A concerned mother has raised questions about the credibility of a rehabilitation centre that has ties to Parkwood community worker Rashaad Allen.
And now the provincial Department of Social Development has said it will be investigating the facility because it is not registered to operate as a rehabilitation centre.
Elvina Haupt sought help for her 23-year-old son, who mostly lived at his grandmother’s residence in Parkwood, for drugs and other behavioural issues and was referred to the Foundation for Positive Change that runs a rehabilitation centre in Parkwood and Southfield.
Ms Haupt said she was desperate and, having done some research, was impressed with the social media representation and reviews of the facility.
She enrolled her son in December last year and paid a fee of R3 360 for a six-week programme and was supposed to pay R500 a week thereafter.
The woman who lives in Parklands, said she was optimistic. “My son was shunned by everyone because we haven’t been able to get help for him and he cannot live with myself and my husband and younger son. As a result we had to find him help and thought this was the right facility. My plan was to get him to a place of safety so he can apply his mind better as he’s not a gangster and was never in prison.”
She said Foundation for Positive Change offered a job readiness programme which is what her son needed.
Ms Haupt wanted an update on her son’s progress and asked for a report. “I continually asked for a progress report because I wanted to know how he was doing. I was promised one but it never got to that and eventually I had to take my son out of the programme because things were not up to standard and it felt like it was more about the money than anything else.”
She then heard from her son that he and other clients had worked for a couple of days and had been paid R150 days for two days of work from 7am to 7pm.
“That is when my suspicions rose. It looks like the facility is a money making scheme. Mr Allen has exploited my son and probably many others. This place needs to close down,” said Ms Haupt.
Mr Allan said he has been doing community work, mainly in Parkwood for several years and runs a feeding scheme, emergency safe house and office in Parkwood where he helps the community with homework support and administrative help among other things.
Responding to the claims levelled against him, he said Ms Haupt wanted a document outlining her son’s behavioural issues but he was still in the process of rehabilitating him.
“She wants me to testify against her son for not changing his life and not being manageable at 23 years old. Her son has a disability and has the mindset of a child but he has also been neglected by his family. I’m not prepared to be used,” he said.
“I’m a behavioural interventionist and I have been doing this for years after I came out of prison and changed my life around,” said Mr Allen.
He accused Ms Haupt of blowing the situation out of proportion, after he apologised for his reaction after a social media post was published about the incident.
He also said Parkwood residents do not pay for the services of the rehabilitation centre but that he had charged Ms Haupt as she “was by the means” to do so.
Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez said the rehabilitation centre was not registered and that the allegations against Mr Allen were a serious concern.
He added that the Foundation for Positive Change was an unregistered facility. “All facilities are required to be assessed against the norms and standards for inpatient treatment centres and subsequently will not comply with the prescribed norms and standards.”
He said there was also a likelihood that the facility is also in direct contravention of municipal by-laws by operating a facility in a residential area without the appropriate zoning or rezoning, absence of health clearance and fire clearance – the absence of these registration terms of the Prevention of and Treatment for Substance Abuse Act implies non – compliance to standards and it often accompanies human rights violations.
He encouraged residents to check the status of a treatment centre with their department for unregistered facilities. “We advocate that the public must not send their family members and loved ones in the care of unregistered facilities.”
All registered facilities have a registration certificate which should be visibly displayed in an area where service users have access. If not displayed, families can request that proof of registration is provided before conducting an admission.
Mr Chigome said the forced labour claims are in direct contravention of the norms and standards and that while labour was allowed, it could be no more than four hours a day and voluntarily of the service user.
Unregistered facilities in operation might not comply with this standard due to the absence of registration
In response, Mr Allen said his organisation was registered for the other services he provided but was still in the process of registering as a rehabilitation centre.
“I have 11 clients and this woman is trying to undo all the hard work that has been made by the clients who have been in rehabilitation for up to two years. I will not stop doing the work that I’m doing for the community.
“It’s not easy work but I want to do it because I know how hard it is. I’ve been there. I’m trying my best,” said Mr Allen.
But Mr Allen, via his spokesman Chad Crowley, has also claimed that he believes there may be a hidden agenda to derail his political career.
Mr Allen plans to stand for election in Ward 66 as an independent candidate during the local elections which are due to take place this year.
“He has been doing good work in the community very long before he became an independent candidate and now this is flaring up exactly because of that reason,” said Mr Crowley.
Responding to the claims that patients were made to work, Mr Crowley said an agreement was made that they were going to go as a group to a work facility to try and gain a sense of independence and get work experience.
“We agreed on a stipend of R150 and they understood that. We followed every procedure. Mr Allen will continue his feeding scheme and other work in the community and will expand.”
The department said it would further investigate the claims.