Wednesday, 01 October 2014

Big Issue founder fears vulnerable are left to 'rot'

The founder of the Big Issue has called for housing associations to be given more support to assist tenants with mental illnesses and addictions. 

Speaking at the premier of The Truth About Stanley, a short film which is raising money for homelessness charities, John Bird said the drug addict father in the film needed mental support as well as social security.

‘What’s interesting to me is Sam’s father is a druggie, yet he’s supported at home. He’s causing a lot of grief to himself, his wife and his children. I saw that young man and thought who’s there for him? You can’t just move them [people with addiction and mental illnesses] into social housing and leave them to stew and rot, you need to give them support.’

Mr Bird added that housing associations need more money to offer tenants with addiction and mental health problems support.

‘I’m appalled at what social housing providers are expected to provide,’ he said. ‘No-ones paying the big bucks in the short term and it’s going to cost more money in the long term. If we really want to make a change we have to get behind charities and housing associations to give them the support they need.’

He also said he believed in the idea of people, not just governments, being involved in the rehabilitation of homeless people, but thought the coalition government had ‘kidnapped’ this concept with the Big Society.

‘Every person that buys a Big Issue is buying into the concept of the Big Society. Unfortunately, it has been kidnapped by Mr Cameron and other people and has been turned into a large political cover to some extent for the cuts, and that’s one of the tragedies. But let’s not turn against the very idea that it’s your responsibility and that it’s my responsibility to help the homeless to help themselves,’ he added.

Readers' comments (2)

  • I agree the more people that help with these issues the better - but with respect HAs often experience problems with just complying with their duties and responsibilities to their tenants in respect of housing, so why muddy the waters by expecting them to deal with tenants with mental health conditions - alcoholism or illegal substance abuse ? Surely that is down to the NHS and the police to deal with these matters - they are the proper government bodies, after all HAs are not public bodies and I know from experience if my HA feels their is any 'threat' to their staff from someone with mental health problems, drug or alcohol abuse they give that tenant a very wide berth ! HAs should refer the issue to the appropriate government body - NHS or Police.

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  • Mr Bird has done rather well for himself on the backs of unpaid street vendors hasn't he? I've spoken with vendors who are open to talking about it plus my own research. The notion of HAs doing 'more' to help the addicted and deranged is hardly an innovative suggestion. They do plenty in favour of such to the cost of those who are not and are being prevented from normal life or working as a result.

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