Nuisance beggars in Newcastle City Centre are making up to £200 a day, according to a charity boss who is warning people not to hand over their cash.
> How could he possibly know how much someone makes ?
Kind-hearted folk who have been responding to the beggars’ requests for spare change have even seen one man walk away with £360 from a day on the streets.
> Again, how do we know this ?
Stephen Bell, chief executive of homeless charity Changing Lives said the money is being used to fund addictions and people would be better giving them food and a hot drink if they want to help.
“People are begging to fund one habit or the other, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, and that’s the bottom line. We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging. Beggars at the moment are getting an awful lot of money,” said Mr Bell.
> “We’ve heard of a case where someone pulled up in their car, changed clothes and then started begging.” But how do we know its true ? Surely its an allegation rather than a fact.
This claim actually mirrors a Sherlock Holmes story (I forget the title) where a man finds he can earn more as a beggar than by slaving away in “proper” job. He catches the train up to London (his wife thinks he’s doing a normal job), changes into his begging gear in a rented room, and then goes to work.
He said it is crucial for the public to realise the distinction between someone who is begging and a homeless person.
There are currently services across Newcastle which work with the city’s homeless and enough bed spaces for people so that no one has to spend a night outdoors. Changing Lives also do a daily check at 5.30am on how many people are sleeping rough in the city centre.
However over the last two years he said there has been a significant increase in begging.
> And a significant increase in sanctions. Coincidence ?
“Please do not give money to beggars. Give them a drink or a hot meal or give your money to a charity. We need to stop killing people with kindness. The police can help, they can move people away from main streets, but inevitably they just move them to another place. Not giving money genuinely does work, there would be a drop in earnings,” he said.
The warning comes as Northumbria Police is revealed to have made a record number of arrests for begging in 2013 with 61 people detained.
While statistics are still being compiled for 2014, figures for arrests are considerably reduced and police have said it is not their aim to prosecute beggars, but instead help them to work with charities.
Newcastle Superintendent Bruce Storey said:
“The reason the figure went up in 2013 was on the back of an increase in reports to police about concerns around the issue of beggars and begging, primarily in the Newcastle city centre area.
“These concerns came from local residents, visitors to the area and local businesses in the city centre and the issue has been, and continues to be, a priority for the city centre policing team.
“Our aim is not to arrest or prosecute beggars. We are keen to ensure those who need help are given it and we are running operations where we work together with charities and partners to identify those who need help or support and ensure they are given assistance.
“Northumbria Police and our partners are doing everything we can to assist genuine homeless people, whilst tackling those individuals who come in to the region to beg then leave.”
Newcastle City Council have said the roll-out of tougher powers handed to authorities put a stop to aggressive and persistent beggars from the Government have been delayed until January.
Eventually councils will have the legal power to give beggars injunctions in an attempt to prevent nuisance and annoyance to the public, and to compel them to accept accommodation and to get help for drug and alcohol abuse.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014
Cannabis users from all over the country will gather en-masse in the region on Saturday.
The first major cannabis-based event to be held in the North-East will take place in Redcar on Saturday, August 2.
As part of their campaign to legalise the drug for medicinal use, ‘cannabis clubs’ from across the area have banded together to organise the rally, which will feature a number of speakers and the opportunity to meet campaigners.
It has been partly organised by the Teesside Pro-Cannabis Movement (TPCM) which recently pledged to plant cannabis at every well-known landmark in the North-East – a symbolic protest and a free supply for medicinal users, according to organisers.
The movement was established by a father-of-three, a disabled man in his 40s and a professional woman of 50 in a bid to decriminalise the drug.
A joint statement from the TPCM and the Tyne and Wear Cannabis Social Club invites the public to hear their side of the drugs debate on Saturday.
It says: “Redcar is a small town with a tight knit community of salt of the earth North-Easterners and the last thing any of us organising this event want is any disruption to the lives of the community at large.
“Stand with us to end unjust legalisation and let us open your mind to the possibilities of a brighter future through the removal of cannabis from the controlled substances act.”
The organisers also urged attendees to work with the police and cooperate wherever possible.
Addressing the police, they list the alleged benefits of cannabis and say: “In a time of biting austerity that’s affecting people far and wide the last thing we want is a huge police presence that is only going to take money from the public coffers of the Redcar community.
“We want this to go off peacefully and without hitches as much as you do.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said they would be monitoring the event and dealing robustly with anyone engaging in antisocial or criminal behaviour.
Alcohol is prohibited at the event.
Source – Northern Echo, 31 July 2014
I was reading A Gay Mentalist’s blog a little while ago, and a term he used to describe the middle classes struck me. He called them ‘feral’. It’s not a word that usually applied to the upper ranks of society. Usually it’s given to the underclass and their children, the type of people, leading bleak lives of deprivation and pointless moral squalor. The type of people with no jobs, and no self-respect, whose chief and often only activities seem to be drunkenness, drug dealing, violence and sexual promiscuity. The type of people who provide the raw fodder for Jeremy Kyle, as they slouch onto his show to present their sordid tales of domestic abuse and accuse each other of stealing each other’s partners.
It does, however, also perfectly describe the attitude of the middle classes, and particularly the hysterical ranting of the middle market tabloids and the vicious, punitive attitude…
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To the dismay and anger of Labour councillors present at a Coventry Council debate on food banks, Cllr Julia Lepoidevin couldn’t wait to get stuck in and demonise local residents who turn to food banks to help feed their families.
The tory councillor for Coventry’s Woodlands ward suggested that people who visit food banks prefer to “choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs” over providing food for their own children. The comment prompted swift calls for her to resign her position.
“But do colleagues in this chamber never have cases where families make a conscious decision not to pay their rent, their utilities or to provide food for their children because they choose alcohol, drugs and their own selfish needs?
“There are families that have enough income and make a choice. It might be a shame but it is true and those very families that I describe are the very families that will not engage with our services early and our services then have to pick up the problems through social care.
“This is why we need to know the impact lifestyle choices are having on our children. Until we know that we are never going to know the proper picture.”
Labour Councillors present at the food bank debate were so disgusted and angered by what they were hearing, Lord Mayor Hazel Noonan had to step in to restore order.
Responding to the comments made by Julia Lepoidevin, Labour Councillor Damian Gannon said:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments were, quite frankly, reprehensible.
“Those in poverty aren’t feckless, they aren’t alcoholics or drug users, they aren’t looking for an easy life on benefits – they are hard-working people, low-income families who are looking to do the best they can for themselves and their families and that’s a fact!”
Labour’s Ed Ruane, cabinet member for children’s services, added:
“Councillor Lepoidevin’s commented that people who use food banks in Coventry do so because of lifestyle choices and because they are feckless.
“If she genuinely believes this appalling slur then she should produce the evidence or resign from the shadow cabinet.”
A furious operations director at a Coventry food bank said Councillor Lepoidevin’s comments risks stigmatising food bank users and could deter the city’s residents from donating to the food bank, which helps feed almost 18,000 local people a year.
Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, operations director Gavin Kibble said:
“People come to us because they are referred to us by third-party agencies.
“One of those agencies is the agency for people recovering from addiction to drugs and alcohol. But you can’t do the drink and drugs and just turn up. People are signposted to us through agencies.
“The food bank does not decide who it gives food to, it works on a voucher referral system from agencies.”
He added: “It sidelines people. We have people referred to us from domestic violence agencies, children’s services, debt issues.
“Are we going to stigmatise every part of society and question every decision they have made before deciding if we help them?
“We are going down a very dangerous road. Where do we stop?”
“It won’t stop people seeking support, but comments like that might stop people donating.
“When councillors make comments like this, for one reason or another, they muddy the water and that doesn’t help.”
Local Conservative Party leader John Blundell later backed his colleagues comments by referring to “some” bank users as being “feckless” sections of the community, who “do not engage” and “take advantage” of the service food banks provide.
He said: “I think she was talking from personal experiences. I think, undoubtedly, there’s a certain section of the community that is taking advantage of food banks just as there is a section which has genuine need. I would stand by that.”
“Her comments are a reflection of the frustration that families do not engage with us because they are feckless, they have issues connected with alcohol and we find it a very frustrating exercise.”
The Coventry Telegraph say that around 50 local people a day are using food banks and the total number (17,663) is up 40% in just 12 months.
Source – Welfare News Service, 27 June 2014
Shocking new figures show that the North is the anti-depressant capital of Britain.
The region takes up six of the top 10 places in England for use of the drugs, with poverty and deprivation being blamed for the widespread problems with people’s mental health.
NHS data shows doctors here prescribe more anti-depressants per head than anywhere else in the country, with more than one million prescriptions handed out in the last three months of last year.
In the former industrial heartland of East Durham there are 45 prescriptions for every 100 patients – the second highest rate in the country.
And six of the 10 most-prescribing areas are in the North East, including Sunderland, Gateshead, South Tees, Newcastle West, and North Durham.
Mental health charities said depression and anxiety were strongly tied to deprivation, with some laying the blame at the government’s door. Easington MP Grahame Morris, a member of the Commons Health Select Committee, said: “We’re fighting a rearguard action to protect our community.
“I see in my surgeries every week people displaying symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression as a consequence of the government’s policies.
“I had a gentleman come to see me on Friday who was 60-years-old, had worked from being 15, and he’d had to give it up due to a crumbling spine.
“He’d been put in a fit for work category when he couldn’t walk for 20 paces, and his benefits were suspended for eight months while the appeal is heard.
“There’s a definite link between the Government’s policies of austerity and welfare reform and the impact it’s having on people’s mental health.”
Doctors in Sunderland made 41.2 prescriptions for every 100 people in the area, while Gateshead gave out 40.7.
Other badly affected areas included Salford, St Helens, Barnsley and Blackpool – all former industrial areas. Richard Colwill, from the mental health charity SANE, said the figures should be treated “with caution” because they might be inflated by repeat patients for drugs which are used for a range of other conditions.
But he argued they “should be no surprise” because of the strong links between depression and “unemployment, debt and homelessness”.
He said: “SANE’s own experience suggests that it is not only the high demand for treatment that is concerning, but also the dwindling supply.
“The Government’s relentless agenda to cut expensive community and inpatient services often leaves healthcare professionals with little to offer other than medication.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: “We know that reforms to the welfare system are taking their toll on the mental health of many people. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of background, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk of someone developing depression.
“Unemployment, financial difficulties, a problematic housing situation and physical health problems can all put stress on people, which in turn can lead to mental health problems.”
A spokeswoman for clinical commissioning groups in the North East said: “It’s well-known that poverty and mental health are linked, just as poor housing and mental health are linked.
“As the North East has some of the highest areas of deprivation in the country, it’s not surprising that there are higher numbers of people who need support for mental health issues.
“It’s important that people realise that while sometimes medication is required, there are alternatives for those with mild to moderate depression or anxiety.
“Talking therapies work very well and can act more quickly than perhaps antidepressants or other medical treatments.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit making three million households better off.
“We have also expanded the ESA Support Group so greater numbers of people with a mental health condition now qualify for the benefit.
“We are transforming the lives of the poorest in society and bringing common sense back to the welfare system – so that we can continue to support people when they need it most right across Britain.”
> But then, they always say that… whatever the question was.
Source – Newcastle Evening chronicle 20 April 2014
This year’s five reasons for child poverty are predictably unemployment, along with low levels of qualifications, single parent families, having more than three children and ill health. Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s desperation to blame children being poor on anything other than not having enough money that this is his fourth re-definition of poverty in just three years. Previous reasons for poverty, which included step-parents, mothers with mental health problems, being disabled, and of course drugs, no longer make the top five.
The main thrust of the latest strategy is to tackle what is repeatedly referred to as ‘worklessness’ – as if raising children requires no effort at all. The measures to combat this great social ill – which can mean parents spending time raising their…
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That’s the astonishing claim made by the Daily Telegraph after focussing on a part of Iain Duncan Smith’s speech this week which went unreported elsewhere in the press and was not included in the transcript published by The Spectator.
According to The Telegraph: “Mr Duncan Smith indicated his party is preparing to review tax credits, which are paid to people on low incomes or with children. The system was introduced by Gordon Brown and has been criticised for subsidising low wages. They will cost £28bn this year, and the cost is forecast to rise £35bn by 2018/19.
He said the cash pushed people above an “arbitrary” poverty line on paper but failed to change their lives, and some “unproductive” people spent the extra money on drink and drugs rather than…
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FEARS are growing over a rise in beggars who are “blighting” South Shields town centre.
Police, traders and charity workers have all expressed concern over an increase in the number operating in South Shields Town Centre.
Where once it was rare to see homeless people in street doorways it is now commonplace, with up to six individuals in the centre at any one time.
Gazette research has located several locations in and around King Street where beggars have been operating.
These have included outside of McDonald’s restaurant, the PDSA charity shop in the Market Place, the doorway of a vacant premises beside the British Heart Foundation, Lloyds Bank, at the Games Workshop in the Denmark Centre and at Morrisons in Ocean Road.
Today, the public were advised to give food and clothing to beggars but not money, as many are believed to be using cash handed over to buy drugs and alcohol.
Gill Peterson, assistant manager at Age UK in the Denmark Centre, regularly has beggars operating on either side of her shop.
Mrs Peterson says she has reached the “end of her tether” at their activities, claiming they scare off customers, hurl abuse and rifle through bins at the back of the premises.
She added: “I’m sick of them. They scare customers off, particularly our elderly ones and we are losing trade as a result.
“Any money they get just goes on buying bottles of cider. Every morning, I have to get in early to sort out the bins they have emptied through the night.
“If I approach them, I just get a mouthful of abuse. They are blighting the town.”
Amelia Luffrum, project director with Hospitality and Hope, the borough-based food bank and soup kitchen, said the public should only offer beggars food.
She said: “Homelessness is definitely rising from our experience.
“Some of the people who are out in these doorways, asking for money, come to our soup kitchens. They are in genuine need.
“Dependency on drink and drugs is a major issue. Our policy is never to give money. We feed them, give them sleeping bags and clothes, and direct them to different agencies.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton, of the Riverside Police Team, acknowledged there was a problem and said the situation was being monitored.
He added: “We are aware of the issue and are actively working with our partners on how the situation can be addressed, as concerns have been raised around criminality and vulnerability.”
Latest statistics show a 54 per cent rise in people seeking homelessness assistance from the local authority last year, from 187 to 534.
The impact of welfare reforms, including the ‘bedroom tax’, and a struggling economy, are among the reasons for the increase.
Source – Shields Gazette, 20 Jan 2014