An adult begging for money may have a child with them who may or may not be their own, and whose role is to invoke public sympathy. A child may also beg alone or appear to be so doing.
It is not the activity itself, rather the consequent risks which determine if an Assessment with a Section 47 Enquiry is required. Considerations should include the age of the child, the degree of adult supervision, time of day etc.
It is the responsibility of the police to:
- Deal with the offence of begging;
- Establish the identity and address of any involved child;
- Refer the child to the Surrey MASH or EDT.
If there are immediate risks to the child, the referral must be made to the Surrey MASH or EDT - see Contacts and Referrals Procedure. Children involved in begging are likely to be exposed to emotional abuse and / or neglect to such a degree that it constitutes significant harm, if their parents are unable or unwilling to refocus their lifestyle around the child's needs.
A Strategy Meeting and Section 47 Enquiry must occur if information available indicates that the begging:
- Presents immediate risks to the child's safety; or
- Persists and presents as a continuing risk of Significant Harm.
If this threshold is not met, an Assessment should be undertaken and advice offered to the parent/carer about the inappropriate use of children for begging and the risks involved.
Activities such as 'penny for the guy', 'trick or treat' or carol singing are not normally regarded as begging if arrangements are age appropriate and effectively supervised.