Council accused of 'demonising the homeless' with anti-begging poster campaign

One of the Nottingham City Council posters warns: 'Begging: Watch your money go to a fraud' 

A local authority has come under fire for an anti-begging poster campaign warning members of the public that any money they give away could potentially contribute to fraud - and fuel harmful drug addictions.

Nottingham City Council put up the signs around the city including the lines "begging: watch your money go to a fraud" and "beggars aren't what they seem".

Others state: "Begging: watch your money go up in smoke", and: "Begging funds the misuse of drugs".

The council leader has alleged "professional beggars" can earn up to £800 on East Midlands streets, but critics have labelled the #givesmart campaign "stigmatising" and "ill-informed".

Some vented their frustration on social media about the move, branding it "reprehensible" and "shamelessly demonising". 

But the leader of Nottingham City Council, Councillor Jon Collins, said: "Community Protection and the Police are continually taking action against a small number of persistent beggars who can sometimes be aggressive.

"Many of these individuals appear to be ‘rough sleeping’ when they have already been provided with accommodation and use the money to feed their lifestyle.

"These professional beggars can make up to £800 a day and have in the past waved notes in front of officers."

Maeve McGoldrick, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Crisis, said: “Whether or not people give money to beggars is a personal decision. Not everyone who begs is homeless and not all homeless people will beg. Nevertheless, people who do beg are often some of the most vulnerable in our society, and many will be struggling with extreme poverty.

"People in these situations deserve better than to be treated as a nuisance - they may have suffered a relationship breakdown, a bereavement or domestic abuse."

She added: “Homelessness in England rose by 6% last year. Rather than get the help they need, many homeless people who ask their councils for assistance are being turned away to sleep on the streets – cold, desperate and forgotten.

"Instead of posters like this, we need a change in the law so that all homeless people can get the help they need, as we’ve been calling for in our No One Turned Away campaign.”

Portfolio holder for Community Services, Councillor Nicola Heaton said: "The dilemma is all too familiar. You’re walking along the street when someone approaches you and asks for some spare change.  

"So you hand over some money thinking you’ve just helped them to buy some food or a warm drink.

"Sadly, the chances are that without realising it, you’ve just helped fuel someone’s serious, possibly life-threatening drug or alcohol habit."

Nottingham City Council spends £8 million each year on commissioning specialist treatment services for alcohol and drug addiction as well, according to a council press release. 

The Independent has contacted Nottingham City Council for comment.

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