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Social Welfare Policy fails

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South Africa’s children at risk

Following an article, “Shock figures shows crippled youth”, on the breakdown of family life in South Africa, which appeared in the Cape Times on 5 April 2011, NICRO (National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders) has expressed grave concern about the effects of unstable families and child-headed households on children and young people.

South Africa should not be complacent about and accept child-headed households as the norm. Children are not emotionally, physically, socially or financially equipped to take on the responsibility of heading up a household and caring for a family, NICRO cautioned. The state and civil society are accountable for and have an obligation to provide alternative sources of care and support for such children. South Africa should not leave its children to fend for themselves.

“While we have made remarkable progress in ensuring that the rights of our children are protected and firmly entrenched, we have nevertheless abandoned these children and abdicated our responsibilities of providing them with appropriate care in the absence of parents or other caregivers,” says NICRO.

Growing evidence suggests juvenile crime is on the increase and that perpetrators are becoming younger. It would also appear that offences committed by South Africa’s youth are becoming increasingly more violent. The SA Institute of Race Relations report released on 4 April 2011 reveals that a third of young people are of the opinion it is acceptable to attack somebody physically who has assaulted them. It has also been found that violence within families and communities is a major contributing factor to juvenile crime.

Says NICRO: “Our children and young people are a prized possession of the nation. Without them there can be no future, yet their needs are immense and urgent. It is of crucial importance that the proper policies and services are established and set in place to protect, care for and offer appropriate support to children without parents or caregivers. Child-headed households should not be allowed to exist in our communities. Furthermore, we need to collaborate and focus more pointedly on preventing juvenile crime and ensuring that it does not continue to escalate and contribute towards the unravelling of the social fabric of society.”

Established a century ago in 1910, NICRO is dedicated to seeking lasting solutions to combating crime and creating safe, peaceful, prosperous communities. Juvenile crime is a particular focus of NICRO’s work and the organisation specifically targets young offenders as well as children and young people at risk of transgressing the law to reduce youth crime and create a new generation of law-abiding citizens.

NICRO’s parenting skills programme equips parents and caregivers with the skills and knowledge to support and empower their children to deal effectively with high risk situations. The organisation also offers a wide range of tried and tested developmental and therapeutic interventions for juvenile offenders, which involve life-changing programmes that have a significant and measurable impact on reducing crime.

“We can no longer ignore the finding that more than a third of South Africa’s prison population is younger than 25. If we are intent on safeguarding our children, our communities and the future of our country, it is imperative that the state, civil society and South Africans begin to collaborate more effectively and unite to fight juvenile crime while, simultaneously, protecting and supporting children without parents and caregivers,” the NICRO statement read.

[18 May 2011]

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