Cape Town - The Western Cape Street Children's Forum (WCSCF) has advised people against giving money to children on the streets who beg, park cars or are part of a dance or music group as it encourages children to stay out of school, leave home and become street children.
WCSCF director Janice King said begging promotes trafficking, exploitation and abuse of vulnerable children and introduces them to street life, drug and substance abuse.
King said currently the number of street children within the city is about 277. She said the problem of children dropping out of school and being on the street in the communities is serious and extensive.
“Street research has proven that children, and others who beg, develop a very involved barter system to convert ’beg for goods’ into either money, drugs or alcohol. Direct giving brings children onto the street, encourages substance abuse and places vulnerable children at risk. It also undermines all efforts to help high-risk children.
“We must not give anything to children that supports them being on the street. Once a child has been on the street for two weeks, it is extremely difficult to get them off, as they have tasted the freedom and the benefits, so early intervention is vital,” she said.
Ladles of Love founder Danny Diliberto agrees and said children don’t belong on the streets.
“ It is very important that if we see children begging or dancing on the streets that it is reported to the Department of Social Development. The department is responsible for the care and safety of these vulnerable children. They would investigate to see if there was a genuine problem at home or if the children are being exploited by adults. Giving these children money keeps them out of school and prolongs their stay on the streets which actually puts them in more danger.”
Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said using children and forcing them to beg was illegal under child exploitation provisions in South African law.
“Those who are offenders are seldom arrested and charged. We are seeing more and more children begging on the streets because of increased levels of unemployment, poverty and families and children struggling to survive. This will further increase due to the impact of Covid-19,” he said.
King said the Western Cape has a variety of services that address the flow of children towards the street – but said these were under serious pressure and needed the support of government, corporate and civil society to continue to render effective services.