An analysis of legislation and existing programmes and services for street children in South Africa

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The phenomenon of street children is a growing social problem, both worldwide and in South Africa. It is, however, difficult to ascertain accurate numbers of street children due to their high mobility and other factors that lead them to work and live in a rather concealed fashion. Literature on the phenomenon of street children is scarce and outdated. There is especially a scarcity of literature on the psycho-social needs and functioning of street children in South Africa and possible intervention strategies regarding this vulnerable group. Street children can be regarded as children living and working on the street, with few or no family ties, who landed on the street because of family violence, broken homes, maltreatment, neglect, poverty or some macro-issues such as urbanisation and overpopulation. Factors that entice children to live on the street can be seen as group pressure, a search for freedom, need for finances, drugs and a search for a better life.

A research question was formulated for this study along the lines of: What is the nature of service delivery to street children in South Africa in terms of existing legislation, programmes and services? From the research question the aim of the article was formulated as: To analyse existing programmes for street children as well as to analyse legislation according to a SWOT analysis. This analysis will contribute towards gaining a holistic perspective on service-rendering to street children in South Africa as well as to making recommendations regarding the improvement of services to street children. To delineate the total situation of street children it is not only necessary to give attention to the needs and challenges of street children, but also to focus on service delivery to street children in South Africa.

A literature study was utilised as research methodology for this study with the focus on systematic review. A focused research question, aim and applicable keywords were used in order to do a systematic search of all possible applicable sources. This was done in a transparent and all-inclusive manner to gain reliability and validity. Reliability was ascertained by way of making sure that the terms used have the same meaning in various contexts and will mean the same when repeated. Validity was obtained by comparing various sources on the same topic, analysing them and gaining rich data. Initially all possible sources were scrutinised, but later refinement of data took place in order to achieve the richest data on legislation and service delivery to street children.

Legislation regarding street children in South Africa has changed, and in particular the Children’s Act number 38 of 2005, which for the first time makes provision for street children and their psycho-social needs. Current legislation and policy documents available in South Africa, as well as some international policy documents, are discussed in this article. There are several programmes and projects that render services to street children in South Africa. These services form part of the developmental paradigm of social work. This approach to social welfare contributed largely to the implementation of the Integrated Service Delivery Model of the Department of Social Development.

The Constitution of South Africa (1996), The Children’s Act (38 of 2005), The White Paper on Social Welfare (1997), The National Policy Framework and Strategic Plan for Prevention and Management of Child Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation, (2010), Strategy Guidelines for Children Living and Working on the Streets, South Africa (2010) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) were discussed as examples of existing legislation. The levels of service delivery to street children were discussed on the following four levels, namely preventative services and programmes; early intervention services and programmes; alternative care and statutory services; and reconstruction and after-care services and programmes.

Certain programmes and projects existing in the field of services-rendering to street children were also discussed, such as Kids Haven, Umthombo Street Children, Sinethemba, Twilight Children, Khulisa’s Way Home Street Children, Salesian Institute Youth Projects, StreetSmart, James House, and ProSeed.

The critical analysis of legislation, policy frameworks, programmes and services to street children were done by way of a SWOT analysis, which is a general procedure to systematically analyse external and internal factors in any practice situation. The acronym SWOT relates to Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Current legislation and policy frameworks were critically analysed. As strengths, current legislation and policy frameworks and the rights of children can be described, while the implementation of the legislation and policy frameworks can be seen as weaknesses. Greater responsibility and involvement of the community can be seen as opportunities, while ignorance of the community, the denial of children’s rights and non-adherence to the principle of the best interest of children can be seen as threats.

Regarding existing programmes and services for street children the following can be seen as an evaluation of the various aspects of the SWOT analysis. As strengths it can be seen that some programmes are available for street children, that various organisations render services to street children, that there is currently a greater focus on prevention and that child and youth care centres must be registered. The following can be delineated as weaknesses, namely the ever increasing number of street children, insufficient funding, weak monitoring and evaluation strategies and manipulation by street children. More community involvement and awareness campaigns can be seen as opportunities, while weak cooperation between the various role players, financial constraints and lack of properly trained personnel can be seen as threats.

From the article it becomes clear that legislation and policy frameworks regarding service delivery to street children in South Africa have improved over the years and that government has taken major steps to provide for the needs of street children by way of legislation and policy documents. However, many threats still exist regarding financial support to organisations working on behalf of street children, adequate trained personnel, ignorance of the community regarding street children, disregard for the rights of children, and often the neglect of the principle of the best interest of the child. Cooperation between all the organisations involved in working with street children is not always coordinated and streamlined, which hinders the endeavours towards the best interest of street children.

Keywords: legislation; policy documents; programmes for service delivery; service rendering / service delivery; street children; SWOT analysis

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Die ontleding van wetgewing en bestaande programme en dienste vir straatkinders in Suid-Afrika

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