Mangaung – In Free State, the Portfolio Committee on Social Development has concluded a series of public hearings on the Older Persons Amendment Bill [11-2022], with Mangaung’s elderly residents expressing support for the legislation. Particularly, they backed the move to broaden the definition of abuse as outlined in the Bill’s clause 8.
According to Parliament of South Africa, the Act will redefine physical abuse to include acts or threats of violence, unlawful detention, inappropriate medical sedation, shackling, and the deprivation of nutrition or medical care. It also encompasses neglect and any form of exploitation against an older individual. This expansion is seen by the elders as a significant step toward bolstering efforts to prevent and address elder abuse.
The hearings also highlighted strong approval for the Bill’s clause 15, which details the procedures for relocating abused older individuals to temporary safe care without requiring a court order. This amendment was particularly favored for its potential to expedite the removal of abused elders from harmful environments and to address the issue of underreporting in abuse cases.
Elders at the hearings in Welkom agreed on the necessity for government departments to refine their services to give priority to the elderly. There was a consensus that current efforts are insufficient in providing preferential treatment to older citizens. Additionally, calls were made for clear definitions of roles and accountability for both state organs and stakeholders involved in delivering services to the elderly population.
Some attendees also stressed the importance of better informational outreach to ensure that caregivers and service providers are well-informed about the rights of the elderly.
Despite the general support for the Bill, participants voiced several concerns about the broader challenges facing the elderly, including the need for better understanding of the South African Social Services Agency’s (SASSA) Grant in Aid. They also criticized the policy that reduces SASSA grants for pensioners married to current or former civil servants, labeling it as discriminatory and urging a review.
The Chairperson of the committee, Ms. Nonkosi Mvana, acknowledged the elders’ contributions to the legislative process, emphasizing the value of the input from Free State residents in strengthening the Bill. She assured that service delivery-related issues raised during the hearings would be directed to the appropriate authorities and expressed satisfaction that the hearings met the constitutional standard for meaningful public participation.
Future public hearings for the Bill are scheduled in North West and Western Cape, with dates and details to be announced in the coming period.