Regional News of 2014-08-08

Programme to rid ‘child beggars’ from streets suspended

A special programme initiated by the Department of Social Welfare to rid the streets of Accra of children used as aides to the physically and visually impaired to solicit for alms has been suspended due to lack of funds.

“The budget available to the department is too small. We are waiting for government’s response and funding. Should the funds be made available today, we are ready to move into action and clear the children off the streets,” Mr Churchill Darlington, the Director at the Department of Gender and Social Protection attached to the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service, told the Junior Graphic in an interview.

The practice where children are used as ‘tools’ for begging on the streets has become common in the cities, especially along traffic-prone streets, where children are seen either assisting the visually impaired or pushing the wheelchairs of the physically challenged while they beg for money from passengers and other pedestrians.

These children are paid a percentage of whatever amount those they assist receive each day for their services, thereby attracting a lot more children to engage in the act.

It was the result of the increasing number of children in the act at the expense of their education that made the department come up with the programme to get the children off the streets and to prosecute those who use them to beg.

However, Mr Darlington disclosed that the department lacked funds to the extent that it found it difficult to adequately cater for the children in the institutions under its watch—the Boys Remand Home, Girls Industrial School, Shelter for Abused Children, all in Osu, and the various children’s homes in the country.

“Day in day out, the number of children keep increasing but due to lack of funds, we are unable to admit more children to these institutions. How do we feed them, pay their school fees, pay their medical bills, provide them with some of their basic needs, as well as maintain the facilities when we don't have funds?” he queried.

He says for now the department intends to focus on physically and visually challenged adults who engage the children to assist them to beg.

Mr Darlington explained that such adults conveniently qualified for the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme, and the department intended to sign them on it, as well as link them up with non-governmental organisations that dealt with the aged.

“By helping these physically and visually challenged adults, they will not have cause to go on the streets and the children will also have nobody to ask them to assist them to beg for money. They will, therefore, be forced to go to school or stay at home,” he said.

Mr Darlington pointed out to parents who allowed their children to beg on the streets that it was an offence for them to allow their children to engage in such an activity, adding that they could be prosecuted when found out.

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