The Community Work Programme (CWP) is a South African government programme that provides an employment safety net. It supplements livelihood strategies by providing a basic level of income security through work. The programme was started to address high unemployment and contributes to strategic goals of government in addressing poverty and unemployment. It is based on the recognition that policies to address unemployment and create decent work will take time to reach people living in marginalised areas with few opportunities. The CWP does not replace government’s social grants programme but supplements it.
The programme is targeted at unemployed and underemployed women and men of working age. It aims to give those willing and able to work the opportunity to do so, and afford them the dignity and social inclusion that comes from this. What makes the CWP different is that it is also a community programme. Work must be ‘useful work’. It must improve the area and the quality of life for the people living there. This includes fixing community assets like schools, road and parks, and setting up food gardens. People in the area help to decide on the kind of work needed, and what is most urgent. This could be looking after orphans and vulnerable children, helping sick people, assisting teachers at schools, looking after children while their parents are at work, and working with the local police to improve safety and reduce crime.
The CWP was started as a pilot project in late 2007, initiated by the Second Economy Strategy Project, an initiative of the Presidency based in TIPS. The programme was then implemented under the auspices of a partnership between The Presidency and the Department of Social Development, which constituted a National Steering Committee to provide strategic oversight to the programme. The National Steering Committee was expanded in 2009 to include representation from the Departments of Public Works, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Treasury. The roll-out of the programme was project managed by TIPS in partnership with two Implementing Agents, Seriti Institute and Teba Development.
In the year to March 2010 TIPS continued to work with the Presidency and Department of Social Development in the initial roll-out of the CWP. During this time it was decided that the CWP should become a fully-fledged government programme and it has been based in the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG) since April 2010. TIPS provided technical support to DCoG until September 2011.
Dr Kate Philip, the inequality and economic inclusion programme manager remaines contracted through TIPS as an adviser to the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, on short term strategies for job creation, with a focus on public employment.
TIPS was also involved in research and impact assessment around the CWP. The Employment Promotion Programme (EPP) approved funding for six projects around innovation and the impact of the programme. Work on these was conducted in 2012-2013.
The Community Work Programme: Building a Society that Works Dr Kate Philip talks to Polity about the programme (December 2013)