Social Development office a health risk

The social workers at the Milpark Social Development offices in Milnerton say they have complained repeatedly about their working conditions since 2014.

Social workers who are refusing to set foot in their dilapidated Milnerton offices, which they say are a health hazard, are now being moved to offices in Goodwood.

The staff evacuated the Social Development offices at Milpark on Friday September 2, and set up office outside, in view of the derelict building.

They refused to set foot in the building, saying it was taking a toll on their health, and instead consulted their clients in a nearby park, in their cars and at a nearby church.

The social workers, fearing reprisal, did not want to be named.

They said they had complained repeatedly without success to the department and the City of Cape Town about their poor working conditions, which they had been forced to endure for several years.

They said there was no ventilation, the office space was often flooded by water from the toilets and tiles were falling from the ceiling.

“We’ve been complaining since 2014. The ceiling is falling apart, the toilets are flooding and it affects us as social workers. We have all been affected by it.

“Many have hayfever, sinus, and we’re depleting our sick leave. We cover our own cost,” said one of the social workers.

“We have followed the right channels and correspondence was done but no one cares to address us.

“The MEC came to visit in July, and he was shocked; we could see it on his face. He was on the phone the whole time complaining.”

The social workers complain that they have been maxing out their medical aids and paying from their own pockets to cover illnesses caused by their workplace and they are not being compensated.

The Public Servants Association (PSA) Western Cape provincial manager, Koos Kruger, said the union had only heard on Wednesday September 7 about the conditions at Milpark.

It wants the department to find an alternative workplace for the staff.

“We visited the place and met with the staff. We gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns. It is fair that the workers don’t want to work under the conditions.”

Sihle Ngobese, the spokesman for Social Development MEC Albert Fritz, said the department was aware of the problem and the Department of Transport and Public Works was addressing it.

“We have been engaging with Public Works for over a year on the issue. In the interim, we asked the regional office to accommodate staff, but we just don’t have the space for it.

“At the moment, we keep a skeleton staff in the building.”

Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant, confirmed that numerous complaints had been lodged with the department since 2014 and they were being dealt with.

He cited problems with the air-conditioning; the fire escape door; the access ramp; the disabled toilet, which pushes up water when flushed; the visitors’ toilet and the front door.

“The building forms part of the department’s day-to-day maintenance framework and, in addition to the replacement of the damaged ceiling tiles, drip trays are to be installed in order to address the leaks being experienced at the building.”

On Tuesday, one of the social workers said they were in a meeting with a Social Development official and had been told that the staff would be relocated to the metro north regional Social Development offices in Goodwood.

Social Development spokeswoman Esther Lewis confirmed staff were being moved from Milnerton to the Goodwood office, although skeleton staff would remain at Milnerton to help clients.

“An interim plan is in place to ensure there is no break in services to clients,” said Ms Lewis.