Changing Lives responds to ...

Changing Lives responds to the Government’s backtrack on plans to criminalise homelessness.

May 2024

1 Min Read

Policy Manager Philippa Rousell responds to the Criminal Justice Bill and the Government's plans to backtrack on criminalising homelessness.

When Parliament voted to repeal the Vagrancy Act in 2022 it felt like a long-awaited victory. Surely we can all see that it makes no sense to criminalise people for being homeless?

The intervening years has shown that this was a naïve thing to think, as measures put forward in the Criminal Justice Bill attempted to criminalise ‘nuisance rough sleeping’ with a definition so broad that it included excessive smells.

We therefore welcome the news this week that the government will amend the definition of nuisance rough sleeping but remain concerned that the concept of nuisance rough sleeping remains in the Bill. Not only could this still be used to unfairly prosecute vulnerable people, it sends a message that people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping are an inconvenience that needs to be hidden away, rather than a visible symptom of wider failings in our welfare, housing and homelessness systems.

We are in agreement with the wider homelessness sector that the powers introduced through the Bill are unnecessary – as the police already have powers to deal with genuine anti-social behaviour - and to the detriment of people experiencing homelessness.

What we really need to see from the government, if they are serious about ending homelessness, is investment in affordable housing and homelessness services. After years of austerity, homelessness service providers are operating on the bare bones and being expected to deliver more for less every year. With local authorities under immense financial pressure themselves, driven in part by rising temporary accommodation costs, the sector needs urgent intervention from national government.