for the rest of their days.”
Cortje-Alcock said targeting this database was a step towards people becoming financially independent.
“Then there’s a build-up of skills, you become more marketable. And can start to really enter employment.”
Another priority of the directorate would be rooting out misdirected drug-awareness programmes, which actually led to children experimenting with substances.
It would also concentrate on reaching children involved in drug abuse. In one recent case, Cortje-Alcock said, an eight-year-old was found to be using tik. The child is being treated at one of the out-patient Matrix clinics.
To deal with problems like this, the directorate hopes to have field workers in each of the city’s 111 wards in the next year.
Cortje-Alcock warned that some misdirected programmes were causing more harm than good.
“More and more primary school principals are approaching our partners, finding there is a serious need. Suddenly kids are wanting to experiment.
“They are being given information that is titillating rather than frightening. And that is worrying.”
There would also be joint programmes looking at keeping young children in school. There would also be a drive to encourage those who had dropped out to return. If returning to school was not possible, young people would be placed in skills training. Some of the ideas included courses in welding or training as an electrician.
Cortje-Alcock said the city was also working towards helping unregistered crèches in informal and previously disadvantaged areas to meet the requirements.
“We’re looking at the Children’s Act and our own laws, trying to find ways of making concessions where necessary.
“It’s to remove those obstacles that are hindering those kids in the Wendy house, in the container, so they can also access and benefit from programmes and funding from the provincial government.”
Closing unregistered crèches failed to resolve the bigger problem. “Local government needs to enable people to come to a place of compliance.
“While we’re fighting about whether a crèche is registered or not, there are still children going there every day. And when someone closes one down, another is going to open in a backyard around the corner.”
The city would be working with the Human Sciences Research Council, which had just finished a study mapping early childhood learning facilities.
Last month, the directorate piloted its project assisting street people. Cortje-Alcock said many of those involved had entered rehabilitation programmes.
She appealed to residents and tourists to give responsibly and urged that donations be given to organisations working with street people, instead of individuals.