12 April 2014: International Day for Street Children

14/04/2014  -  10.53

Raising awareness about children who sleep rough on the streets of Europe.

On 12 April, street children, NGOs, celebrities, policy makers, businesses and concerned individuals the world over mark the International Day for Street Children. This annual dedication to a particularly vulnerable group in our society was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC), the leading network dedicated to guaranteeing the rights of street children worldwide.

The Children Rough Sleepers Project, funded via the European Commission’s Daphne Programme, and which is being delivered by Professor Kate Moss and Paramjit Singh from the Central Institute for the Study of Public Protection, is taking the occasion of 12 April 2014 to raise awareness about the significant, annually increasing number of minors who sleep rough throughout Europe. These children in our large urban centres around Europe are seldom recognised or even noticed by residents and local authorities, though their numbers continue to be on the rise. However, beyond these growing numbers, relatively little information exists regarding children who sleep rough. Figures indicate that over 140,000 children go missing each year in the UK alone. In Europe, rough sleeping children are represented by runaways fleeing their own home for various reasons or as a result of being evicted by family members, children who choose to abandon supported care accommodation, youth escaping institutional care, unaccompanied foreign minors who enter Europe from bordering countries or those relocating alone from one European country to another.

The problem raised by issues associated with children and young people who sleep rough is a major one Europe wide, especially within the current economic climate in which our governments are implementing austerity measures to cut budget deficits. Furthermore, among local authorities the level of support provided to this client group varies from region to region. It is seldom acknowledged that these children are especially vulnerable to threats posed by substance abuse, sexual exploitation and child rape. Also, in order to survive on the street they are at high risk of becoming perpetrators of violence and crime against weaker people or other minors.

Much can be done to reduce the number of children who sleeping rough, especially in terms of prevention strategies and through raising the visibility of these children with a view to assisting them in concrete ways to rise from their circumstances. In this respect, current research findings from our Children Rough Sleepers project already give clear indications, showing a workable road ahead for national ministries as well as national and local governments. These are represented by increased support for children who live in dysfunctional homes and/or families followed by the social services . Almost all the children living on our streets have previously had some form of contact with the social services. Consequently, there remains the urgent need to support children already accommodated in institutional and social care centres. Still it is these who represent a particularly fragile segment of those minors who so often end up on the streets. Solutions include structuring adequate shelter options for children who live on the streets in order to trace and support them with the aid of trustworthy professional adult teams. This has been proven to be a potentially winning option in responsibly addressing rough sleeping among children.

We also need to give a voice to social operators, NGOs, social workers and volunteer organisations which work on the streets of Europe so that we can become more attentive to their ideas, options and best practices on this issue.

The Children Rough Sleepers – CRS project is funded by the European Commission under the Daphne Programme. It is identified by the code JUST/2011/DAP/AG/3022.

Further information about the project can be found at:

Website: http://www.childrenroughsleepers.tk/

Twitter: @CRS_Project

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/childrenroughsleepers