Currently the number of street children within the whole of the City of Cape Town is down from 786 in the year 2000 to about 70 children today. This unprecedented achievement was achieved through the introduction of a holistic net of services from prevention, outreach, intake, residential care and family reintegration programmes. Since 2011,
We have also managed to radically reduce the number of hardened street children, and even day-strollers, through intensive campaigns that reduced the benefit children get from begging and other schemes. Currently, Our sector focuses on (i) the many children in care, (ii) getting the last few children off the streets and (iii) through prevention and early intervention services, working to address the constant flow of children moving towards the street. (These consist of abused children, neglected children, those dropping out of school, etc.) We can however only help them if we can compete with what is on offer on the street.
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. For instance, the children of Long Street would get orders for things like school shoes from restaurant staff. The children would then beg for the shoes from tourists, who did not want to give the children money, and then sell these “begged for goods” for the price of a drug fix, to the person who ordered it in
How can I help a Street Child...?
the first place. We also had the strange case of street children running around begging for “cornflakes, powdered milk and sugar”. We later found out that the local drug lord had ordered these items to sell in his spaza shop and was swapping them directly for drugs. We also have the case of parents forcing their children onto the street to beg, when the child wants to be at school or in a programme to help him. So, the point is not about giving money and replacing it with, say, vouchers for groceries - the point is that encouraging begging, by giving directly to children, 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.
If you want to help the children on the street, you can take the following useful actions:
1. Take interest in the one or two children begging near you. Be kind and warm, but do not give them anything.
2. Direct the child to the local Drop In Centre, where they will be able to access services that will assist them to get off
the street and into care. Drop In Centre Early Intervention Services include: Street outreach, food, personal hygiene,
counselling, home and school visits to ascertain reasons pushing the child to the street, school aftercare
programmes, parenting workshops, adolescent development programmes, etc. (See our list of Drop in Centres under
Partners’ on our website.)
3. Report the child to your local DSD office using a “Form 22”. Take note of the Social Workers name who takes the
case. Then follow up to ensure that the Social Worker has taken action to help the child. They should do so within 48
4. Support the WCSCF to continue our work with a financial donation.
5. Support your local Drop In Centre in any way that you can, not limited to but inclusive of, money.
6. Support a community based prevention programme of your choice that:
- protects children
- builds and preserves families
- addresses domestic violence
- provides alcohol and drug rehabilitation
- encourages improvement of education
The Western Cape has a comprehensive set of statutory and other support services – specialised organisations to assist chronically neglected, abused, exploited and vulnerable children drifting towards street life.
Get involved – it is the only way to make a positive contribution.