It was early into our visit to DMRC, Salaam Baalak Trust's largest shelter home in Delhi, that we heard the story.
36 children had been rescued in a police operation. The boys, all of whom were underage, had been working in a 'polishing factory' in Wazipur industrial area, Delhi.
Each child had to go through a court process in relation to child labour. During this time, SBT cared for the boys, going beyond safe shelter and food; the charity arranged ID cards, set up bank accounts in the children's names, and found their families. Some parents, those who had been complicit in child labour, were counselled and 100% of the children were restored. An unexpected and huge challenge for the already stretched team. We were reminded that in these cases of child labour and human trafficking, the court fines the ‘employer’ a certain amount per child. This is put into a trust account and the money cannot be touched until the child is eighteen. Children such as the recent 36 victims, can be difficult to look after as they are used to having their own money and a phone so do not like being ‘restricted’ by shelter home life...
Retired GP Justin has been volunteering with SBT for seven years and become a trustee of Friends of SBT in 2018. As part of his role, he visits the shelter homes annually to find out about new challenges, funding needs and how the money from previous donations is being spent. Together with Ruth, a Practice Nurse, he also delivers healthcare training to SBT staff. CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS We were pleased to learn that two new special needs educators had been recently employed so at DMRC we learned more about the children who are looked after here. Of the boys currently in situ, ten have special or additional needs - a higher number than previously seen. Away from the hustle and bustle of the main home, SBT has created a dedicated special needs area and has funded a special needs teacher. The aim is to maximise the potential of the children whose outcomes could be simple employment, vocational training including functional life-skills courses, or, for those with the most severe needs, placement into long-term care.
Three special needs staff are working at another of SBT's shelter homes, Aasra, where 25% of the children are identified as having special/additional needs. Children with conditions including schizophrenia, autism and generalised developmental delay were also reported on our visit to Arushi, one of the charities homes for girls. There is no alternative, suitable provision available for them locally. In addition to funding specialist staff, SBT provides the (often expensive) medication needed.
HEALTHCARE TRAINING We have taught the trained healthcare staff at SBT for many years now. However, as Medical Social Workers have to attend clinics or hospital appointments with a child, the home can be left without any trained healthcare worker. To help find a solution, the Health Care Manager, Moinuddin, asked us to give basic healthcare training to all shelter home staff on this visit. We attended the four main homes to give training sessions on Minor Injuries and Minor Illness. The expected outcome is that normal staff feel more comfortable with treating minor problems, thereby saving the Medical Social Worker time and avoiding hospital referral by providing simple care in the home.
A final snippet to share! There is promising news that a new (bigger, better) home is on the cards for the Udaan girls home. Historically it's been an overcrowded space, lacking in the facilities of some of the other spaces so this is welcome news for the 60 children who call it home.