Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has welcomed the news that the Government is to repeal the Vagrancy Act, which criminalises rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) last night (21 February) tabled an amendment to repeal the 200-year old act as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
However the repeal will be delayed for consultation and new legislation to be enacted which could take up to 18-24 months.
The announcement follows a coordinated sector campaign under the umbrella of #ScrapTheAct, which saw St Mungo’s join other homelessness organisations including Crisis, Cymorth Cymru, Centrepoint, Homeless Link, Shelter Cymru, the Wallich and Liberty call for the act to be overhauled.
St Mungo’s Chief Executive Steve Douglas CBE said: “We are pleased to see the Government repeal the Vagrancy Act, which was a key recommendation of the Kerslake Commission on Homeless and Rough Sleeping, following a coordinated campaign across the homelessness sector.
“And thank you to Nickie Aiken, MP for Cities of London and Westminster and Bob Blackman, the Co-Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Ending Rough Sleeping for their work and commitment in pushing this important change.
“We know from working with our clients that criminalising rough sleeping only drives people further from the support they need, and leads to stigmatisation, loss of trust, and therefore loss of engagement with support services.
“The Kerslake Commission recommended that the Vagrancy Act be replaced with an approach that is focused on a person, understanding that support and housing is what is needed, not a criminal record.
“It is important that the Government keeps its foot on the gas and progresses with the consultation quickly. It has taken far too long already to get rid of this dehumanising piece of legislation.”
Rough Sleeping and Housing Minister Eddie Hughes MP said: “The Vagrancy Act is outdated and needs replacing, and so I’m delighted to announce today the government will repeal it in full.
“This is the next step of our action, which has already driven a 37% drop in rough sleeping since 2019 and we will build on this with a strategy setting out how we will end rough sleeping for good, support vulnerable people off the streets and continue to protect communities from crime and antisocial behaviour.”