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BEGGAR KIDS; 1,300 TRAVELLER CHILDREN ON CITY STREETS EVERY DAY.

Byline: DARA DE FAOITE

MORE than 1,000 Traveller children are forced to beg on the streets every morning.

Paul Gilligan, chief executive of the ISPCC, said yesterday: "These children have been failed by society.

"A total of 1,322 children are known to beg in Dublin on a daily basis.

"They're forced to come into the city because of the appalling conditions they live in."

The child protection group found that three quarters of all children who beg in the capital come from Traveller families.

Mr Gilligan said: "It's not in the culture of Travellers to beg for survival and it does not come naturally to them. They are forced into it.

"Child begging is a despicable breach of the rights of the child and should not be allowed to continue.

"We acknowledge as a society that the city centre isn't a safe place for adults to be in, never mind children."

The figures were released yesterday as part of the ISPCC's annual report Leanbh - Working with Children who Beg Service.

Tracey Bolger, of Leanbh, said: "The children we found on the streets ranged from infants to 18 year olds. The higher proportion fell in the eight to 12-year-old group."

The ISPCC have called on Minister for Children Brian Lenihan to tackle the problem of child begging immediately.

Ms Bolger added: "When children are on the streets they are at grave risk and prone to everything and anything thrown at them. There is constant concern that these children are being approached day-in day-out by people who do not have their best intentions at heart."

Shocking photos and video footage of the appalling conditions in which some Traveller children live were on show at the Leanbh launch yesterday.

Ms Bolger said: "This footage shows that begging is merely a symptom of the poor lifestyle. These children should be afforded the same rights as any other child." The ISPCC visited halting sites and road side homes of hundreds of Traveller families during the last year.

Ms Bolger added: "There are no safe areas for children to play in and every site we visited lacked the basic facilities needed for large groups of children."

ISPCC Childhood Support Workers found that Traveller parents were "concerned but not surprised" that their children were begging.

Ms Bolger said: "These kids are on the streets for long periods in all weather.

"They are not in a position to go to school so their right to an education is also being denied."

The Leanbh survey showed that the children begging in Dublin included 1,016 Travellers, 252 Romanians, 48 homeless and 18 others.

Ms Bolger added: "They're coming from everywhere around the city.

"We want people to challenge their prejudices about Traveller children and refugees and to see these kids as young people who should be given the same rights as any other child."

The ISPCC is to establish a day centre in the city centre in the New Year to work more closely with families who beg on a daily basis.

The group wants to initiate an accommodation support programme which will look at providing financial support to Traveller families for improving living conditions.

Leanbh said they have helped 62 children to stop begging in the last year and have provided therapeutic help to 77 children and 26 families.

CAPTION(S):

HARSH MESSAGE: Paul Gilligan, of the ISPCC, at the launch of the group's annual report yesterday into child street beggars; DANGER: Begging in Dublin city centre is not safe for children
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2002
Words:586
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