Braverman blunders with homelessness controversy
BY MILLY OWEN
The Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to discuss planned alterations to the government's stance on rough sleeping.
Part of the proposed changes is a clampdown on charities who donate tents to the homeless, with Ms Braverman stating that the ‘streets have been taken over’ by the ‘inconvenient’ tents. With this, she has outlined government plans to impose fines on these charities - an absolutely absurd statement in itself.
In the tweet, she used her standard inflammatory language, stating that the homeless people living in these tents are ‘from abroad’, that they are ‘aggressively begging, stealing, and taking drugs’, and (the bombshell) called homelessness a ‘lifestyle choice’. Ultimately, these comments have provoked outrage from both sides of the house.
It goes without saying that homelessness can be caused by a myriad of reasons from financial hardships and domestic violence to mental health challenges. It fundamentally is not caused by the drug-taking, thieving caricature that Braverman has suggested. The Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Angela Rayner, was quick to point out that after 13 years of blaming homeless people, the Tories ‘should be blaming themselves’.
The Liberal Democrats echoed this, stating the tweets were ‘grim’ for the charities trying to keep people dry. Potentially more worrying for Braverman, she has faced opposition from fellow Conservatives, including Bob Blackman (the head of an all-party group against homelessness) who advised Ms Braverman to use ‘wiser’ language. This is clearly indicative of wider Tory distress. Ultimately, as one of the highest-ranking ministers in Sunak’s cabinet, Braverman facing outright opposition from those in her party can only ring alarm bells.
The Home Secretary's fear-mongering has clearly backfired on this occasion, illustrated by the public outcry in response to her tweets. Just a quick look at the statistics can show the true extent of homelessness in the UK. In June this year, there were 2893 people sleeping rough, which marks a rise of 18% on the previous quarter (according to the Big Issue). Some researchers have attributed this rise to the cost of living crisis, seeing inflation soar alongside interest rates; of course, readers remember, this has been exacerbated under the Conservative government.
This is also a problem that affects Britain’s youth. There are 129,000 16–24-year-olds in the UK who are at risk of being homeless or are actively homeless (according to Centre Point). Angela Rayner seems to have offered a compelling explanation for the reasons behind this shocking rise in homelessness that we have seen. Ultimately, 13 years of Conservative rule has resulted in a welfare crisis, with more people on the streets and more people utilising homeless charities, and now these charities are under attack by the incumbent government.
Only time will tell, but this combination will inevitably lead to chaos and harm. The unjust persecution of charities trying to keep those on the streets dry will ultimately impact their capacity to help those most in need - an incredibly worrying prospect.
Image: ROGER HARRIS PHOTOGRAPHY