Begging has become highly visible in the urban centres of Britain in recent years, yet the experiences and motivations of people involved in this activity have remained underresearched. This paper explores the implications for social policy arising from a detailed study of begging in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It reassesses the common understanding of begging as a 'homelessness issue' and demonstrates that, while rough sleeping was almost invariably implicated in people's routes into begging in these cities, securing accommodation was far from a guaranteed 'route out'. It emphasises the need for holistic services and effective policy co-ordination in responding to the wide-ranging social exclusion of people who beg. It also explores the importance, and difficulties, of securing their active involvement in policy and service development.