Squatting law 'sending homeless to prison'
Homeless and vulnerable people are being ‘disproportionately affected’ by the law that criminalised squatting in residential buildings, according to a report from a campaign group.
Squatter’s Action for Secure Homes presented their six-month impact analysis in parliament earlier this week and is launching a campaign calling for the law to be overturned.
‘Given the magnitude of the housing crisis and the huge rise in homelessness we are currently facing, this law has critically narrowed the options for many, and is sending homeless people to prison for seeking shelter in empty buildings’, The case again section 144 said.
SQUASH’s research showed 91 per cent of councils kept no record of whether those presenting homeless had previously lived in squatted buildings. It also sent freedom of information requests to the police, and found 108 people have been displaced or made homelessness by police since the law came into force. It also discovered many police forces treated the offence as ‘non-notifiable/ not recordable’.
‘Give that there are an estimated 20,000 people squatting in the UK, the 108 people displaced by the new law can only be a fraction of the total being impacted,’ the report said.
It added: ‘The lack of data being kept by councils and police forces is deeply troubling, and suggests many of these people have been forced into even more precarious forms of hidden homelessness.’
The situation will worsen when welfare cuts come into force next month, the group believes.
Squatting in residential properties became a criminal act in September last year. Conservative MP Mike Weatherley proposed an early day motion in January that calls for the law to be extended to commercial properties. It currently has 24 signatures.
SQUASH wants the government to do a full independent impact assessment before further criminalisation is considered.