30 November 2017
By Olefile Moea, Director: Communication, Fairheads Benefit Services
As administrators, we are required to fulfil the requirements of PF130. the most important of these being the communication of funds with their membership. Funds are required to consider effective methods of communication that cater for the different communication needs of its members. It is against this backdrop that Fairheads engages every year in a grassroots guardian roadshow programme that reaches thousands of clients – guardians, caregivers and beneficiaries – around the country and other SADC regions.
The guardian roadshows offer the opportunity to meet face-to-face with our clients. We have over the years seen how this direct engagement encourages two-way communication across the board, facilitated by the workshops being conducted in clients’ preferred language. The fact that clients are able to put a face to the fund and administrator responsible for the beneficiary’s funds, helps to build a rapport that is difficult to establish through other communication channels.
Clients use this opportunity to express their challenges, views and concerns and allow the administrator and funds to gain an understanding of their reality. For Fairheads, the roadshow provides the platform to educate clients on our processes, procedures and document requirements. We are able answer queries and address concerns in an open forum.
The annual guardian roadshows started in 2009 as an educational outreach and in response to the challenges many guardians and caregivers experienced in communicating with us. Amongst these were an unreliable postal service, the high cost of and access to telephones, emails and fax machines, and potential language barriers. The past 8 years have seen Fairheads expand its communication and distribution strategy, allowing clients easier and more convenient access to services. The guardian roadshow programme remains a valuable face-to-face component of the strategy.
A few years ago, Fairheads identified the need to start engaging with beneficiaries before the age of majority. In 2017, we specifically invited beneficiaries between the ages of 15 and 17 years to attend the roadshows. We educated them on how beneficiary funds work, options available for post matric and the need to start preparing for their future now. Discussing the beneficiaries’ future in the presence of their guardians also assisted with encouraging guardians to engage with the children in their care about their future. We hope this will assist with beneficiaries making the correct decision when they reach age of majority. One of the questions that beneficiaries often asked was whether the amount of funds available for them would enable them to pursue post matric qualifications.
We also explain the documents required by the beneficiary fund or trust at the age of majority and highlight the importance of acquiring an Identity Document at age 16.
Over 4000 guardians, caregivers and beneficiaries attended the 2017 roadshows held in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. In our engagement with guardians, we discovered that many of them have a real concern over the future of their children and how their education needs will be met in light of the current economic conditions. In other more extreme cases, the issues of substance abuse and peer pressure reared their heads.
On a positive note, more guardians attended the roadshow for the first time and most were appreciative of the education they received at the workshops. They now understand the need to stay in contact with Fairheads, how our procedures work and their role and responsibility in the relation to the fund.