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2011-09-20: City announces a new social services system to extend range of services to the poor

THE City of Johannesburg today launched a new system to support its Expanded Social Package (ESP), which will make it easier for beneficiaries to access and interact with the programme.

 The over R500 million (annually) ESP is a programme offering subsidies for a basket of services to deserving individuals. These subsidies are for services such as water, electricity, rates, refuse removal and sanitation to citizens earning below R3 681 per month.

The programme digitally links those with specific needs to services delivered by the full range of City Departments, government agencies and non-profit, non-governmental and community-based groups linked to the City of Johannesburg.

The new system will make extensive use of SMS technology to connect individual citizens with services provided by a range of partners, creating for the first time a total view of both citizen need and the capacity of government and its partners to respond.  

Known as Siyasizana, the ESP is a basket of poverty alleviation benefits the City disburses to needy individuals living and households within the City including property owners, tenants, lodgers and homeless people.  

This capability, along with the linkage to wider welfare and jobs programmes, empowers the ESP as service frontline for the City's poor that is not limited to those who are connected with the City as account-holders. The latest version of the system also includes features that will make it much easier for landlords in large flat blocks to pass benefits on to their poor tenants.

The revitalised ESP programme has received a major boost from a new technology system deployed by management consulting and technology services company, Accenture; that automates the registration process and enhances the benefits management through the use of SMS and email technologies.

The introduction of the SMS service is intended to make it easier for the City to communicate with the beneficiaries of its services.  Leveraging the pervasive cellphone technology is expected to drastically increase access, improve case management as well as enhance communication with stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organisations and social workers.

South Africa's main economic hub, the City has an estimated 800, 0000-1,000,000 plus people who earn below the R3 681 threshold per month, living in a variety of circumstances. These individuals account for the bulk of the 820,000 estimated to be living informally, and the 1.1 million estimated working age adults not connected to the formal or informal economy.

"We are entering a new era of service delivery in the City of Johannesburg, starting with the provision of critical basic services to those who need them the most; the low income earners and unemployed people," said Clr Nonceba Molwele, the Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Services.

"Since we first launched the ESP, more than 650,000 individuals have been identified as qualifying citizens living in Johannesburg, many of them identified through the database of those receiving state pensions and child support grants through pay-points in the City.  Over 140,000 are already receiving rebates linked to the property on which they live, and as a result we have set ourselves a new target of extending more services to 300,000 people per annum," says Molwele.  

"In alignment with the City's growth strategy, and conscious of the tight budgets and growing demands for social services by the most needy people, it's important that Joburg leverages latest technology to streamline access to services and benefits in a truly integrated and citizen-centric approach," said Lee Naik, Accenture South Africa's Executive Director, IT Strategy & Transformation, who has helped drive the project.  

"The new system, which is based on the SAP customer relationship management platform, introduces the use of mobile phone SMS services and significantly enhances case management and the City's ability to reach more people and offer additional benefits to citizens," added Naik.

Job creation is also a central and integral part of the ESP.  Already over 9,000 people have been placed in income-generating opportunities since enrolling with the ESP, indicating the progress the City is making in helping some of the citizens out of the poverty bracket.  

The ESP is currently the only register of indigent citizens in the country that operates as a one-stop shop for poor citizens who need to access government and welfare services.

Looking ahead, the programme will focus on improving the landlord registration process with enhanced interfaces and online forms to capture and validate information provided by needy citizens.  It will also introduce a mobile registration and case management for people living in informal settlements and introduce additional benefits including rental subsidies and transport requirements.  

Importantly, biometric access to ESP with enhanced capabilities will also be introduced as the programme is expanded to support other City's directorates such as community development and health.  It will also ultimately link health department's workflows and public safety policing interventions into a single referral system.       

"The City is determined to ensure social inclusion by addressing some of the major basic and infrastructure needs of low income and unemployed citizens.  In line with our drive towards a "zero deprivation" scenario, we intend investing a greater portion of our budget into the most deprived areas as we move towards meeting our Millennium Development Goals," said Molwele.

The City plans to make the ESP register the single access point for at least 500,000 people per year receiving services such as housing, transport, rental subsidies, grants, food security support, education and medical assistance by 2016.

Media contacts:
City of Johannesburg Public Liaison Department 
Nkosinathi Nkabinde
083 408 7787/ 011 407 6477
Nathi Sukazi
082 565 0205/ 011 208 3450