South Africa’s Western Cape province has taken an important step forward to support parents and families, and prevent violence in the province. An amount of R45 million over three years has been allocated to pilot evidence-informed parenting programmes for 3 000 families annually.
Western Cape is the only province in the country that has made a significant investment of state funds, earmarked for these programmes.
The funding will be assigned to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Department of Social Development social workers who agree to uphold guidelines for quality and responsive parenting programmes.
Parenting programmes support parents to build warm, supportive relationships with their children, establish house rules and use positive discipline instead of corporal punishment. By reducing child maltreatment and abuse, and improving the mental health of children and parents, these programmes help break cycles of violence.
This extraordinary outcome was achieved by building a strong foundation of trusting relationships between researchers, NGOs and government officials. Policymakers and politicians involved also appreciated the value of using evidence to inform policy priorities. Local and international evidence was provided, and a tool develop to determine implementation costs. Finally, a network of officials, NGOs and researchers was formed to steer the process.
None of this was easy or quick to achieve. It required a unique process through which a receptive governmental environment combined with civil society innovation has enabled something ground-breaking for the province and hopefully also the country.
The foundation for trusting relationships between government and NGOs was built through the Violence Prevention Forum, which the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) helped establish in 2015. The forum’s long-term goal is to ensure the scale-up of evidence-informed interventions to prevent violence.
The Violence Prevention Forum also provided the basis for establishing the South African Parenting Programme Implementers Network (SAPPIN) – an alliance of NGOs working on parenting programmes across the country and in the Western Cape. SAPPIN provides the basis for large-scale implementation of programmes and will be a key Western Cape partner, running a community practice with NGOs following the guidelines.
Good relationships across and within sectors and good data are vital, but alone they aren’t enough. Policymakers and politicians need to believe in the value of evidence and be courageous enough to reach outside government for support. The Western Cape Safety Plan 2020-2025 and the subsequent Recovery Plan emphasise the importance of evidence and relationships to prevent violence and improve safety.
All these elements were brought together in 2022 in a workshop convened by the Western Cape Department of the Premier, the ISS and Southern Hemisphere. This resulted in clear values for family strengthening programmes, the identification of barriers and opportunities for implementation, and a framework to monitor, evaluate and enable ongoing learning. From there, guidelines were developed for assigning funding to NGOs and social workers.
In South Africa’s current bleak landscape, the allocation of government funds to support evidence-informed family strengthening is a beacon of hope. It shows that even under enormous pressure, it is possible for government to make the long-term investment required to turn the tide against violence, and for South Africans to work together across divides.
This Spotlight draws on an ISS Today by Chandré Gould, ISS Pretoria and Lorenzo Andrews, Gwen Dereymaeker and Diketso Mufamadi-Mathebula, Western Cape Government: Department of the Premier
For more information, contact:
Chandré Gould, ISS: [email protected]
Image: © Andriy Popov / Alamy Stock Photo