03 December 2005

At least 30 children beg in capital

Irish Examiner

03 December 2005
By Seán McCárthaigh

MORE THAN 30 children and teenagers are involved in begging on streets in Dublin on a regular basis, according to a leading children’s charity.

The majority of children involved in begging are members of the Travelling and Roma communities, according to the 2004-2005 annual report by Leanbh - the special service operated by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which works with children who beg.

However, the overall number of sightings of child beggars has fallen by 19% to 785 over the last 12 months.

Leanbh spokeswoman Suzanne McClean welcomed the decline in the incidence of juvenile begging but warned that it still remained a problem within the Travelling and Roma communities.

However, she stressed that the vast majority of families in such groups utterly rejected child begging.

“Many of these parents come from families where begging has been practised over many generations and their achievements in combating this cycle of begging are to be commended,” said Ms McClean.

Although few parents force their children out on the streets to earn money, she claimed many were aware of their children’s activity and generally provided them with a form of tacit approval. A quarter of all reported sightings last year involved children under four.

However, Leanbh acknowledges that such children are usually accompanied by their parents or other family members.

“Begging can be lucrative but there are deeper issues as to why a child starts begging in the first place,” Ms McClean pointed out.

She added: “Any long-term solution must focus on the needs of individual children found begging and on ensuring an appropriate response to those needs by parents and the State.

Although the statistics only relate to children begging in the capital, Ms McClean said the problem occurred in most major urban centres outside Dublin.

Leanbh discourages members of the public from giving money to children on the streets as it “only feeds the habit”.

Instead, the organisation recommends people who become aware of children begging to contact the 24-hour Leanbh helpline on 01-6447712.

Last year, the charity provided therapeutic help to 71 children and were involved with assisting 132 families.

Overall, there has been a decrease in the number of sightings of children begging on the streets over the past decade - it has fallen from almost 2,900 in 1997 when Leanbh was established to 785 last year.

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