A campaign to raise awareness of begging in Newcastle was launched today by Changing Lives, in partnership with Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police.

Small Change or Real Change? is designed to make people think twice about giving cash to beggars.

It is based on the belief that many people who beg are struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs and there are more effective ways of helping them.

It suggests instead that people can:

  • Buy them food or a hot drink
  • Make a donation to a charity
  • Volunteer to help a charity

The campaign is led by the charity Changing Lives and backed by Newcastle City Council and Northumbria Police.

Chief Executive of Changing Lives, Stephen Bell, said:

“As a charity we want to do all we can to help people off the streets, however giving money direct to people begging is not the best way to do that.

“It has been shown that if we make it viable for them to be out on the streets then it sets back considerably the time it would take to get them through the support services available to them.

“We hope that Small Change Or Real Change? will make people more aware of the alternatives to giving them money.”

Newcastle City Council’s Active Inclusion Services focuses on trying to prevent the problems that can lead to begging by providing the foundations for a stable life; employment, a home and freedom from excessive debt.

The council also provides drug and alcohol services to help people recover from addictions in partnership with health partners.

Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Regulation, Cllr Nick Kemp, said:

“There are people who beg in every major city in this country – not just Newcastle. I believe that we have a moral duty to provide them with the help that they need.

“The central message of the campaign is that there are services out there and while we are not instructing people not to give cash – it’s an understandable thing to do – we are saying that there are alternative ways of helping which may lead to a real change that helps people towards the specialist help that they need.

“This is not an easy thing to do because not everyone wants to engage with us but as a council we are doing our best with the help of partners. Our response is proportionate through our Public Spaces Protection Order but there is more that we can do.”

Newcastle city centre Chief Inspector, Dave Pickett, said:

“We have been working very closely with the city council and Changing Lives on begging in Newcastle and fully support the campaign.

“Our priority will always be to ensure vulnerable people receive the appropriate support and this campaign is really about educating people as to the real picture of begging in the city.

“Money given to beggars often does not go towards food or accommodation but instead lines the pockets of drug dealers and organised criminals who profit off the vulnerability of others.

“Our priority is to work with the local authority and Changing Lives to support these individuals and get them out of the vicious cycle they have found themselves stuck in.”

Posters will be appearing in city centre bus and Metro stations in the next few days, and a leaflet with useful helpline information will be available in the Customer Services section of the City Library. People can also log on to www.newcastle.gov.uk/realchange

NE1 is helping to distribute the leaflet to city centre businesses.