Each day, children across South Africa come into contact with a number of people and organisations, some of which are meant to protect them. These include – among others – schools, school transportation operators, hospitals, child care centres and religious organisations.
Given the unacceptably high levels of child abuse, neglect and exploitation in South Africa, suitability checks for persons working with, or having access to, children is crucial as a preventative measure in the child protection system.
As we commemorate Child Protection Week, the Department of Social Development calls upon all employers throughout South Africa whose employees’ job responsibilities require them to work with, or have access to, children to verify their suitability to work with children against the Child Protection Register (CPR).
The purpose of the CPR is to ensure that children are protected from abuse. Employers or potential employers are encouraged to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of child abuse, neglect and exploitation.
In terms of Section 126 of the Children’s Act (Act No. of 38 of 2005), all organisations working with, or having access to, children are required to assess and verify the suitability of their employees and potential employees.
It is also the responsibility of parents to ensure that those entrusted with the care of their children such as child minders and early childhood development practitioners, including volunteers in childcare facilities are suitable to work with children. This will ensure that the right people are chosen to work with children.
Section 111 of the Children’s Act (Act No. 38 of 2005) mandates the Department of Social Development to keep and maintain a Child Protection Register.
The Child Protection Register consists of Part A and Part B.
Part A is used to record all reports of abuse or deliberate neglect of a child while Part B keeps details of persons declared unsuitable to work with children.
To date, there are 9 153 reported cases of child abuse, neglect and exploitation on Part A of the Child Protection Register. The register has 509 names of persons declared unsuitable to work with children. As of the end of March this year, the Department had received 140 029 suitability check enquiries from employers and individuals.
As part of this year’s Child Protection Week programme, the Department conducted parent- learner dialogues in Orange Farm, Gauteng Province. Issues raised include children’s concerns about their own safety in the community, bullying, sexual abuse, child abandonment, child neglect, child trafficking and teenage pregnancy. Working together with the local stakeholders, including community based organisations and provincial departments, a community-based plan will be developed to address child protection issues in the area.
The children also handed over to the Minister the first ever South African Children’s Manifesto which serves as a guide for the 6th administration. – Department of Social Development