Despite Home Office warnings against councils issuing fines to vulnerable groups, the number of homeless people to receive fines on the street has increased.
Councils can place Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) on rough sleepers, beggars and loiterers in England and Wales for “aggressive begging”, “loitering” and “using a tent in a manner likely to create a health and safety risk,” but critics have urged that such orders don’t specifically state unreasonable behaviours.
“Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) let councils ban any activity they deem to have a ‘detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality,'” human rights organisation Liberty have written on their website.
“Councils have turned all sorts of activities into criminal acts almost overnight but by far the most shocking use of PSPOs has been to tackle homelessness by making it illegal.
The Home Office wrote guidance in 2017 explaining that PSPOs weren’t to be used to target homelessness, but councils are continuing to use the order against the homeless and Liberty say: “What we need from the Home Office is action, not words”.
“What we need from the Home Office is action, not words
Human rights organisation, Liberty
Homeless figures are rising despite government assurances. Image credit: Unsplash
In 2018, 54 councils were recorded to have issued the homeless with fines, however, a new report by The Guardian found that number to have increased to 60.
Responding to the newspaper’s findings, the Home Office said: “We are clear public spaces protection orders should be used proportionately to tackle anti-social behaviour, and not to target specific groups or the most vulnerable in our communities.
“We set this out clearly in 2017 when we refreshed the statutory guidance for frontline professionals on the use of the antisocial behaviour powers. It is for local agencies to determine whether their use of the powers is appropriate and that they are meeting the legal tests set out in the legislation.”
In 2017, the government set out plans to eradicate homelessness within a decade. The strategy received £10 million of public funding and was set to target minority homeless groups particularly, such as the LGBT+ community and people leaving prison.
Increasing Numbers Of People Experiencing Homelessness
£100 fines are being slapped on homeless people. Image credit: Unsplash
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “[It is] simply unacceptable that people have to sleep on our streets.”
“Whether people are at risk of rough sleeping, already on the streets or in need of settled accommodation, we now have a solid plan to help the most vulnerable in our society.
“And this is not just about putting a roof over their heads but helping them find a place to call home,” he added.
A sense of ‘deep despair’ among the poor in Britain. Image credit: Flickr
Despite the governmental reassurances about tackling homeless, a shocking report from the UN Rapporteur recently found huge numbers of British people living in poverty.
Philip Alston confirmed that, in Britain, “so many people are living in poverty.”
“This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in food banks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for Suicide Prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”
Despite the government’s policy to end homelessness, there has been a rise of 13,000 people living on the streets when 2018 figures are compared to 2017.
Housing charity Shelter confirmed what the UN Rapporteur had already reported: that an “unforgivable” amount – one in 200 people in Britain – are homeless.
A further homeless “wake-up call” has been triggered by housing charity Shelter, who recently revealed that homeless deaths in deprived areas are nine times higher than in affluent areas.