NGOs Fight to ‘Hang On’ to Good Staff

governance ngos social work human resources
Wednesday, 15 July, 2009 - 11:32

High staff turnover due to a lack of adequate subsidisation by Government, plagues many South African NGOs, which struggle to provide the necessary services to communities in need. In the Eastern Cape subsidies used to pay social workers have not been increased in two years, while social auxiliary workers are subsidised on the Department of Social Development’s 2002 scales

High staff turnover due to a lack of adequate subsidisation by Government, plagues many South African NGOs, that struggle to provide the necessary services to communities in need.

In the Eastern Cape subsidies used to pay social workers have not been increased in two years, while social auxiliary workers are subsidised on the Department of Social Development’s 2002 scales.

Government pays its social workers on average around 37% higher salaries. In 2008, the Department of Social Development paid its social auxiliary workers a starting salary of R64 410 per annum while NGOs received subsidies of R35 749. Principle social workers were paid R174 243 per annum, while the subsidies amounted to R112 625.67. Last year social workers received a small increase from R75 947.28 to R79 500 per annum, but even this can not compare to the Department’s salaries of R117 501.

This, says Christian Social Council (CMR) Eastern Cape director, Corné Erasmus, results in a high staff turnover. “There is a shortage of social workers in South Africa. The government is paying good salaries to its social work staff members. Social workers are leaving the NGO sector to work for the Government”, she says.

Service delivery

Erasmus says the high turnover has a very negative impact on an NGO’s service delivery as communities do not benefit when there is no continuity.

She says some NGOs are unable to fill their vacancies for months. When they do manage to fill a position, it is usually a beginner who requires training before they are equipped to do the job properly. “It is a continuous training process, once they are trained, it usually takes about six months before they leave to work for the Government.”

Appeal for equality

Since the services delivered by the NGO sector are done on behalf of the Department of Social Development, NGOs have appealed to the relevant provincial bodies for sufficient financial compensation. They feel it should be a 100% subsidy for the salaries of social workers based on the department’s current salary scales.

“The NGO and Government social workers are actually doing more or less the same work, but they are not getting equal pay”, says Erasmus. She says the NGOs try and match the salaries offered by Government as much as possible, but the money has to come from other sources which impacts the operations of the organisations.

Further to this, NGOs in different provinces receive different subsidies. Erasmus says the sector is also fighting to equalise the subsidies in all provinces.

Iveda Smith, the registrar and CEO of the South African Council for Social Service Profession says it is a reality that social workers migrate from NGOs to government for better salaries and working conditions, but she adds: “But it is not always the only reason, sometimes it is also about personal development and career pathing.”

Smith says the Council is not in a position to comment on the subsidies as it is not involved and has no knowledge of the content of service level agreements between the NGO sector and Government.

Policy shortcomings

The Policy on Financial Awards for Service Providers (PFASP) which the Government introduced to regulate the relationship between itself and NGOs, has worsened the problem. The policy expects a high standard of service delivery from NGOs but provides less funding to do so.

The PFASP accuses NGOs of poor work and not distributing their services equally, but it is impossible for NGOs to do so without sufficient funding. The policy fails to address the problem of insufficient funding.

In order to raise additional funding, the policy suggests that NGOs charge fees for their services, which is impossible since the services are provided to poor and marginalised people who have no ability to pay fees.

The National Welfare Forum wants the PFASP to acknowledge that there is insufficient funding for NGOs and demands equal pay for equal work.

This article was prepared by Chana Viljoen for the National Welfare Forum and was first published on their website www.forum.org.za on 30 June 2009. It is republished here with their permission.

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