By Les May
SIMON Danczuk’s remarks about beggars in Rochdale town centre, or as he would have it 'aggressive’ beggars, has predictably provoked quite a lot of moral outrage.
But to what extent can they be regarded merely as ‘alternative facts’? Fortunately we don’t have to look far to get a picture of the reality of life for those who drink and/or beg in our streets. And who better to provide it for us than Simon himself?
Simon sees himself as something of an ‘expert’, because he was involved in research which was published by the homelessness charity ‘Crisis’ in 2000. Now I have read his research, and I don’t think his recent comments can be said to follow from the data he collected.
In particular he seems to be promoting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to begging, to be downplaying the lack of both overnight accommodation and the support needed to get people off the streets, and overemphasising the role of drug addiction. A dangerous ploy for someone who has admitted to the use of Ecstasy and Cannabis, and seems to have significant knowledge of the effects of alcohol.
A memorandum submitted to the Home Affairs Committee by ‘Crisis’ in 2005 said:
‘Begging and street homelessness constitute two overlapping parts of a broader homelessness problem, "research from across England—including Manchester, Brighton, Leeds, Blackpool, Bristol, Chester, Leicester, Westminster, Woolwich and Luton has consistently found that the vast majority people begging are homeless".'
So what did Crisis have to say about Simon’s report?
'It is the contention of the report that reliance upon police enforcement policies such as zero tolerance schemes are an inappropriate response to a complex problem' and 'Of all those surveyed, just over half had slept rough the previous night and four in five where vulnerably housed.'
Do I detect a shift to the right? Or is it just that Simon’s own addiction is to self publicity?You can find both the original report and the summary at the links below: