Social relief distress as an effective strategy in reducing insecurity: the perceptions of social workers at the Department of Social Development, Johannesburg Metropolitan area

Sehlabane, Mahadima Portia
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The first Millennium Development Goal on the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is an acknowledgement that poverty and food shortages exist in many countries. A report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in 2008 indicates that there was an increase in the number of people who were subject to “chronic hunger” internationally between the years 1990 to 2007 (du Toit, 2011, p.1). The South African Constitution, 1996, highlights in section 27 that every citizen has the right to food, water and social assistance. However, there are still people who experience food shortages in their households even though the government provides social relief of distress to needy households. The aim of the study was to explore the perceptions of social workers at the Department of Social Development (DSD), Johannesburg Metropolitan area, about the use of social relief of distress as an effective strategy to reduce food insecurity. The study was qualitative and exploratory in nature. A sample consisting of 8 participants and 2 key informants was selected using non-probability purposive sampling. The data was collected using face to face semi-structured interviews. With the permission of the participants, a tape recorder was used to capture the interviews. The collected data was analysed using thematic content analysis. The study revealed that the link between social relief of distress and the reduction of food insecurity is that social relief of distress reduces the vulnerability of poor households to food insecurity. Some of the views in the study revealed that the social relief of distress is effective in addressing food shortages while others questioned the sustainability of the programme. Furthermore, the study also revealed that the lack of partnerships between different state departments poses as a challenge. It is envisaged that the findings of the study will make a contribution to knowledge on social assistance and specifically how social relief of distress can effectively contribute towards the reduction of food insecurity. It is also hoped that the recommendations that emerged from the study will also be useful in guiding the policy makers when reviewing the social relief of distress programme.
A report on a study project presented to The Department of Social Work School of Human and Community Development Faculty of Humanities University of the Witwatersrand In partial fulfilment of the requirements For the degree Master of Arts (Social Work) by Coursework and Research Report