A message from our Chairman, Paul Berman

Chairperson and Director’s Report – 2019

Over the past 12 months, Jewish Community Services Cape Town has done an extensive strategic review of services, resources, policies, procedures and current needs, as well as the extent to which it is meeting these needs in the face of increasing demands and diminishing resources. A challenging 2019 saw an increase in the number of community members requesting support and intervention services, including financial and food support and/or in relation to psycho-social issues.

The cost of living has continued to escalate, while clients are being retrenched and businesses face closure, and there has been a major increase in the needs of individuals and families. This has resulted in significantly greater demand being placed on JCS for food and accommodation, as well as many more mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, substance abuse and dependence presenting at JCS intake.

Social Services: There has been a large increase in the number of cases referred to JCS, which is managing an average of 550 cases per month. Each case consists of individuals, couples and families, which adds up to approximately 2 000 members of the community requiring Jewish Community Services assistance, comprising social services, material relief, food or accommodation.

Material relief: Financial disbursements have gone up significantly, rising from about R550 000 per month in 2018, to R660 000 per month in 2019. These disbursements go towards basic needs of food and shelter, to approximately 215 indigent clients. We continually review the criteria for the provision of material relief in our attempts to meet the needs of our clients within our means. JCS social workers render supportive and therapeutic intervention services along with material relief.

All clients who receive disbursements are required to attend sessions with a pro-bono financial adviser to help them budget and manage their finances.

Accommodation remains a serious concern and the 38 apartments owned by JCS are at full capacity, with waiting lists. These provide secure, subsidised accommodation to low-income community members. Ensuring safe and secure accommodation is increasingly challenging, with high rentals putting accommodation way beyond the reach of most of our clients. At times, JCS has had no option but to place a family of 6 in a two-bedroomed apartment simply to provide a roof over their heads. Many clients are unable to pay deposits and/or rental, and JCS has had to rent or contribute to rentals for more than 50 additional apartments, amounting to approximately R174 000 a month. We have found that members of the community are renting out rooms in or outside their residences to supplement their income. Capital expenditure on residential property therefore remains a priority in order for JCS to remain sustainable.

Child Protection and Family Matters: JCS is dealing with 100 current family and child protection matters. These include family conflict and domestic violence cases, families where children are considered to be at risk (currently 20 pre-statutory cases) as well as statutory cases (currently 10, where there has been Children’s Court intervention).

The significant rise in domestic violence matters over the last few years is of grave concern. It has resulted in gender-based violence counselling and intervention being a primary focus of JCS. Although these matters account for a relatively low percentage of our overall caseload, they account for a significant proportion of social work time and effort.

Older Persons: The caseload of the elderly continues to grow at an alarming rate, from 96 elderly persons being assisted in 2018 to 130 in 2019. A percentage of these are persons over the age of 60, still living independently in the community, who are becoming physically or mentally frail and vulnerable, as well as not being able to provide for their basic needs on limited or no income.

JCS and CJSA meet regularly to ensure that we are not duplicating social work services, and this has been fruitful. Various alternatives are being explored to see how we can assist the aged in our community further, ensuring that they are safely maintained and supported in their existing environments for as long as possible.

Psychiatric disability and substance abuse: A significant percentage of our caseload involves persons suffering from a psychiatric illness. The number of psychiatric cases has increased every year and in 2018, JCS dealt with 178 psychiatric clients, compared to 190 in 2019.

The psychiatric allocation is used to accommodate those who are unable to live independently in the community. These clients are accommodated in two private residential care facilities, which provide 24-hour monitoring and supervision and administration of medication at a cost of between R18 000 and R25 000 per person, per month.

JCS social workers facilitate 15 to 20 voluntary, assisted and involuntary committals in terms of the Mental Health Care Act per year, where clients become a risk to themselves and or others and require treatment. Some clients are admitted repeatedly due to non-compliance with treatment following discharge from hospital.

This amounts to an average expenditure of R1 700 000 for the year.

Substance abuse is increasing and many indigent clients do not have the resources to pay for the treatment. JCS either subsidises or fully supports these clients at private inpatient treatment facilities.

Further intensive and extensive social work intervention services are rendered to the client and their family, to support and facilitate reintegration into independent living.

JCS Tikvah Foodbank: There has been a big increase in the demand for food assistance and JCS is disbursing on average 274 food parcels per month, which has more than doubled from 120 per month since last year.

Tikvah, which used to operate independently from JCS, supplying perishable foods (fresh fruit and vegetables), has now partnered with JCS in the Tikvah Foodbank. This has allowed us to streamline supplies to ensure that there is no duplication and stock is purchased and negotiated at more cost-effective prices.

Pre-cooked Kosher Meals on Wheels are delivered to about 90 individuals and families, amounting to about 2 628 meals a month. This is divided into bi-weekly deliveries by volunteers, as we do not have the resources to deliver the meals ourselves. An average expenditure of R45 000 per month is incurred by JCS for Meals on Wheels alone.

The average running cost of the Foodbank, Tikvah and Meals on Wheels together amounts to R160 000 a month. This has increased substantially, from approximately R70 000 per month last year. We keep having to raise more funds to provide for the growing needs of the community.

Residential cottages: The JCS cottages are full (we even have a client sleeping in the lounge) and there is a waiting list of at least three people.

In 2017, JCS applied to the Department of Health for registration of the cottages as a mental health facility to enable us to apply for government funding. After an inspection by the Health Department, the cottages were provisionally registered, on condition that certain health and safety measures were put in place. All conditions were met, and we received registration certificates for both cottages in January 2020.

2019 Employment Initiative – Not only giving a Hand-Out – But a Hand Up!

We have 120 unemployed clients seeking work and we have developed work-shadow programmes to improve their skills.

With the assistance of Woodheads, a sheltered employment programme was established in the craft room of the cottages. Four of the cottage residents have become involved, packing supplies into packets for R1 a bag. They run their own production, collecting, and delivering the goods to Woodheads. This project has proven to be very successful and promotes self-esteem. We hope to see more clients getting involved this year.

Bargains Galore: JCS’s second-hand stores continue to rely on donations of furniture, bric-a-brac, clothing, appliances and accessories from the greater Cape Town Jewish community. These goods are sold to the general public for a small profit and the monies come back into JCS to support our other initiatives. JCS clients have the opportunity to go to Bargains Galore and “shop” with dignity.

The staff are given in-house training in customer sales and service, hopefully to prepare them for a sales position in the job market.

Volunteers: JCS continues to be very reliant on professional and lay volunteers to help serve our clients.

We were fortunate to receive help from medical professionals in 2019 for pro bono medical and psychological services.

The Foodbank/Tikvah volunteers are consistent in their support and weekly services, while JCS continues to work towards empowering our clients.

Internal Developments and New Marketing Initiatives implemented in 2019

New financial/admin workflow processes were implemented to ensure we maintain an effective and efficient system:

  • A triage system was implemented for financial relief, ensuring that there were no delays in urgent client applications.
  • Sheltered Accommodation Contracts: Each client residing in JCS-owned and non-owned apartments was requested to sign new Sheltered Accommodation Contracts, drawn up pro bono by Strauss Daly. This enables JCS to remove/relocate clients without having to go through the costly process of an eviction.
  • Debit Orders implemented.
  • Debit Cards introduced via Paypal: Clients’ monies are loaded onto the debit cards, as opposed to them receiving monies from JCS on a weekly basis. This also gives clients the dignity and self-worth of being able to control their own expenditure, while providing the admin department with a far more efficient system.
  • Financial Counselling Programme: Each client attends a compulsory financial session, covering how to budget effectively. Pro-bono financial advisers volunteer for the programme.
  • New HR and social work policies and procedures created.

Marketing

Jewish Community Services has continued to proactively highlight the plight of the indigent members of the Cape Town Jewish community through a number of marketing platforms. We also partner with other community organisations in various campaigns. The Foodbank I-Can project continues, with cardboard boxes distributed at all our communal organisations, schools and Chabad on Campus, encouraging donations of funds, non-perishable items and clothes.

Charidy was a successful telethon which will be repeated with the other 7 JCC organisations in September 2020.

Donors “Thank You Tea” – at Coffee Time: JCS had an opportunity to thank all donors for their generous contributions, as well as highlight how they have assisted us with various initiatives. There are continuous appeals for JCS Tikvah Foodbank.

2020/21 Wave of Change brings a lot of challenges to our Community and the JCS Team will endeavour to treat our clients with dignity, respect and service excellence. There are new developments and initiatives to maintain and implement:

Group Home 2020 Development

  • Psychiatric and Older Persons Group Home, Gorge Road Property Development: expected to start building in March 2020, delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Residential Home: to be acquired to assist with housing the indigent members of the Community as well as save JCS rental costs.
  • Marketing: Continual Awareness Campaigns.
  • IT Development.

Several new initiatives were introduced during 2019 following extensive strategic planning. This is in line with our new vision and mission to more effectively address problems such as unemployment, consequent poverty, accommodation needs, material relief, psychiatric disabilities as well as an increasing number of aged community members. The demand on our Foodbank is increasing significantly to accommodate the needs of our clients. We are encouraging donations of cash and non-perishable items to meet this growing demand.

It would be remiss of us not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated the needs of our Cape Town Jewish Community.

The outbreak of “COVID-19”, or the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov), the most dangerous global pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu, has caught the world off-guard and ushered in a period of great uncertainty. But, it has also brought out the best in humanity, and we have seen incredible acts of selflessness and community spirit. The health crisis has created a very challenging environment, but we are optimistic about the reopening of the economy and our resilience as a nation.

The past months have affected us all in different ways, impacting our households, our workplaces, and our personal lives profoundly. We want to thank each and every one of you who have been working tirelessly; albeit remotely, during the lockdown, supporting the vulnerable and less fortunate members of our community.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused much more than loss of life on a frightening global scale – it has deprived us of liberties we take for granted in a democracy and forced us to withdraw from society at a time of great distress – just when we need each other most. It has also brought home an enduring truth in the starkest possible terms: that the wellbeing of the individual is indivisible from the wellbeing of the whole. While we have adapted to life under lockdown and the suspension of precious human contact, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges.

We unfortunately need to make difficult decisions to ensure that we remain strong, viable and resilient.

Sadly, we have also lost our dear colleague and friend, Annette Marks, during this period. Annette started working at JCS in May 1994, which is over 26 years ago, and I got to know her well over the years. I was able to observe first-hand what a truly remarkable and magnificent woman she was. She leaves an enormous void within JCS and our community, and we will remember her legacy of service and generosity of spirit for many years. Nothing was ever too much for Annette and I will always remember her wonderful smile.

JCS would not be able to service our Community without the incredible support and dedication of our social workers, admin and Foodbank staff. Our Social Workers are at the forefront, supporting, counselling, advising and guiding their clients with the patience and dignity they deserve.

Our special thanks go to the Vice Chair, Treasurer, Executive Committee and Trustees for their dedication, support and guidance to the staff and Community in 2019.

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PAUL BERMAN
Chairman, Jewish Community Services