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The Western Cape Department of Social Development (DSD) along with the rest of South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month annually between 3 November and 3 December.

For the 2019/2020 financial year, DSD has committed R 160.9 million for programmes and initiatives for people with disabilities across the province. In 2009/10 financial year , the budget was a mere R 50. 85 million, compared to R 160, 9 million budgeted for the current financial year. Between 2014 and the end of March 2019, the Department increased the access of ‘persons with disabilities ‘ and their care givers/ parents and families to specialised support services from 55 323 to 99 800.

The current budget allocation has enabled DSD to provide funding for more than 220 Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) which includes, residential care facilities for adults and children with disabilities, day-care centres for both children and adults with disabilities, protective workshops and social service organisations.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities does not attempt to define disability per se but rather recognises disability as an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between the persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

There is no single definition of disability that has achieved consensus , however, all rights based definitions share common elements which include:

i) presence of impairment,

ii) internal and external limitations or barriers that hinder full and equal participation

iii) Loss or lack of access to opportunities due to environmental barriers and/or negative perceptions and attitudes of society

Minister Fernandez says, “ We are committed to the vision of the creation of a free and just society inclusive of all persons with disabilities as equal citizens. At present, our Department provides developmental social welfare services to people with disabilities, their families and/ or caregivers and continues to grow services to people with disabilities, including services to people with moderate and high support needs (severe and profound) intellectual and physical disabilities.”

Generally, there is little statistical information and virtually no baseline data on the prevalence of disability and/or on the quality of life of persons with disabilities prior to 1994, and even for the first term of democratic governance in South Africa. Some basic data was collected after 1999 by different government departments in relation to their specific areas of work. For example, the National Department of Social Development (DSD) has data related to the provision of disability grants and the Department of Labour has data related to the employment of persons with disabilities because of the Employment Equity reports that are submitted to them. Clearly, the centralized collection and dissemination of disability specific data and information is an area that must be prioritised, not only by government but by the disability sector.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a Social Development Specific Disability Act’. Instead, there’s a White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which was approved by the Cabinet on the 9th of December 2015, for public information,” says Minister Fernandez.

The department funds a few ECDs that have managed to mainstream children with disabilities . Through the Department of Social Development Disability Mainstreaming Strategy , Department continues advocating, striving for and ensuring that the disability element is inherent in every programme or project and persons with disabilities are included as one of the beneficiaries or target group.

The Department is also working in partnership with the NGO sector on:

Advocacy on access to services:
Shift on Policy Development: issues of disability being recognised and taken into account; and
Progress made on availability of Mainstream ECDs and access of services in Special Day Care Centres.

Some recent achievements of the services to Persons with Disabilities Programme include:

The approval of the disability mainstreaming strategy;
The training of social workers on Mental Disability and a Uniform Referral Pathway for holistic assessment and appropriate referral of persons with disabilities;
The establishment of Parent support structures in partnership with the Disabled Children Action Group (a NPO run and managed by the parents of children with disabilities), and some local municipalities;
The expansion of Peer Support Programme services in across the Province; and
Capacity building on norms and standards and improved monitoring and reporting process has resulted in increased NPO compliance.

DSD remains committed to working with all our partners to expand our services and achieve our vision.

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