The team made huge progress towards their goal and achieved a 74% finalisation rate by the end of the 100-Days, finalising 274 out of 372 cases. The number of backlog cases were reduced by 82%, over-and-above the 100-day goal of 75%.
Community engagement | Tracking the goal | Weekly meetings | Commitment from mentor and team leader | Screen backlog files | Screening of all maintenance cases before enrolment | Fast-tracking simple and non-complex cases | Maintenance process flow
Working smarter | Ownership | Stakeholders involved | Resource allocation | Relationships built | Maintenance process flow | Community engagement | Tracking numbers | Interdepartmental communication | Being alert and agile | Scale
FOCUS AND GOAL
Maintenance has been identified as a necessary component of any effort to fight GBVF. As parents start to fight over something, most fathers neglect their responsibility and do not provide for their own families. Unfortunately, when this happens, the children are the ones suffering.
The criminal justice system is designed for criminals, and whilst defaulting on maintenance is indeed a criminal matter, the only real recourse being imprisonment does nothing to serve the child’s best interests. The system needs to ensure that their needs are met by timely maintenance payments.
Failure to pay maintenance is deliberate financial abuse, a known form of GBV. The pilot aimed to use restorative justice as an alternative approach to resolving maintenance disputes and specifically to enable maintenance payments to be made on time. For various reasons, preventing matters that can be on the roll for more than six months, cases are for instance remanded to finalise documents or there could be delays from the attorneys’ side… The focus does not just include maintenance in divorce cases but also in cases where the parties are still married or in a relationship or mediation.
Three key interventions of the GBVF National Strategic Plan – Pillar 3.
The national pillar team selected one area for the district to choose an Impact Challenge.
FOCUS AND GOAL
The Bloemfontein court deals with about 300 cases per month, which is about 15-20 cases per court day. Because new cases are added every day, the finalisation rate will fluctuate. The goal was to have each case finalised within 30 days. Before the 100-days, on average, only 51% of the cases were finalised within a month; this finalisation rate was also the reason for the backlog, with some cases being older than 6 months.
Improve the finalisation rate of maintenance cases from 50% to 75%
Identify all the backlog cases in the maintenance court and finalise 75% of these cases within 100 days
The team made huge progress towards their goal and achieved a 74% finalisation rate by the end of the 100-Days, finalising 274 out of 372 cases. The team are also confident that, with current measures in place, they will be able to sustain and even improve on this performance.
They also reduced the number of backlog cases by 82%, over-and-above the 100-day goal of a 75% reduction in backlog cases they had set.
Experiments, Innovations and Actions
Screen backlog files
The team started by screening 359 maintenance files to assess what was on the court roll and develop an action plan and a strategy to improve the finalisation rate. Backlog cases were prioritised to speed up the finalisation.
Screening of maintenance cases before enrolment
The team found more efficient ways to manage cases through the screening process; for example, they separated simple from complex cases. This was done to prevent postponements and ensure that only the cases that were ready for court got added to the court roll. The screening process also assisted the team in understanding the causes of cases not being finalised.
Fast tracking simple and non-complex cases
The team identified simple cases that they could deal with quickly, with only complex cases going into the queue.
Maintenance process flow
The court team sketched out the process flow to create understanding for those team members not part of the maintenance court. This also helped to get fresh eyes on the process, finding smarter ways to work while simultaneously being a learning process for those not involved in the court.
Changes to the way the team and system work that can sustain or continue to improve.
Public outreach campaigns were organised to inform community members of the maintenance process. One of the challenges faced by maintenance courts resulting in cases becoming backlogged is that community members do not understand the process and do not comply with it. Two outreach campaigns were conducted, one was mixed-gendered, and one targeted at men only. The team realised the importance of having men participating in these outreach efforts as they are a critical part of the maintenance process. Civil society organisations were integrated into the team for community mobilisation.
Weekly meetings and constant communication to discuss the issues and refine the strategies have played a huge role in ensuring the achievement of the goals. This also encouraged constant communication and participation by all team members.
The team leader (Boitumelo Zwane) and Mentor (Adv Ernst Van Rensburg) played a critical role in keeping the weekly meetings and communication going.
Tracking the goal
The 100-Day progress was tracked weekly to help the team focus and see if the activities undertaken were moving the numbers in the right direction.
What made a huge difference was the fact that the results and project had visibility, a clear goal, and a limited timeframe.
Commitment from mentor and team leader
Although 2 of the 3 mentors did not continue to support the team after the Lift-off, the strong commitment from the remaining mentor and team leader ensured the team’s success.
This level of commitment has not been seen before and this commitment was transferred to the rest of the team.
Insights gained and lessons learned
Looking at the maintenance process with fresh eyes and involving other stakeholders helped the team to enhance the existing process that was in place. This included:
- Being more focused and dedicating more time to the backlog cases.
- The involvement of all personnel in the office, including the clerks, managers and magistrate, helped to get their buy-in and support.
The team realised that it is possible to achieve goals if they support each other, work together and share ideas.
Taking ownership of the challenge was key to the team’s success and this was achieved by the involvement of all key officials from clerks up to magistrates.
Ownership from management was created by getting their buy-in from the start of the design session and allowing them to select the focus area. Managers know the content in the district and are in the best position to choose a relevant focus area. They also assisted later in the project when new stakeholder groups had to be brought on board. The Ambassador contacted the managers of those institutions to explain the process and got the new team members involved.
Sustainability Recommendation: Courts can sustain performance by owning the project, and to make this part of the day-to-day work, certain roles played by the team can be given to the court management itself and officials
Traditionally, only people from the maintenance court would be involved in improvement projects. The team has learned the importance of stakeholders outside the court as it showed that matters of maintenance could not only be achieved or be the responsibility of the courts alone.
Initially, some team members did not participate fully, but this improved once other activities were added to the programme, like the outreach campaigns, which non-court members could help with. One team member commented that it was positive that males were included in the workshop and team because men sometimes feel left out. Most of them are without information and knowledge regarding maintenance issues.
- More involvement by the family advocate, especially regarding matters of access, and visitation rights, can reduce GBV.
- The department must capacitate SPUs in municipalities to help with impact In terms of collection and database and household profiling
During the project, a critical resource, the maintenance officer, went on leave which had a negative impact on the finalisation rate of cases.
- The team recommended backup team members for critical resources, someone that is aware of the project and actions and can stand in when someone is not available.
- Courts need to review how the courts are resourced to meet the capacity that the court requires. This is not just for the maintenance court but also for other courts.
Team members were familiar with each other from the GBVF sector, but what was different with the 100-Day Challenge is that for the first time, everyone was brought together to focus on one specific issue with a set goal. Departments continue with their GBVF mandates, but for the 100-Day, people worked intensely together towards a goal.
Team members learned that they could rely on each other, and the team members took pride in their work and with the stronger relationships built, people were willing to assist each. The team felt this attitude would carry \into the future when help is needed across department silos.
Maintenance process flow
Working on the maintenance process renewed people’s understanding of how cases should unfold and ensured the proper implementation thereof.
- If the Attorney requests unnecessary demands, the magistrate must be firm and not allow frivolous demands
- Training to be provided to staff members regarding the maintenance process
- Monitoring of compliance by supervisors at the court level is important
- Congested court roll must be avoided
- New enquiries must be thoroughly screened before being enrolled.
Community engagement was added later to the team’s action plan but played an important role in the impact created.
- Energise the community and community leader at the ward level
- Capacitate the communities, including the traditional leaders, with more educational outreach materials
- Do more outreach programmes – target government officials who do not comply.
- Involve the media in the project team to help with outreach and sharing of information
- Cogta is working at the ward level with Ward Councillors & Ward committees, but maintenance cases are not yet profiled at the household level.
- Invite NPA to grassroots levels to inform ward committees of pillar 3 objectives and indicators to be achieved at the ward level.
The team was surprised by the number of backlog cases identified upon screening maintenance cases. Having visibility on these numbers on a more regular basis would help focus and speed up the finalisation of matters
- Involvement of the maintenance officer in settings goals/targets
- Set clear monthly objectives and have a team come together to work towards achieving that objective
- Improve service delivery with clear goals and consistently reviewing the numbers.
All departments have NSP-related mandates, but with the project, we got the leaders to work together and not in silos. There should be efforts to improve communication amongst colleagues and departments
- Share information with court managers
- Share experiences by putting the work done on newsletters, portals and blackboards of different government departments
- Use social media to share results
Being alert and agile
The team faced many obstacles and were quick to respond and come up with effective strategies and measures to tackle these. The team made adjustments as they discovered new obstacles and problems.
- Look out for resistance against the project and address it if required.
- When a team faces obstacles, it is important to use the leaders and mentors to support the team on how to handle obstacles and sometimes give a helping hand.
- An oversight committee comprising of managers is encouraged
The team felt that It is important to drive the programme to the entire province and benchmark with the Mangaung district, which showed what is possible. Involving more leaders from the start, especially from the province, helped to create a need to roll this out to other districts.
- Mandate courts to use the same 100-Day challenge
- Identify courts/areas to roll out these initiatives – Managers (DOJ/NPA) to determine. It could start with courts that have a backlog
- Develop guidelines including recommendations by “old” team
Survivors and victims directly impacted
in 100 days
To what extent would you recommend the 100-Day Challenge experience?
To what extent did the 3 behaviours emerge during the 100-Day Challenge, compared to before?
“I saw the impact this has made to our society - recipients were very happy that their cases were finalised especially those that have been waiting for a long time”
01 April - 09 July
“100-Day Challenge is not just applicable to GBVF matters - you can deal with any issue by setting a goal, work with a timeframe and pulling a team together - the government can solved\ so many issues by doing it differently”
People not part of the 100-day team, but without whom the results would not be possible:
- Julian Du Plessis, the Maintenance Officer
- Sello Leeuw, the Maintenance Prosecutor
- Samantha Britz, Provincial Manager from Commission for Gender Equality
- Joyce Mokoena, 100-Day Challenge Ambassador