Headlines: December 17th, 2004

A leading London council is stepping up its campaign for people not to give money to beggars but to donate to charities instead. Westminster City Council has today released figures that show that while Christmas is the time of giving, much of the money handed to beggars in the festive season last year merely boosted profits for drug dealers.The council has calculated that more than 350,000 pounds was spent by drug-addicted beggars last December and January. As part of its Killing with Kindness campaign, which was launched in August, it is publishing figures that show how that money could have been better spent. It might, for example, have paid for 850 resettlement packs for homeless people or more than 14,000 hours of housing support.

The council says that since the campaign began, 71.3 per cent of people arrested for begging in Westminster have tested positive for Class A drugs. Now it, and the homeless charity Thames Reach Bondway, are asking people not to give directly to beggars but to charities that work to help the genuine homeless. Most beggars, it says, are not homeless.

Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Leader of the council, said people thought they were doing the right thing in giving their change to beggars but what they needed was help to overcome addictions, not money to fuel their habits.

“Money given to beggars in December and January will unfortunately result in drug dealers buying expensive Christmas presents and jetting off to the sun on their profits,” he said.

Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach Bondway, said the evidence that the overwhelming majority of people begging on the streets of central London spent their begging money on crack cocaine and heroin was indisputable.