This week, statistics revealed that the number of deaths among people sleeping rough has risen sharply – not surprising when homelessness and rough sleeping have rocketed under Tory policies, along with poverty among adults and children.
But rather than look for ways to help, many local authorities have criminalised rough sleepers – or else given them a one-way ticket to a different local authority area, forcing vulnerable people onto a sick merry-go-round.
But that will end under the next Labour government.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn have announced today that Labour will repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824 which criminalises begging and rough sleeping, saying that the priority should be to support those who are sleeping rough or begging, not to criminalise them.
This Georgian-era legislation is unnecessary for dealing with genuine anti-social behaviour as number of other civil measures exist in modern legislation, including civil injunctions and criminal behaviour orders.
In 2016, the Vagrancy Act was used to bring a criminal charge nearly 3,000 times, with offences under the act commanding a fine of up to £1,000 and leaving those convicted under it with a two-year criminal record.
Labour has committed to ending rough sleeping within five years of forming the next Labour Government, with a plan to reserve 8,000 homes for those with a history of rough sleeping.
Earlier this week the Shadow Housing Secretary announced plans for a £100m fund to make emergency cold weather accommodation available for every rough sleeper during winter.
It should shame us all that rough sleeping has doubled in the last eight years and nearly 600 people died while homeless last year.
Homeless people need help, not punishment.
The next Labour government will make ending homelessness a priority. We want to build a society which doesn’t walk by on the other side when we see someone in need.
Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn said:
It beggars belief that we still use Georgian-era laws to criminalise some of the most vulnerable in society.
Treating rough sleepers as criminals does not solve the underlying causes of homelessness and makes it harder for them to access support to move away from the streets.
Rather than criminalising rough sleepers Labour would support them, with 8,000 new homes available to those with a history of rough sleeping as part of a plan to eradicate rough sleeping within five years.
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