Why Spend £100 Million On Dealing With Rough Sleeping?


As is usual, a Minister gets to spend our money on his little bugbear. That’s why people go into politics after all, to spend our money on the things they’re too mean to spend their own cash upon. The current plan being to spend some £100 million on curing rough sleeping. This probably shouldn’t be done:

He began the year not knowing whether he had a future, let alone one in politics. In January, James Brokenshire left his cabinet post as Northern Ireland secretary after being diagnosed with lung cancer. The non-smoker had been in the job for less than 18 months when his world turned upside down.

Having recently watched his father die from pancreatic cancer, the news was a brutal wake-up call for the fitness fanatic as he was forced to face his own mortality. But today he has come a long way since the “dark times” after his diagnosis.

OK, terrible etc. He was ill, he’s better, but:

Since then he has given a lot of thought to what he wants to achieve and has concluded that the “biggest difference” he can make is by throwing himself into a mission to eradicate rough sleeping. Tomorrow he will launch a £100m initiative to realise that ambition.

His cancer means our money is to be spent for his ambition? Nice, eh?

Under the plans, about £30m will be spent on mental health and treatment for substance misuse, which will involve help for rough sleepers hooked on the synthetic cannabinoid drug spice.

Official figures estimate 4,750 people in England were homeless in 2017, up 15% on the previous year. The figures are unreliable as they are compiled simply by counting the number of people sleeping rough on one particular night.

Well, no, not really, we have both figures for the number on any one night and also for the number who pass through the status over a year. About 10,000 for that second.

There is one good thing here, nothing is being said about housing. For housing isn’t the cause of the rough sleeping problem nor the cure for it. Just about everyone has mental, alcohol or drug addiction problems which means that it’s those, not lack of housing, which has them sleeping out.

£100 million might seem a lot but to deal with 10,000 people, that’s £10,000 a head. That’s actually pretty cheap for dealing with the rough end of the last 1% of a problem. However, it still shouldn’t be done:

Ministers are also expected to review legislation on homelessness and rough sleeping, including the Vagrancy Act, which dates back to 1824 and still makes it illegal to sleep rough or beg in England and Wales.

We already have a solution to rough sleeping, it’s called a prison cell. So, why aren’t we using that?

Sure, maybe it is true that we shouldn’t be using that solution but let’s hear why shall we before Brokenshire’s ambition to make a difference – having been reminded of his own mortality and all that – means our pockets get picked yet more.