The study is a programme evaluation of the sustainability of the social sector of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to empower women, youth and persons with disabilities as vulnerable groups. The study gives a background to the EPWP program and the problem of poverty in South Africa.
The Strengths Perspective and the Social Development Approach are used as theoretical frameworks to underpin the study. These two approaches are appropriate as they focus on the well-being of people and communities. The social development approach emphasises the social and economic well-being of people, and the strengths perspective focuses on the strengths that people possess, and not on their weaknesses. The study describes poverty, providing a basis for its understanding and also contextualising the EPWP as a poverty alleviation strategy. The study continues to discuss the empowerment of women, youth and persons with disabilities on a national and international level, and also as the official targets of the social sector of the EPWP.
In the context of applied research, the study utilised programme evaluation to evaluate the sustainability of the social sector of the EPWP to empower women, youth and persons with disabilities. The research question for the study was “how sustainable is the Social Sector of the Expanded Public Works Programme to empower women, youth and persons with disabilities?”
In the context of a mixed methods research approach the researcher utilised the triangulation mixed methods research design to collect both qualitative and quantitative data. Quantitative data was collected by means of mailed and hand-delivered questionnaires from officials involved in the implementation of the social sector of the EPWP. Qualitative data was collected through focus group discussions conducted with groups of women and youth as beneficiaries of the social sector of the EPWP. The evaluation revealed that the target to include persons with disabilities as 2% of the participants in the programme was not reached, as no persons with disabilities were registered as beneficiaries of the Home Community Based Care and Early Childhood Development programmes within the EPWP.
The findings confirmed that the strengths perspective and the social development approaches are applicable as theoretical frameworks which underpin the social sector of the EPWP. The study also revealed that poverty can be defined and measured using different dimensions, and not only the monetary approach.
The study has also shown that Public Works programmes are used in South Africa and globally by policy makers as a strategy to alleviate poverty, and that in some instances they target specific vulnerable groups. In South Africa the official targets are women, youth and persons with disabilities. Women and youth participated in the social sector of the EPWP in Gauteng Province, but the target of including persons with disabilities was not reached. The social sector of the EPWP in Gauteng has made a positive contribution to poverty alleviation, job creation, skills development and empowerment of women and youth.
The study also brought to light the fact that although the social sector of the EPWP is under good management, it may not be sustainable in the long term.