Concern over Cardiff Council plans to tackle begging

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have expressed concerns over Cardiff Council and South Wales Police plans to introduce a new begging protocol which would include the threat and use of fines to tackle begging and street homelessness in the city.

The concerns follow an announcement during Council yesterday that Cardiff Council will work with South Wales Police to implement a new begging protocol based on the Operation Luscombe model.

Operation Luscombe was introduced first by the City of London Police in 2018. The system operates on an escalation model where those found begging or rough sleeping are initially invited to attend an intervention hub which is held every week, but if they do not attend this can then be escalated to a community Protection Warning (Amber), followed by a community Protection Notice (Red) (which may include fines) and are then arrestable if the red ticket is breached (Blue).

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have stated that fining people experiencing homeless and engaging in begging has been shown to have a detrimental effect and should be ruled out.

Leader of the Cardiff Lib Dem Group Cllr Rhys Taylor said:

I am extremely concerned about the plans by Cardiff Labour to use the threat of fines and use of fines to tackle begging and street homelessness in the city.

Evidence shows issuing fines to those rough sleeping is often detrimental to ending homelessness and can cause harm to vulnerable people.

There is also evidence that it skews towards non-British citizens. 39% of those from the original London pilot were non-British citizens.

The Liberal Democrats successfully led the campaign for the Vagrancy Act of 1824, which criminalized rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales, to be repealed earlier this year. The last thing we want to see is punishment for being homeless being reintroduced through the back door. There needs to be clear safeguards to keep people safe.

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  • Brad Barrows 3rd Jul '22 - 1:03pm

    So what alternative is Cllr Rhys Taylor proposing in situations where those identified as homeless or repeatedly begging refuse to engage with help and support that is available and offered to them?

  • George Thomas 3rd Jul '22 - 3:11pm

    Cardiff LD’s manifesto highlighted the plan was to “Build 3,000 new council homes over the next 10 years and tackle homelessness” while Cardiff Labour outlined plans to “Increasing the supply of socially rented accommodation by building 1,500 social housing units over the next 5 years (council only)…”

    LD’s said “Help more people into private housing – We will work with the private rented sector to assist in re-housing people on the housing list more quickly, providing support to encourage landlords into this market. We will develop a deposit guarantee scheme for tenants, tackle empty private homes by increasing the council tax premium by 300% and charge a 100% council tax premium on second homes.”

    Labour said “Work with partners to help address the cost of renting in the private sector, and raise standards. We have 2 schemes the first offering guaranteed rental income for 3 years and managed maintenance and repair while the other includes help to private landlord with up to £2000 for repairs and bond/rent advances.”

    I can see why fines are being raised by Cllr Rhys Taylor – there wasn’t a massive difference in approach otherwise.

  • Chris Moore 3rd Jul '22 - 4:59pm

    A large percentage of rough sleepers have psychiatric issues.

    A real backwards step criminalising those at the very bottom of society.

  • Andy Boddington 3rd Jul '22 - 5:22pm

    @George Thomas You are talking about manifestos, not the position of Cardiff Council last week. There is a lot of difference between a council that wants to reintroduce the vagrancy act by the back door and the Lib Dem position.

  • Andy Boddington 4th Jul '22 - 7:57am

    @Brad Barrows You have probably never been homeless or a rough sleeper. People in this situation have a fear of engaging even though it will help them. The disengagement from society and from the bureaucratic nature of life can be extreme. Rough living becomes a normal existence and as uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) as it is, it is very hard for people to find their way back to our “normal” world. It can takes months of contact to build up the trust and bring someone in from the cold. There is no magic formula for this and the offer of a warm room and a shower is often not enough on its own.

  • Brad Barrows 4th Jul '22 - 9:52am

    @Andy Boddington
    I have never been homeless though I had a good friend who used to work with rough sleepers in Aberdeen and he used to tell me about the challenges they faced in getting people to take up accommodation and help that was available. Many of the people he dealt with had mental health and/or alcohol and drug addiction issues. Many already had criminal records. I have a good insight into the difficulties faced when trying to tackle rough sleeping that is not the result of lack of suitable accommodation. So my question still stands: it is easy just to criticise the plans proposed by others, but what is councillor Rhys Taylor proposing, as an alternative, to address the issue of people who refuse the help and accommodation that is available and continuing to rough sleep and beg in urban centres?

  • Joseph Bourke 4th Jul '22 - 12:55pm

    The Leader of the Cardiff Lib Dem Group Cllr Rhys Taylor is right to be critical of proposals for levying fines on people who have no means of paying them. Housing First is the answer but it requires a commitment to social housing. A commitment that cannot be met until we are prepared to address the question of land value capture.

  • The sleeping bags etc in practically every empty shop doorway in Queen Street (Cardiff) is depressing. Lot of them do have issues. I once saw a barefoot man drop a slice of bread on the pavement, then fight the seagulls to retrieve and eat it. I doubt fines would help him.
    I also know it isn’t pleasant for shoppers, shop workers etc. And there are too many of them. (I bought one guy a sandwich once, but you couldn’t help all of them). So I get the council wanting to do something.
    But: anyone know what happens to those who are arrested?

  • Andy Boddington 4th Jul '22 - 5:10pm

    @Brad Barrows You miss the point. There are many policies and options available for helping rough sleepers and homeless people. But we know that they don’t work for everybody. What Cardiff Council is proposing is to target people for doing what homeless people do. It is irrelevant that some people on the streets have addiction issues and others criminal records. It only matters that that they need help. None of us have a solution to that. Treating people who have no choice about how they live and that survive by seeking money from people passing by as though they are criminals under a version of Operation Luscombe is unacceptable.
    We need compassion. We need understanding. We need to find ways of addressing mental health issues for people who cannot engage with the NHS.
    Homelessness is only in part due to lack of housing, which is a major issue. Rough sleepers have fallen off the edge of society. Not being able to cope with the world they are in and falling further deeper into the abyss. Some people crawl out of that dismal pit and some are rescued. Too many do not survive or live for too long without help and comfort.
    We should see the homeless on the streets as a reflection of the failures of our society not the failure of those we see on the streets.
    The last thing we should do is further marginalise those that live on the margins or beyond the margins of society.

  • Brad Barrows 5th Jul '22 - 2:20pm

    @Andy Boddington
    With genuine respect, I disagree with your last post. Firstly I mentioned that many homeless people have addiction and mental health problems etc due to it being relevant to the services that needed to be on offer to address their circumstances. My point is that once we have every service in place to meet the needs of those living on the streets and begging, and a hardcore minority refuse to engage and insists that they will continue sleeping rough, begging, and often committing crime to survive, should we as a society simply give up at that point or try something else? I think the latter. I agree that fines are unlikely to work but my still unanswered question to Councillor Rhys Taylor remains: apart from merely criticising suggestions from others, what are you proposing to deal with the minority who will not engage in the services that are available and offered to them? (“We have to find ways…” is not an answer.)

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