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Department of Social Development Funding to Shelters for Abused Women is Inadequate

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report on shelters for abused women
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Cover of the Report

South Africa’s Domestic Violence Act places an obligation on members of the South African Police Service to provide specified services to victims of domestic violence. These services include referring and transferring women to shelters. The Act is, however, silent on whose statutory duty it is to provide and fund those shelters. Shelter services do however fall under the broader ambit of the national government's Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP) which is primarily led by the Department of Social Development (DSD).

On the 24th of June 2013, 63 civil society organizations, government officials, parliamentary researchers and academics attended the launch of the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre’s (TLAC) shadow report on shelter policy, funding and practice. The report analyses the implementation of Government policy; the extent of funding available to shelters from DSD and an assessment of whether this is adequate in relation to the operational expenditure of shelters. The report profiles three shelters in the Western Cape Province namely, Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children (SBC), Sisters Incorporated and St. Anne’s Homes, who unlike the shelters in the first report produced on shelter services in Gauteng, opted not to remain anonymous.

Some of the findings of the report include:

  • For the 2011/2012 financial year, less than 1% of the overall DSD budget of R1.3 billion was transferred to VEP’s; shelters received just over a third of the VEP allocation;
  • The shelters received a subsidy from DSD of under R30 per woman and child per day;
  • Only two of the three shelters received a subsidy towards a portion of the social workers salary;
  • Only 48 % of St. Anne’s Home’s and 1/3rd of Sisters Incorporated operational expenses were covered by DSD’s grant
  • By January 2012, SBC only had 3 months of funding remaining. Significant retrenchments and a restructuring of the organization; including a massive media appeal was required to allow the organization to remain in operation
  • The majority of women seeking reprieve from domestic violence at shelters had minimal education (only 32% had attained matric); were unemployed (only 33% of women were employed); had limited, if any, source of income; and had significant health and legal needs
  • Shelters need to cater for the practical needs of women and their children (e.g. food, school-related costs, transport, healthcare and toiletries) and provide a variety of support services including counselling, group therapy, skills training, legal support provision and crèche facilities, amongst other forms of assistance.

Given that legislation requires that the police refer abused women to shelters (although the research also revealed that the police were not always able to), the report concludes that the funding that shelters received from DSD is inadequate. Despite their commitment and sterling work, shelter’s resource limitations simply do not allow shelters to meet all the legitimate needs of the women and their children.



More on the Enhancing State Response to Gender Based Violence (GBV) project