Behind the headlines

A crackdown on beggars by police and Westminster Council has
been condemned by homelessness charities as creating barriers for
those trying to escape poverty.

The council had estimated that there were as many as 300 beggars in
the area, but just 27 people were arrested over two evenings.

Council officers worked in collaboration with the police to make
arrests and take people’s fingerprints and DNA. The council said
the information gathered would help to provide evidence in the
pursuit of antisocial behaviour orders against persistent

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“In Nottingham, under the slogan Change the Way you Give, we are
encouraged to put change in collecting bins, not in the hands of
beggars – after all, their dealer may be travelling first class on
our generosity, says the poster campaign. Park benches are now
being designed to be impossible to lie on. Our humanity is being
sapped from us. But why not slap an Asbo on the insurance and bank
companies with their junk mail and unsolicited phone calls instead.
They’re the real nuisance.”

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“I broadly support the idea of trying to remove beggars from the
street provided that it is accompanied by measures to address the
causes of begging. I hope that it will single out aggressive
begging, because this behaviour is both antisocial and
intimidating. In general we need to act to reduce antisocial
behaviour because it can seriously impact on the quality of life,
particularly for some of the most vulnerable people in the

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“For more than 300 years, the poor and dispossessed have been seen
as a threat in the minds of the metropolitan bourgeoisie. The
heavy-handed Westminster strategy has more to do with making the
area attractive to tourists than addressing the needs of the
homeless. This all smacks of the Victorian Poor Law and frightening
people away from poverty. Surely the issue needs to be understood
and addressed, not simply hidden.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“The low number of beggars ’rounded up’ says it all. Those who beg
through choice and represent the greatest threat will disappear
very quickly when the word spreads on the street that an operation
has begun. Some may be deterred but not many. Those who beg from
necessity and are in despair will repeatedly end up in court and
then in our prisons, which are expected to be full by next weekend.
So more suicides, more vulnerable and desperate people – I am not
sure the net result will be safer streets.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“I wish we could be more coherent about this complex and
troublesome problem. There is no point at all in Westminster taking
unilateral action and no point in tackling this London-wide, and to
some extent nationwide, problem in a piecemeal way. It’s no
surprise to hear that hardly any beggars were found in the audit,
nor to hear that they will be back. I don’t think it’s helpful
either for any of the concerned bodies to take a line that denies
what we all know – that begging supports unacceptable behaviours as
well as being the action of the desperate.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.