South African minister attacks poaching of staff

South Africa is desperately short of both social workers and
nurses, yet it is being “robbed” of its talent by employers in this
country attempting to solve the care sector recruitment crisis

Dr Zola Skweyiya, South Africa’s minister for social
development, who gave the keynote address at Community Care Live,
said it was “regrettable” that his country was losing key personnel
and he urged those working in health and social care in the UK to
resist the temptation to see South Africa as a recruitment

“It would be better for these people to remain at home to serve
our communities. One way and another we are being robbed of our
talent and their caring skills. We want the British government to
discourage this trend as much as possible.”

Asked whether South Africa would welcome UK social care staff
going to work there he replied that it would help ease the
situation but it must be done with the co-operation of the
authorities here.

Dr Skweyiya explained that seven years into its new democracy,
his country was still struggling to shake off the legacy of
apartheid and reverse the marginalisation created by racism and
structural problems.

He said that as part of the country’s journey to a fairer
society it had enshrined the rights of children and young people in
its constitution. A national programme of action for children had
also been set up, with the help of non-governmental

“But policy and institutional changes do not automatically
translate into improvements in the quality of life of the poorest,
especially children,” he conceded, adding that one of the key
problems the country faced was a lack of accurate statistical
information on the nature and extent of the problems experienced by
disadvantaged groups such as children.

But existing data did show that 61 per cent of black Africans
were poor compared with 1 per cent of whites. Women were the most
likely to be poor and their unemployment rate was 52 per cent
compared to 42.5 per cent among African men. Women living in rural
areas had the worst prospects of all as 71 per cent of people in
country areas fell below the poverty line.

Dr Skweyiya highlighted the devastating impact of HIV and Aids
on South Africa. Young people, particularly women, were worst hit
because of poverty, economic hardship and unequal relationships
which prevented them from negotiating safe sex with their partners.
The country has set up a national strategic framework to address
the needs of children infected and affected by HIV and Aids.

Meanwhile, economic insecurity has led to “the feminisation of
poverty and the casualisation of work”. Like many other parts of
the world South Africa was grappling with the need to set up
democratic, responsive and sustainable systems of social
development to address social exclusion, poverty and

The minister said the country had to rediscover its tradition of
“social solidarity” and rekindle the spirit that used to exist in
which people felt “any child is my child”.

Meanwhile, the most pressing problem was the “time-bomb” of
poverty which had to be addressed, otherwise the whole legitimacy
and power of the new democratic state would be eroded.

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