You may have noticed in the local press that Folkestone and Hythe District Council have just approved new measures to tackle “anti-social” behaviour in our town centre. The Rainbow Centre has been following the developments with the Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) as it has impact on the clients which we are working with on a day to day basis. The Council have introduced seven measures, including tighter restrictions on begging, busking and unauthorised camping which would include rough sleeping. Individuals found to be in breach of the measure run the risk of a £100 fine or possible £1,000 penalty if the first payment is not made.
However, FHDC have stressed that they want to focus on prevention rather than enforcement, which is a stance welcomed by the Rainbow Centre. Our concern is not to criminalise those who are rough sleeping, and we see the introduction of fines as being counter-productive when applied to our clients. Imposing a fine on someone who will struggle to pay will not help their situation, and we were pleased to hear that the Council view the strategy as one of prevention rather than enforcement. In a statement, a spokesperson from FHDC said that “Engagement, education and prevention will always, where possible, come ahead of warnings and enforcement.”
We have had the recent experience of an individual who had received a Community Behaviour Order for aggressive begging and was directed to the Rainbow Centre. They had previously not engaged with us, but they are now being supported by the Project Workers of the Homeless Support Service. We believe that if the orders are used as a tool to resolve the issue rather than punish it, that would seem more beneficial for all.