HWSETA: COVID-19 efforts
The impact of COVID-19 has brought devastating consequences for many families and individuals across the world. This devastation has now reached South Africa. But, amidst such a world, there is also compassion, sympathy, understanding, and gratitude for so many things we take for granted each day.
The HWSETA also understands that although the Government acted timely to ensure that South Africa learns from the rest of the world and is better prepared to fight Covid-19, it still has brought with it a great level of stress, anxiety and financial distress. The poverty levels we saw in our country before COVID-19 has increased already and will continue to increase to unprecedented levels as we have not yet seen the worst of the effect of COVID-19 on our people and economy.
The HWSETA identified early what our role could be in the midst of the crisis.
The HWSETA acted quickly when the President declared a National State of disaster. The Board of the HWSETA put aside a budget of R100 million for COVID-19 interventions. Eleven intervention projects to the value of R100 million were approved by our Board by 31 March 2020 and quickly made to projects addressing urgent areas of need in our sectors of Health and Social Development
Subsequent to these projects approved by the Board for 2019-2020 for R100 million, the HWSETA has reprioritised its planned funding for 2020-2021 year to ensure its funds the needs under COVID-19 in the sector. Further projects to the value of another R100 million has been funded. These include internships for 1210 social work graduates to assist the Department of Social Development in hotspot areas, communities and quarantine areas with psychosocial support and social work assistances. The HWSETA has also increased its training on Occupational Health and Safety to reach more frontline workers and professionals, trade union officials, and others. The HWSETA has also assisted the Department of Social Development. and the DHET with staff training to ensure officials can return safely to the workplace. The HWSETA has also just entered into a contract with the Department of Health to offer specialised training to nursing staff to cope with High Care and ICU care for patients with COVID-19.
We see our mandate reaching beyond a skills development responsibility, where we also contribute to a better life for all South Africans. The pandemic presented us with a unique space to do just that.
The COVID-19 projects address needs in both the sectors of health and social development: they include skills development, education, awareness, data collection, screening, and health promotion projects, safety equipment and poverty alleviation, all aimed at addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19. Mostly unemployed youth have been recruited and employed to assist in these initiatives. We have also used graduates in our professional sectors for internship opportunities and have used experts in our sectors to impart information and education. We have also provided protective safety kits, sanitizers, and masks for Social Workers in communities and professionals in the Department of Health in Eastern Cape. Further support through disaster management training and psychosocial and trauma counselling is also being provided.
The HWSETA has also played an active part in the dissemination of vital COVID-19 information. Together with Higher Health we are working to ensure that students at universities and TVET colleges get the information they need to combat the virus. We have also launched a project focused on informing essential workers about safety measures and best practices through videos that have been made available in four languages. These videos can be accessed through mobile devices on a data-fee website. We hope that this valuable information is shared widely and assists not only workers but employers with mitigating risks and safely operating during the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19.
The HWSETA has further supported and collaborated with the departments of Health, Social Development and Higher Education and Training to fight COVID-19.
As we prepare to reopen South Africa it is crucial that we take cognisance of the fact that lockdown did its work to prepare South Africa for what we are facing. This allowed our health systems to put measures in place and tackle what’s to come. However, COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, infection and death rates are sure to increase.
Despite the myriads of challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has presented us with, it is also an opportunity to unify South Africa around the issues that have been facing our poor people for decades. The response to the virus has highlighted the massive inequality gap that haunts South Africa. Issues around access to healthcare, education and basic services have been drawn into focus. We are not the only government agency that has mobilising measures to try and address this challenge. In these difficult times there has been an increase in social responsibility projects and public-private partnerships. The private sector together with the Department of Health has identified a project to mobilise 300 unemployed youth to be trained and offer advice to communities using communication technologies. Among other objectives, they will identify individuals who have tested positive in laboratories in South Africa, identify persons that have had contact with them, inform those contacts on what to do, conduct a daily assessment of contacts in self-isolation for two weeks, and advise symptomatic persons of testing protocols. The HWSETA will fund this intervention with assistance from the private sector.
The lesson we have learnt is that COVID-19 does not discriminate, but it has left our vulnerable communities open for even more difficulties. We at the HWSETA will continue to work tirelessly to support these communities in our area of mandate and encourage partnerships that will work towards building a better, safer South Africa.
Last modified: June 2, 2020