By Lucky Sindane
WITH Aids-related deaths on the increase, many children are being forced to fend for themselves and their younger siblings when their parents pass on.
In an innovative move to deal with these children's needs, the City of Johannesburg has set up a housing policy for child-headed households to protect the property rights of children whose parents are terminally ill or who have died.
"Most of the parents' deaths are caused by Aids-related diseases," says the assistant director for policy and research in the City's housing department, Nkosana Dlodlo.
"The policy is for everyone as long as it's a child-headed household."
Through recent drives to encourage needy residents to register for social grants, about 6 200 child-headed households have been identified so far.
According to the Nelson Mandela/Human Sciences Research Council 2002 study on HIV/Aids, about 3 percent of the households surveyed nationally could be labelled child-headed, with the primary caregivers children between the ages of 12 and 18.
Child-headed households often experience problems such as eviction, as they are not able to pay for services, mortgages or loan instalments or rent. They have no direct access to housing if there is no caregiver available to receive a housing subsidy and sign a contract on their behalf.
"The policy aims at providing a range of housing support interventions to ensure that children in households where there is no adult family member available, secure a reliable shelter," Dlodlo explains.
Joburg recently launched a special cases policy, which scraps all arrears inherited by the children. It also provides a subsidy for refuse removal and sanitation to people who are responsible for the payment of basic services but who do not have the means to do so.
The special cases policy is not limited to children orphaned as a direct result of the Aids pandemic. "The special cases policy extends to all child-headed households that do not have the means to pay for services, irrespective of whether their parents died of HIV/Aids or not," Dlodlo emphasises.
A task team will be established to identify the necessary mechanisms and institutional arrangements required to implement the approved policy. It will be made up of representatives from the City's housing, social services and legal departments, and officials from the different regions.
Representatives from the Johannesburg Social Housing Company (Joshco), a City company responsible for developing and managing social housing, will also be on the team.
This article published courtesy of the Johannesburg News Agency: www.joburg.org.za