060809. Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza addresses the house before Gauteng Premier Nomvula Makonyane tables her budget vote at the Gauteng Legislature in Johannesburg. 919 Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - The Gauteng provincial government has employed fewer than 750 social workers to look after more than a million children who survive on social and foster care grants.

This was revealed by Gauteng MEC for Agriculture, Rural and Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza in reply to questions by the DA’s Hendrika Kruger.

Mayathula-Khoza said her department employs a total of 737 social workers - up from last year’s 365.

She said the social workers’ duties are to look after children, the elderly and the sick and to attend to other social needs of the communities in all regions of Gauteng.

Social workers from NGOs said some colleagues had been attracted to government service because they were offered car allowances, lucrative salaries and bonuses.

Some government social workers, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, said they had heavy workloads and the shortage of social workers was forcing them not to follow statutory social work duties.

Kruger was shocked by the low number of social workers.

“If 1.3 million kids receive a grant of some sort, it would mean these kids would need social workers to oversee their well-being even if it is only once a year.

“It is also worrying that only one in every three kids receives a grant. It means that 737 social workers can only handle 74 000 kids at most. What then about the rest? What about the aged and disabled?” Kruger asked.

She said social workers were providing a critical service to those they assist and it was unacceptable that there were so few in the province

.

Mayathula-Khoza said no social workers were doing speciality work, and child protection social workers rendered generic social-work services.

Kruger asked Mayathula-Khoza how many children aged between 0 and 18 lived in Gauteng, how many needed social assistance and how many were getting assistance.

Mayathula-Khoza said that according to the statistics from Census 2011, the province had 3 614 397 children in the 0 to 18 category.

She said her department had received 14 248 new applicants for social assistance for children but said more than a million were already receiving social grants.

Mayathula-Khoza said the budget for social issues for children was R943 million last year.

She is expected to table a new budget of R1 billion in the Gauteng provincial legislature on Friday.

Department spokesman Sello Mokoena said there were plans to hire 116 new social workers next year and an additional 107 in 2015.

The Star