Organisation for the disabled is ‘falling apart’

The barren field surrounding St Giles Association for the Handicapped. There is no sign visible on the facility to indicate where the association is.

Cash-strapped St Giles Association for the Handicapped, in Rondebosch, is cutting services and salaries to stay afloat.

The 50-year-old non-profit organisation provides recreational programmes, training and work opportunities for the disabled, who pay an annual R200 membership fee. But now a lack of funding is forcing it to stop outings and cut staff salaries.

Worried staff, who didn’t want to be named, told the Tatler that the annual cost of ferrying staff and clients from their homes to the facility had shot up from R200 per year and now includes R100 extra per month. They said they had been put on short time and told they would no longer get a monthly salary but be paid a wage for each day they worked – a move, they said, that had left some of them in debt and desperate. Outings for the disabled were no more and even coffee had been cut. “There is a lack of services and transport and there is only one van to help the people. The workers, their jobs – it’s horrendous. They get so little pay per month and there is only one driver and hundreds of crippled people with no place to go to and no transport to take them,” said one staff member.

Another fears the establishment faces closure and said the pay cuts had landed her in debt.

“Before they used to pay us a full amount of R3 500. Then, at the end of last month, we got a shock: now it’s R1 500 for me and I need to pay to rent a place and for the creche and travelling fees. I borrow money from people to pay the rent then I only get R300 and something from
R1 500. The patients used to go out, but now they don’t go out. They used to get coffee during the day, but now they cut it off.”

The staff said management had promised to reimburse them once the financial situation stabilised.

St Gile’s administration worker Mandy Newman confirmed the organisation was in a financial crisis and had cut staff salaries and working hours, but there were no plans to close. “Things are going on as normal,” she said.

The association was fund-raising and hiring out equipment to other organisations on its premises to keep money coming in. The cash-crunch, she said, had been going on for a “long time” and other organisations faced the same predicament.

“Last year we were forced to cut down and we try and keep the employees here. We could have retrenched, but we feel for the people. This is how we can accommodate them still.

“We have more functions at the centre than going out because when we go out we have to go to places accessible by wheelchair and have specific toilets,” said Ms Newman.

Rising petrol prices had driven up transportation costs, she said, but clients were prepared to pay the higher transport fee to get out of the house.

“We had a Christmas party and braais and on Valentine’s Day we’ll have another function for them. We’re having more functions at the centre for them. The organisation also helps to give their family members a break,” said Ms Newman.

Ms Newman said they welcome donations and help from voluntters. Call Ms Newman at 021 689 8328 if you want to help.