Recommendations to address Street Children

The following are some recommendations to ensure that street children have improved access to their rights, particularly education and protection.

Policy and Legislative Reforms

  • Review of relevant federal and provincial legislation affecting street children, including Vagrancy Laws and Child Protection legislation, through a child rights lens, according to the guidance provided by the UN General Comment No. 21. In particular, removing their labelling from status offences based on poverty, homelessness and deprivation of shelter, so that children themselves are not criminalised for survival behaviour. UNGC emphasis is on restorative rather than punitive justice system, and for children to be rehabilitated as positively contributing citizens. It also calls for removal of any clauses that call for arbitrary round-up or detention of children, as “Deprivation of liberty is never a form of protection”.
  • Amendments to relevant federal and provincial legislation are needed to address gaps in child protection laws and mechanisms to protect street connected children, and Rule of Business should be formulated and approved or pending approvals must be notified without further delay.
  • Harmonisation of laws, addressing discrepancies are important to address because child protection laws generally define a child as someone under the age of 18. However, labour laws largely define them as 14 years old, or 15 years old in Punjab. Second, age does not coincide with education laws, which require children to attend school until the age of 16. Moreover, in ICT and Punjab, for example, economic activities that children engage in on the streets, such as begging, are not explicitly classified as hazardous work, but are treated as protection risks in the legislation of CP. There’s a need to ensure that child labour, education and protection laws reinforce each other to create a protective and enabling environment for street children.

The UNGC 21 calls, among other things, for removal of discriminatory clauses and status offences, proposing a rights-based approach based on listening to children and their communities. In the child rights approach, the process matters as much as the end result and recognising children as rights-holders, with strengths and resilience to build upon, is a first step.

Improve Public Governance

There is an urgent need to improve public governance by closing the gap between law and practice and creation of multisectoral, holistic national strategy for street children, addressing education and protection – a blueprint that can be adopted by provinces including:

  • Building the capacity of government departments dealing with children’s rights and welfare at the national, provincial and district levels. It is also important to train stakeholders in cascading provincial multi-sectoral strategies.
  • Coordination between governments at the federal and provincial levels should be improved, with roles and responsibilities clearly defined.
  • Sensitive data collection to have an idea of the scale of the issue of street-connected children e.g. by employing a “head counting” methodology, which does not exacerbate vulnerabilities for children or communities (Street invest, 2019).
  • Outreach and consultation of key stakeholders, including the children and communities themselves. This would help to identify bottlenecks in accessing education and protection services for children.
  • Provincial governments should reform and invest in Social Welfare Departments so that they can better serve the protection of children, including street-connected children.
  • Accountability mechanisms e.g. in March 2022, Peshawar High Court responded to several petitions regarding the implementation of the Child Protection Act, and directed the Social Welfare Department to produce a detailed report about the issues faced by street-connected children, as well as the state of current welfare facilities. Such a drive for periodic reporting and accountability from relevant departments will ensure implementation of laws.
  • Establishment of juvenile courts and panels for free legal aid, notification of juvenile justice committees, strengthening the probation and parole system for diversion, and establish observation homes and rehabilitation centres for juveniles provided under JJSA 2018.


  • Progress to be pushed on implementing Article 25-A, through the implementation and notification of laws for each province and formation of rules.
  • Remove barriers to formal schooling such as the requirement for B-forms, and simplify the process for obtaining documentation from NADRA and union councils. Social mobilisation, birth registration drives and communitybased support to access documentation are essential.
  • Age-related barriers should be addressed – children should not be prevented from accessing schooling based on age, and accelerated learning programmes should be made available so that children who have lost time due to mobility, displacement or work have the opportunity for a fresh start.
  • Widening the reach of social welfare and incentive programmes under Ehsaas, particularly stipends or conditional cash transfers encouraging girls’ education. According to evidence, targeted social safety nets have already been seen to positively bridge gaps for unmet education services in katchi abadis (ASER, 2021). Another form of incentive would be to provide school-based meals a few times a week and monitor impact on enrolment, attendance and participation.
  • Partnerships with CSOs to conduct targeted community mobilisation in urban settlements engaging and mobilising parents to send their children to school, and offering non-formal education programmes as a bridge to formal schooling.
  • Improving access to early childhood learning, to build strong foundational skills that will ensure that children enter school ready to learn, and perform better through their academic journey.
  • Offering a useful education curriculum including life skills and vocational skills. There is a need to frame education as something that will add practical value to the lives of children who often need to choose between earning or going to school. At the same time as this, it is important to offer extracurricular, creative opportunities to build socioemotional skills, and offer children with respite from adverse circumstances.
  • Implementation of the government approved framework to re-enrol out-of-school children prioritizing a phase-wise reopening of classrooms from the most to least disadvantaged areas of the country. The plan calls for providing dedicated — and cheap — transport services to female students and teachers of secondary schools, training support for teachers and bridge programmes for students resuming school.

Child Protection

  • Include strategies for preventing children from ending up on the streets again and again as part of the child protection response. Prevention strategies could involve outreach with parents to address family and domestic violence that causes them to leave – including positive parenting support. Schemes to improve livelihoods, provide affordable housing or access to social protection under Ehsaas or Bait-ul-Mal would also matter.
  • Establish Child Protection Units where they do not exist e.g. in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, with clearly defined structures and processes.
  • Establishing protocols for all involved in a child protection response. First point of contact for children should be a social worker, but there is a need to include SOPs for police for handling vulnerable children and taking them into protective custody.
  • Ensuring all relevant institutions having contact with children have safeguarding policies, codes of conducts and transparent mechanisms for reporting and addressing violence or abuse by duty-bearers. Having safeguarding protocols and child protection policies in place for police as well as child protection centres would ensure that children feel safe with personnel deployed for their protection. Building capacity for those in charge of the response including Child Protection Officers and police. Clear TORs should be accompanied by in-service training which should encompass a child rights approach, psychosocial support and child safeguarding.
  • Expanding the availability of drop-in spaces or non-residential facilities as alternatives to the streets, so that street-connected children have safe spaces for hygiene, learning and recreation. These should be child-friendly facilities, situated in areas that are easily accessible to children. They can help act as a point of referral to other services including drug rehabilitation, psychosocial support or education and training opportunities.
  • Case management – individual cases should be stored in a database, with case notes and details allowing follow-up from designated personnel. For reunification of runaway children, a strong counselling process with both the family and the child, identifying the root cause of the problem and creating a viable solution can help avoid a return to the street (Pachchaan, 2009). Trust and regard for confidentiality are an important part of the process.
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