Casual Day funds research on children with disabilities

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“Child disability is a neglected and serious national problem, yet the scale of the problem is not documented and hence not represented on a policy and services level,” says Therina Wentzel, National Director of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA).

With a view to gathering hard facts with which to lobby government, the NCPPDSA initiated an investigation into the status quo of children with disabilities in day care centres in South Africa. The findings unearthed educational exclusion and sub-standard care.

There is a dearth of funding for research, which is why South Africa lacks comprehensive statistics on persons with disabilities. Casual Day funding was deployed to do a survey, the findings of which were released in January 2013.

The investigation was prompted by a 2011 court case judgment handed down by the Western Cape High Court (Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability v Government of South Africa and Government of the Western Cape), after which the Department of Basic Education released a report (at the end of July 2012) to develop a framework for the provision of services to children with severe and profound intellectual disability.

While this resulted in many pilot initiatives, it did not cover all children with disabilities, says Wentzel. A lot of children with physical disabilities still fall through the cracks of the South African education system, whilst many policies and programmes exclude disability-appropriate intervention strategies and do not adequately regard the special needs of these children.

The findings of the research revealed that of 67 care centres surveyed, with just under 3000 children, more than two thirds (68.8%) of the children cared for by these centres were older than the school going age of six years old. 40 of the 67 care centres, surveyed across the country, were in rural towns, townships and communities where poverty is rife.

Physical conditions at the majority of these poverty-stricken centres were found to be cold, bare, sometimes unhygienic, overcrowded and unstimulating. 41 of these centres (61%) were government-subsidised, mostly by the Department of Social Development, or the social development section in provinces where Social Development and Health form one department.

In contrast, 39% received no form of government support whatsoever. Overwhelmingly, the nature of government support to the 41 centres was a subsidy per child per attendance day, averaging a mere R353 per child per month. And only one of the 67 centres surveyed received any support from the Department of Basic Education.

The research found that a third of these centres survived on less than R10 000 per month. Says Wentzel, “It is quite clear from the above that it is much more than a right to a basic education, but of general neglect and inadequate care with a dismally poor response by government to attune itself to the conditions of these children and respond appropriately with resources and services.”

Indications are that not much has changed since the research was done and the NCPPDSA continues to use Casual Day funding to do its work of lobbying for the rights of children with disabilities to an education and to be included in the South African school system. South Africa has an obligation under the Constitution as well as national policy and legislation to care for each and every child equally. This is also stated in international law as well as the UN Convention on Persons with Disabilities and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Around 500 organisations providing services to persons with disabilities, about 300 of which specifically provide education, shelter, assistive devices and transport to children with disabilities, raise funds for their organisations through Casual Day.

NCPPDSA is active in all communities in nine provinces through the Associations for Persons with Disabilities. Furthermore, Casual Day’s other beneficiaries also cater to the needs of children.

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About the Author

Andrea Vinassa

Andrea Vinassa

For more information, photographs and publicity material call Andrea Vinassa / Media co-ordinator for Casual Day Cell: 079 089 9835 Landline Cape Town: 021 790 6698 \ Landline Edenvale: 011 609 7006 Email address: andrea.flashpoint@gmail.com

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