Rough sleeper under a bridge
16/10/15

The Wallich and Shelter Cymru are deeply concerned at Newport Council’s Streetscene, Regeneration and Safety Scrutiny Committee decision to approve the future use of a Public Safety Protection Order (PSPO) in Newport City Centre.

The decision to allow the use of a PSPO came after a public consultation1 which received only 403 responses and found 90% in favour of a rough sleeping ban.  We believe the question asked misled the public into a ‘yes’ answer through its language.  We called for the results of that particular question to be deleted before being put to scrutiny committee members2.  We received no reply to this letter and the results were submitted to councillors.  Newport City Council has not addressed the issue of the wording of their consultation.3

We believe that the inclusion of the phrase “rough sleepers need help and support” misled the public, as many would agree with this statement, thereby being recorded as agreeing with a rough sleeping ban.  Additionally, linking rough sleepers to arson and criminal damage further misled the public as no evidence was provided in support of this statement.  The consultation also linked rough sleeping with aggressive begging.  We dispute this link, aggressive begging is regularly perpetrated by those who are not homeless and can already be dealt with under existing laws such as the Vagrancy Act 1824.

Among other measures, the PSPO would allow the enforcement of fixed penalty notices and potential prosecution leading to a criminal record for “those individuals who were rough sleeping and who already had accommodation.”4 We have a number of concerns around this as a method of addressing rough sleeping. Criminalising rough sleeping will drive vulnerable people underground where our RSIT and other organisations cannot reach them.  This will lead to people with mental and physical health problems not seeking treatment due to fear of arrest.  Other rough sleepers will not be deterred by being given a criminal record and will continue to sleep outside.5

We call for clarity on what constitutes accommodation in terms of the ban.  We are concerned that those who are sleeping rough due to fleeing abuse may be deemed to have accommodation and be criminalised under a PSPO.

The ban on rough sleeping would be impractical to enforce.  The consultation called for rough sleepers to be given “help and support” rather than sleeping in the city centre.  Newport City Council provides 125 beds for rough sleepers to access through their referral service.  Many of these spaces are reserved for those in priority need such as vulnerable women and those with mental health issues6 and are unavailable to many single rough sleepers.  We have seen an increase in rough sleepers in South Wales who are not in priority need and are homeless due to financial reasons only.  Bed spaces available for these individuals in Newport are few. We believe that this ban would simply criminalise those who are sleeping rough and have no other option.

We welcome any opportunity to work with Newport City Council to improve services for homeless people in their area and help develop services and strategy to prevent people having to sleep rough.

Last night we questioned the First Minister Carwyn Jones in person on a potential ban on rough sleeping in Newport. His response was “We have to have a system and society that provides support to rough sleepers and helps prevent it.”7 We believe that the potential ban on rough sleeping in Newport would make it much harder for this to be a reality.

 

  1. Link to Newport Council consultation paper: http://www.newport.gov.uk/documents/Council-and-Democracy/Consultations/City-Centre-PSPO-consultation.pdf
  2. Earlier response & joint letter to Newport Council: http://thewallich.com/newport-council-to-ban-rough-sleeping-our-response/
  3. Link to Newport Council consultation response paper: https://democracy.newport.gov.uk/documents/s2929/2.%20Scrutiny%20City%20Centre%20PSPO%2015%20Oct%2015%20-%20FINAL.pdf
  4. As above. Page 6
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0359lc0
  6. Newport Council Homelessness Provision (total 125 beds):
    • Clifton Place Hostel (Solas) – 29 Places – All
    • In2change – a 10 bed space Gwalia project for single people aged 18+ with drug and/or alcohol issues
    • Ty Trosiad – a 10 bed space Gwalia project for single people aged 18+ with an offending history
    • Clarence Place – a 26 bed space Solas project for single people aged 18+ with complex needs
    • Albert Street – a 21 bed space Solas short-term housing project for single people aged 18+
    • Clytha Square – a 6 bed space Llamau project for single young people aged 16 to 21
    • Mind – 16 bed spaces in 4 shared houses for people aged 18+ with mental health issues
    • Women’s Service – 5 bed space Llamau hostel for women only aged 16+ with a range of complex support needs
  7. https://twitter.com/fmwales/status/654714671618875393