Plea to ministers on squatting law

The Government has been urged not to criminalise squatting after a report found it would lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough.







The report, published by Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of homeless charity Crisis, comes as the Government consults on plans to bring in laws making squatting a criminal offence and ending so-called "squatters' rights".



It said the new laws would result in the criminalisation of homeless people, who squat because accessing adequate affordable housing in England and Wales is so difficult, but would have little impact on levels of squatting.



The report, entitled Squatting: A Homelessness Issue, found most homeless squatters squat only as a last resort, after approaching and being turned away from, hostels, shelters and local authorities.



It added that homeless people who squat occupy empty, usually disused or abandoned property and there was no evidence of squatters displacing anyone from their homes.



The Government's proposals would see a new criminal offence of squatting brought in, along with steps to prosecute squatters for other offences they commit, such as criminal damage, burglary, or using electricity without permission.



The report said: "Strengthening laws or enforcement activity against squatters in occupied buildings is likely to have minimal impact on levels of squatting but significant impact on squatters themselves.



"Squatting, then, is a homelessness and welfare issue, not a criminal justice issue."



It added: "Criminalising squatting will criminalise a vulnerable homelessness population and is likely to increase the number of rough sleepers."



The report also found that squatters are more likely to have "significant welfare needs", including mental and physical health issues, compared to homeless people who have not squatted.



It said a recent study found that 34% of homeless squatters had been in care, 42% had physical ill health or a disability and 41% reported mental ill health.



Of homeless people who had not squatted, 19% had been in care, 27% had physical ill health or disability and 32% had mental ill health.



The report recommended that the Government should protect homelessness services from cuts and not introduce further criminal squatting offences.



It also said support and outreach services targeted at squatters should be provided and local authorities should ensure that homeless people are provided with effective advice and assistance to help them resolve their housing problems.



The report's author also suggested that more should be done to raise awareness about squatting as a homelessness issue and dispel myths about squatting being a "lifestyle choice".



Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "It is clear from this research that many people who resort to squatting do so out of sheer desperation, and in appalling conditions.



"If the Government must change a law it should be to ensure all homeless people get the help they desperately need from local councils instead of criminalising some very vulnerable people."

PA

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor