Written Answers. - Mendicant Children.

Emmet Stagg

Question:

131 Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Health and Children the strategy, if any, he has to address the growing problem of child begging. [1961/99]

I understand from inquiries to the health boards that the problem of children begging is mainly concentrated in the Eastern Health Board region, primarily in Dublin.

The Eastern Health Board has informed my Department that the number of children involved is relatively small and they come from a small number of families of the travelling community who are well known to the authorities. In general, the response of the Eastern Health Board has been to work with the travelling community directly and through relevant voluntary groups.

The board, in conjunction with other agencies supports a pre-school and a school for approximately 60 traveller children, a resource centre which provides among other services an after-school and youth programme, a drop-in service, advice, counselling and a social work service. The board also provides financial assistance to the operating costs of residential centres for children from the travelling community.

An aftercare programme for young members of the travelling community leaving residential care has been developed as well as a special foster care placement programme whereby traveller families foster traveller children.

In addition, a forum on youth homelessness has now been established in the Eastern Health Board region with representation from the key voluntary organisations, Dublin Corporation and the Eastern Health Board. It is my intention to launch a series of new initiatives for homeless youth in 1999. I will be working with the health boards and relevant voluntary agencies to prepare details which I will then announce.