Our President has made another great call for solidarity and action by our country and we face a further two weeks of imposed lock-down. There are three prongs to the government’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic:
- An intensified public health response to slow down and reduce infections;
- A comprehensive package of economic support measures to support businesses and individuals; and
- A programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households.
President Ramaphosa has called on us to act in solidarity to meet these great needs. Even prior to Thursday’s announcement, many have expressed concern for the poor and vulnerable, and have been asking questions as to how they can best be served. We have had numerous requests for information on what is possible under the regulations. This communication sets out some thoughts on welfare response and links to an article with practical guidance from Warrick de Wet.
In many ways, the call from our President for this united response echoes John F Kennedy’s famous call to public service in his 1961 inauguration speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” In our context, the social needs that emerge from this crisis are so great that it is not possible for government to do it alone.
This raises an interesting dilemma for those who feel called to assist. On the one hand there is a deep and genuine desire to help those in need, while on the other there is this a deeply important call to isolate; the greatest act of love we can show our neighbour in this season is to stay away from them.
In addition to the moral call to self-distance, the South African regulations around essential services could make a well intentioned act illegal. Warrick de Wet has kindly given guidance on the regulations (see link) and it may well be advisable to obtain further input from Warrick if you have questions in this area. As a general rule, charities that were already engaged in essential social services prior to the lock-down would qualify to continue providing that service during the lock-down. This would include children’s homes and feeding schemes, both in schools and communities.
For those individuals and charities who were not already engaged in such work, the biggest contribution that we can make is to support those who are already engaged in the space. Aside from the legal implications, there are also some practical reasons for adopting this approach:
- Charities that are already involved in social outreach will have on-the-ground relationships with local communities and will be best placed to assess priority of need;
- Those charities will also be in the best position to determine the appropriate distribution channel for local circumstances; and
- Strict hygiene and social distancing protocols would need to be applied in order to protect both the community and those involved in providing the care.
For most of us, this raises a big question of “how can we help?
1. Our President has encouraged us to make financial contribution to the Solidarity Fund, noting that R2.2bn has been raised so far and that funds are being allocated to humanitarian relief for vulnerable households (in addition to the R400m set aside by Government for Social Relief of Distress grants). For more information visit: https://www.solidarityfund.co.za/#donate
2. Support established charities that offer platforms for wider support. You will need to make your own enquiries. One of our clients, the Do More Foundation, provides a great example of such a platform:
The Do More Foundation works with communities to support young children and youth, and to ease hunger. The foundation has developed a Covid-19 response plan with the goal of providing vulnerable children and households with essential food. The following quote by Miles Dally, CEO of RCL Foods, explains their approach:
“We are extremely aware of both the health and safety risks of delivering food into vulnerable communities as well as the need to ensure that food reaches the right beneficiaries. We have therefore partnered with trusted, experienced and established organizations who have networks, vehicles and very specific protocols in place to ensure that this food reaches those most in need in an equitable manner.”
The Do More Foundation in conjunction with RCL Foods is appealing for support to reach more children and households. For more information visit:https://domore.org.za/2020/04/04/how-we-are-doingmore-in-response-to-covid-19/
3. Support organisations within our local communities who are directly engaged in relief and support work. This could include local outreach and faith based organisations, who will have an intimate knowledge of emerging needs within local communities.
4. There is a call on executives to take pay cuts and to contribute those funds to relief measures. There are already examples of senior executives taking such cuts in pay to enable support of their own workers and those in need. On Thursday it was announced that senior government officials are now taking a one third cut in salary with the amount being contributed to the Solidarity Fund.
At Strategic Business Support, we are committed to assisting in these measures. We already provide pro-bono services to certain charities involved in welfare services, and we will be waiving fees for other charities that are engaged in front-line work. Further, over the next few days we will be making intentional donations to selected relief initiatives.
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