Fining Homeless People Sums Up Austerity Britain

Beggars are to be fined in Poole, which says just about everything about how heartless British society has become.

We take for granted a lot of things in life. Education, health…our homes. In the blink of an eye though we can find ourselves homeless. Inflation goes up, we lose our jobs or there’s economic pressure. Homelessness isn’t a sign of morality, and even if it was, it’s not a punishment anybody deserves – although some seem to disagree.

It’s been revealed that in Poole beggars will be fined £100. It’s a policy only remarkable for its sheer callousness.  It’s not a new policy initiative. Other areas in the UK take a similar stand point. In Newcastle last year, plans were revealed for fining ‘aggressive beggars’ of up to £1000.

Fining beggars seems beyond belief but that is the society we have. We fine people for having little to no money or income. Harassment may be an issue in a minority of cases but there are ways better to deal with that than fining people who have nothing. We need a change of culture. We could actually tackle the root causes of begging and homelessness, for example.

“We could actually tackle the root causes of begging and homelessness, for example”

But that isn’t what our society is interested in. Time and again policies are driven by consumers. It’s about protecting businesses by not putting off shoppers who don’t wish to see something unsightly like somebody who is clearly homeless.

This is a country that has put up spikes so that homeless people cannot sleep and have to move on. This is now a society that seeks to fine people simply for trying to survive with absolutely no money. In England, the number of rough sleepers has risen every year for seven years. That is the conversation worth having. Why is it happening? Well, we all know the answer to that – it’s austerity, but while austerity widens inequality there is little political will to bring about change. It’s businesses and profit which run the show.

Beggars are treated as a stain on society. It’s not about how to support people or prevent people from needing to beg. The focus is just on clearing them out of public spaces, as though they aren’t a problem. We are erasing people’s struggles just to make our streets look better. It is an utter failure of politics, but also an absolute shame for our rapidly diminishing humanity.

This is perhaps the policy that most typifies austerity. Squeeze people at the bottom, and then fine them for struggling at all. Meritocracy has always been dead. This is an attack on poor people, and everyone who lives in a city should be protesting that.

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One thought on “Fining Homeless People Sums Up Austerity Britain

  1. Fines for beggars have been going on for years. A beggar I knew was fined £162 in Sheffield in 2006 – effectively because they couldn’t afford a home or the expenses related to getting a job or benefits. It’s a self-defeating action. Unsurprisingly, the fine never got paid because – you guessed it – the beggar had no money (or even a bank account to to which the bill could be charged). What was the point?

    Liked by 2 people

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