Headlines: November 7th, 2000

A campaign has been launched to discourage people from giving cash to street beggars. It is estimated that over 80% of beggers use the money to buy alcohol or drugs. The thrust of the campaign is to divert funds to homelessness charities rather than giving cash to beggars.If the campaign succeeds more funds will be directed into frontline work for the homeless and more volunteers will be found for local projects.This campaign will boost the strategy to reduce rough sleepers from 1,850 in 1998 to 620 by 2002. The strategy is already delivering results and it is estimated that the 1998 figure has been reduced to 1200

Two years ago the issue of rough sleepers was selected to pilot the joined up approach to government. A nine year rough sleepers project by the Department for Environment Transport and Regions had ended with no tangible result. The problem was not large, but it had proved intractable. The sight of a rough sleeper bedding down for the night in a shop doorway or on a park bench is one of the most potent symbols of social exclusion.

The model for joining up services, homing in on the isue and then focusing attention and resources on addressing it, proved successful and has been used elsewhere. The Social Exclusion Unit analysed the problem and produced a strategy and an action plan. The strategy integrates central government, local government, police and voluntary bodies. Responsibility for implementation was given to the DETR and the department co-ordinates the overall strategy including housing, health, access to employment, training and benefits. A new Ministerial Committee representing the key interested departments oversees delivery of the Action Plan. A ‘homelessness czar’ heads a Rough Sleepers Unit which puts policy into action. Outside London local authorities co-ordinate the work with one person in charge in every major city.