Child poverty

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The begging problem

The levels of begging were raised during the debate in the Criminal justice (public order) Bill (Dail Eireann, Debates, 10th June 2010, 35-45).  Deirdre Clune (FG, Cork SC) spoke of how many people who were homeless found themselves begging for many reasons.  The obvious comment was that many did not have an address from where they could claim allowances.  Both she and Michael Kennedy (FF, Dublin N) acknowledged the work of the Simon Community and the Society of St Vincent de Paul in assisting homeless people.  Johnny Brady (FF, Meath W) stated that the level of begging had increased enormously across the country.  Some said that it was due to the downturn in the economy, but it had been evident in Dublin in good times as well as bad, for whatever reasons.  The number of foreign nationals begging had increased fourfold.

Aengus O Snodaigh (SF, Dublin SC) cited several organizations which questioned the Bill, such as the Human rights Commission and Barnardos.  Focus Ireland had also concluded that the Bill would not make any real difference or do any real good.  If we were genuinely concerned about begging, there were better ways of spending money.  He cited the Leanbh service developed by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) in 1997 to address child begging, offering a round-the-clock service to children, young people and their parents at risk of begging.  Like many other charities, it had been hit by a fall of donations. The welfare services of the Health Service Executive could not cope with their workload.   He also criticized the Habitual Residency Condition (HRC) which made people destitute.  He had come across desperate scenarios of poverty and people being forced to sleep on floor or the street.  All of them had applied for one form of social protection or another but were refused on the basis of the HRC which was a requirement even for the most basic emergency welfare payments.  He guaranteed that 90% of those begging could not afford any fine under the legislation, let alone the €400.  The way to address the problem was by investing in social protection, literacy and education.