26 March 2014
South Africa’s Department of Social Development, in partnership with the Vodacom Foundation, has launched a pilot 24-hour call centre for victims of gender-based violence in the country.
Callers from anywhere in the country will be able to get counselling and assistance from trained social worker via the centre’s toll-free number, 0800 428 428.
“For too long, violence against women and children has remained a hidden scandal in homes and communities,” Social Development Director-General Coceko Phakade said at the launch of the call centre in Pretoria on Tuesday
He cited a Medical Research Council and Gender Links Study, conducted in 2011, which found that over half of the women in Gauteng province had experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.
The centre aimed to provide “immediate psychological assistance and referral to victims … and to assist them in avoiding additional exposure to violence,” Phakade said.
“We have employed a group of 75 qualified social workers who have trained on trauma management and customer service. Sixty-five of these social workers, who were previously unemployed, are currently employed in the command centre [in Pretoria].”
The pilot phase of the project will run for six months, focusing on Hillbrow, Moroka, Sunnyside, Akasia and Alexandra in Gauteng province, and Edendale and Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal. However, victims from across the country will be able to use the call centre.
He said the call centre agents would provide telephonic support and counselling, and in the specific areas mentioned above could direct cases to social workers for follow-up and on-the-field support.
Social workers in the pilot districts have been provided with training on the command centre system and mobile phones to provide feedback on those cases directed to them for support and resolution in the field.
Callers can also request a social worker from the command centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from a cellphone.
The department is also working with the South African Police Service, the Departments of Justice and Health, and NGOs on the ground to ensure that victims receive medical and legal assistance.
In cases requiring the police, these calls will be prioritised and be referred to the police station nearest to the victim, the department said.
Maya Makanjee, the chief officer for corporate affairs at the Vodacom Group, said the Vodacom Foundation had donated R4.2-million to help cover the cost of the ICT infrastructure for the call centre.
The centre will complement the government’s recently established Khuseleka One Stop Centres for Victims of Crime and Violence, which provide counselling, medical treatment, legal and police services under one roof in order to minimise secondary victimisation.