The Wallich statement
We support the view that, if aggressive or intimidating begging is causing distress or harm to the public, then it should be challenged and this is already included in the existing PSPO. However, the proposal to amend the Newport PSPO to include a blanket ‘no begging’ restriction is concerning. We need to balance enforcement and support approaches in line with the evidence or we risk making homelessness worse.
In other city centres across the UK, the definition of ‘begging’ is very broad and could be seen to be targeting those who are rough sleeping. For instance, in Kettering, their PSPO prohibits ‘Any person on a street in the prohibition area from, at any time, placing themselves in a position to beg or solicit money.’
We feel that by changing the language in the existing PSPO, this could lead to people in Newport being arrested simply because they are homeless and have nowhere to go. This is not a crime or in itself antisocial.
Those who breach a PSPO are subject to being moved on, being fined, or potentially arrested. Criminalising rough sleepers is extremely counter-productive, leading to vulnerable people being driven underground rather than remaining visible where support can be offered. We fear this amendment could further stigmatise street homeless people and increase exclusion.
We are working with the Business Improvement District on a diverted giving scheme to offer the public an alternative means to help people experiencing homelessness.
As part of the Newport Rough Sleepers Task Group, a multi-agency partnership to support people off the streets, we will ensure that our concerns are heard and that the best interests of the people that we support are being met.