Tag Archives: Melanie Onn

Homelessness: Labour will repeal law that criminalises rough sleeping

Sleeping in bins: Has this young woman been found yet? (See This Site’s previous report.)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn have announced that the next Labour government will repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824 which criminalises begging and rough sleeping.

They say the priority should be to support, not criminalise, those who are sleeping rough or begging.

The Georgian-era legislation is unnecessary for dealing with genuine anti-social behaviour as a number of other civil measures exist, including civil injunctions and criminal behaviour orders.

The Vagrancy Act was used to bring a criminal charge nearly 3,000 times in 2016, with offences commanding a fine of up to £1,000 and leaving those convicted 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.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey has already announced plans for a £100 million fund to make emergency cold weather accommodation available for every rough sleeper during winter.

Now Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said: “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.”

And Melanie Onn added: “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.”

The announcement has won widespread support from the Twitter commentariat:

And Mr Corbyn expanded on his own opinion of homelessness during a visit to a Northampton project that helps homeless people:

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What does Chris ‘people aren’t lying dead in the streets’ Skidmore have to say now?

Chris Skidmore: He once said austerity wasn’t so bad because people weren’t dying in the streets. Now they are, and he is conspicuous by his silence.

The Conservative Party’s vice-chairman responsible for policy once said his party’s austerity cuts were not as bad as had been claimed because people were not “lying dead in the streets”. Now that people his party forced onto the streets have started to die, what does Chris Skidmore have to say?

Mr Skidmore, co-author of the Tory screed Britannia Unchained, which infamously claimed that British people were among the “worst idlers in the world”, has been challenged over his claim after the death of homeless Gyula Remes, who had been sleeping rough on the street just metres outside the Houses of Parliament. Mr Remes was a kitchen assistant at Charing Cross Station but was still forced to sleep rough.

He is the MP for Kingswood, which borders Bristol where a survey to count the number of dead homeless people is currently being carried out.

It is a good question, and one that should be put to Mr Skidmore at once. We need to hear his answer – especially as he is now responsible for Conservative Party policy. As Tory policies on homelessness have failed, how does he propose to prevent any more deaths?

That question was put to Housing Secretary James Brokenshire by Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn before Parliament went into recess for the Christmas period:

Mr Brokenshire passed the buck, saying it was the responsibility of Westminster City Council to see that “lessons are learned and applied”. We’ve all heard that line about lessons being learned before, of course.

He did say that Office of National Statistics figures show 597 homeless people died in 2017 – an increase on the previous figure of 449. While Mr Brokenshire said his government was “focused and resolute in our commitment to make rough sleeping a thing of the past”, the facts show that it isn’t doing enough.

Meanwhile, Sky News editor-at-large Adam Boulton seems to think he has the answer to the problem of people dying outside Parliament: Move them on.

https://twitter.com/RickBlaine123/status/1076065207468855297

Out of sight, out of mind, is it? Charming.

Oh, and while people are dying on the streets in the fifth-richest country on the planet, its prime minister has been visiting an exclusive shop where a handbag could cost more than many houses.

So much for “compassionate Conservatism” on her watch!

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