Ahead of reported emergency legislation giving the Police new powers of arrest, Layla Moran MP has called on the Government to ensure that vulnerable and homeless people are not disproportionately affected, and that measures are taken to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19, before defaulting to arrest and detention.
Layla Moran MP is due to present the Vagrancy (Repeal) Bill on Wednesday in Parliament, ahead of a meeting with Ministers at end of month.
Layla Moran MP commented:
“In the last few years, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of arrests of homeless people under the Vagrancy Act. This is a welcome step; the Vagrancy Act is a draconian and counterproductive law, and more compassionate measures are long overdue.
“I support all evidence-led action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Yet, I worry that these new detention powers will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our society, including the homeless. The idea of police arresting homeless people, many with complex health and addiction issues, without proper testing, and placing them in detention centres just doesn’t sit right.
“In order to ensure these powers are used as a last resort, the Government should seek to care for homeless people and set up special services for them in disused buildings or vacated offices in cities.
“These facilities should provide a sanitised place to eat, drink water and use the toilet. And, they should provide safe spaces for vulnerable people to self-isolate with dignity, as opposed to within a detention facility following arrest. Imagine if the Government also provides extra money to signpost them to and pay for the support services they need.
“Not only is this the compassionate thing to do, but it also encourages vulnerable people with symptoms to come forward. This will ensure they follow the best advice on COVID-19 and could accelerate reducing the number of rough sleepers to zero.”