Homeless Action Scotland raises concerns over ‘misguided’ Glasgow begging survey

youth-homeless-bannerA homelessness charity has criticised a survey which aims to gather the public’s opinion over begging in Glasgow city centre and warned it could lead to homeless people being further stigmatised.

Homeless Action Scotland said the survey, which is being conducted by Community Safety Glasgow (CSG), is borne out of “some misguided frustration” at not being able to easily help those who are begging instead of being concerned with solutions.

CSG, which is made up from Police Scotland and Glasgow City Council, is asking people who live, work, shop and socialise in Glasgow about their experiences of and reactions to beggars and their opinions on what should be done about the issue.

The body said the consultation is part of a wider project to create an up-to-date picture of the extent of the issue. The information provided will help shape future strategies to assist those involved in begging.

People are being asked how they react to beggars - for example, do they buy them food, give them money, check if they are OK or just walk past?

They are also asking people if they have experienced or witnessed aggressive begging or other problems such as antisocial behaviour related to begging and if so, did they report them to anyone?

Staff are currently conducting on-street interviews with visitors to the city centre as part of the survey which is also available online.

Robert Aldridge
Robert Aldridge

Robert Aldridge, Homeless Action Scotland’s CEO, said that the survey is “asking leading questions” which will “skew the survey responses” in favour of those that are negative about begging within Glasgow.

He said: “Although we are opposed to the questionnaire as it is written, we believe that the intention of the survey is borne out of some misguided frustration at not being able to easily help those who are begging. We are concerned that the wording of the questions and the answers it will obtain will be misused by those who think that the best way to deal with begging is through enforcement. We suggest that the greatest problem with begging is that of the individual who is being compelled to beg, rather than the social problem to be ‘cleansed’ from a city centre.

“It is also vital to recognise that begging is not only done by those who are homeless, and that not all of those who are homeless beg.”

In order to better understand begging in Glasgow, Mr Aldridge said beggars themselves must be consulted.

He added: “If we truly want to understand why people are begging, we need to ask those who participate in it, discover the reasons they feel they need to beg, and investigate any other problems impacting on their ability to thrive as part of society. Beggars are not there by any meaningful choice. If we are truly a socially just, forward thinking society then we should work with beggars to get their lives back to a point where they no longer need to beg.

“We would therefore recommend that those who are begging become part of the consultation process that has begun in Glasgow. This could be facilitated through the organisations that are currently working with those who are socially excluded within the city. Glasgow has an excellent third sector that has a proven track record in including their service users in service provision.

“These organisations could assist in obtaining the views of those who are marginalised as well as participating in the consultation process itself, which combined with the public consultation would provide an informed, evidence based and democratic rationale in tackling begging within the city. Glasgow could lead the way in how we as a society engage with and improve the lives of our most marginalised citizens.”

A spokesman for Community Safety Glasgow said: “The results of the survey will help us build up a clear, up-to-date picture of the nature and extent of begging in the city centre, the type of people involved and the problems they have. It will also tell us how people feel about begging and offer them an opportunity to contribute their ideas on how it might be addressed.”

Read a full statement from Robert Aldridge here.

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