Catch21 - Our Charity ArmCatch21 is a charitable production company set up in 2005 which trains young people to make videos and engage with their communities.Catch Creative - Our Video Production ArmCatch Creative offers a complete video production service, from Conception to Distribution.Catch EngagementCatch Engagement is the new video interaction platform from Catch21 which allows you to run a campaign using both user generated films as well as professionally shot ones which are displayed via Video 'Walls'. Catch Engagement is all about using films to build an online community - welcome to the future of video.

We shoot cutting edge videos and provide a forum to give people a voice.
Engagement. Discussion. Empowerment.


All content featured on our charity site is produced by young volunteers with the support and mentoring of our professional production team.

Politics no image

Published on September 4th, 2012 | by Isabelle Mngadi
Image © [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="566"] The recent law, making squatting illegal, is likely to result in more homeless people sleeping rough © Stephan Geyer[/caption]   With the recent illegalisation of squatting, many homeless agencies and members of the squatter community have responded with outrage towards the difficulty this has added to reducing homelessness in the UK, and to the overhaul of “squatter’s rights.” Defenders of the new law have praised its achievement in safeguarding the rights of homeowners, and hastening the eviction process in cases where squatters refuse to leave. Yet the very question of how this will affect vulnerable members of the homeless community, and the additional fact that both homelessness and youth unemployment are on the rise, highlights that this legislation is “tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner,” at the expense of the very people who need to be represented and supported the most. There are currently 930,000 empty homes in the UK, many of which are abandoned or in a dilapidated (essentially uninhabitable) state. Before Saturday 1st September, the 20,000 – 30,000 people living as squatters in the UK were protected by Section 6 of the 1977 Criminal Law Act, which made it illegal for landlords “to threaten or use violence to enter a property where someone is present and opposes the entry.” At this point, landlords would need an interim possession order (IPO), issued through local civil courts, in order to make the squatters’ presence a criminal offence. But since Saturday, squatting has become a criminal offence, with offenders running the risk of a maximum £5000 fine and 6 months in jail. The first squatter’s raid, which took place on Monday 3rd September in Brighton, demonstrates the brand new ease with which squatters can be evicted: yesterday police were called to the building by the owner’s representatives to “assist with trespassers.” When the two twenty-something squatters refused to leave they entered forcibly and took them into custody. The new law’s advantages have been described in terms of the financial burden than has been lessened; the previous civil court system is said to have cost the UK's legal aid budget £350m a year, which the Ministry of Justice now hopes to save. But on the other hand, the cost to the taxpayer could go through the roof if the myriad of evicted squatters begin claiming housing benefits. Squatters Action for Secure Housing (Squash) have speculated that benefits claims could reach £790 million - whereas the government currently spends just £164 million per year making uninhabitable houses (many of which are currently occupied by squatters) fit for use, and £400 million to help homelessness. Surely, it would be more profitable for them to attack the problem rather than the symptom. The intention is for local authorities to work with homeless agencies and ensure people have a place to go after they have been evicted - but Monday’s arrest shows, the only destination now for the homeless is police custody, if not sleeping rough. At this point there is little to suggest how the criminalisation of squatting will affect public perceptions. The majority of cases reveal that the story of the homeowner going away for a few weeks and returning to find a stranger in their bed and a utilities bill down to their knees is a rare one. It is also important to distinguish the difference between squatting and theft: even before the Criminal Law Act the use of utilities was prohibited for squatters, so the recent illegalisation refers simply to one’s presence. Effectively, therefore, the recent change translates into a criminalisation of homelessness. The housing minister himself, Grant Shapps, expressed the hope that with this law, our society might “slam shut the door on squatters once and for all”. But in doing so, the Ministry of Justice are depriving homeless people of a basic human right. Homeless charity Crisis credits a home with providing ‘a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing’. Ministers such as Shapps, therefore, underestimate the importance of squatting for young and vulnerable people who may not find it easy to find help elsewhere: as one squatter says, “I tried many different charities and organisations but I didn't fit the criteria. I wasn't a single, pregnant female, I wasn't a drug addict or alcohol dependant, I hadn't been released from prison and I wasn't an asylum seeker. I was just a single guy going through life's difficulties.” In the past four years, youth unemployment has quadrupled, and peaked at over 1 million amongst 16-24 year olds during April-June 2012. With the increase in the possibility that the next few years may be financially difficult for some, now seems an especially bad time to tighten squatting procedures. In December 2011, "48% of homeless agencies reported turning away young single homeless people because their resources were fully stretched." But with the potential increase in unsheltered youths, and now the apparent illegalisation of homeless altogether, the last thing this country needs as the days get shorter is more young people sleeping rough.

0

Shouldn’t the government remove squatters before homelessness?

The recent law, making squatting illegal, is likely to result in more homeless people sleeping rough © Stephan Geyer

 

With the recent illegalisation of squatting, many homeless agencies and members of the squatter community have responded with outrage towards the difficulty this has added to reducing homelessness in the UK, and to the overhaul of “squatter’s rights.” Defenders of the new law have praised its achievement in safeguarding the rights of homeowners, and hastening the eviction process in cases where squatters refuse to leave. Yet the very question of how this will affect vulnerable members of the homeless community, and the additional fact that both homelessness and youth unemployment are on the rise, highlights that this legislation is “tipping the scales of justice back in favour of the homeowner,” at the expense of the very people who need to be represented and supported the most.

There are currently 930,000 empty homes in the UK, many of which are abandoned or in a dilapidated (essentially uninhabitable) state. Before Saturday 1st September, the 20,000 – 30,000 people living as squatters in the UK were protected by Section 6 of the 1977 Criminal Law Act, which made it illegal for landlords “to threaten or use violence to enter a property where someone is present and opposes the entry.” At this point, landlords would need an interim possession order (IPO), issued through local civil courts, in order to make the squatters’ presence a criminal offence.

But since Saturday, squatting has become a criminal offence, with offenders running the risk of a maximum £5000 fine and 6 months in jail. The first squatter’s raid, which took place on Monday 3rd September in Brighton, demonstrates the brand new ease with which squatters can be evicted: yesterday police were called to the building by the owner’s representatives to “assist with trespassers.” When the two twenty-something squatters refused to leave they entered forcibly and took them into custody.

The new law’s advantages have been described in terms of the financial burden than has been lessened; the previous civil court system is said to have cost the UK’s legal aid budget £350m a year, which the Ministry of Justice now hopes to save. But on the other hand, the cost to the taxpayer could go through the roof if the myriad of evicted squatters begin claiming housing benefits. Squatters Action for Secure Housing (Squash) have speculated that benefits claims could reach £790 million – whereas the government currently spends just £164 million per year making uninhabitable houses (many of which are currently occupied by squatters) fit for use, and £400 million to help homelessness. Surely, it would be more profitable for them to attack the problem rather than the symptom.

The intention is for local authorities to work with homeless agencies and ensure people have a place to go after they have been evicted – but Monday’s arrest shows, the only destination now for the homeless is police custody, if not sleeping rough.

At this point there is little to suggest how the criminalisation of squatting will affect public perceptions. The majority of cases reveal that the story of the homeowner going away for a few weeks and returning to find a stranger in their bed and a utilities bill down to their knees is a rare one. It is also important to distinguish the difference between squatting and theft: even before the Criminal Law Act the use of utilities was prohibited for squatters, so the recent illegalisation refers simply to one’s presence.

Effectively, therefore, the recent change translates into a criminalisation of homelessness. The housing minister himself, Grant Shapps, expressed the hope that with this law, our society might “slam shut the door on squatters once and for all”. But in doing so, the Ministry of Justice are depriving homeless people of a basic human right. Homeless charity Crisis credits a home with providing ‘a sense of belonging and a place of emotional wellbeing’.

Ministers such as Shapps, therefore, underestimate the importance of squatting for young and vulnerable people who may not find it easy to find help elsewhere: as one squatter says, “I tried many different charities and organisations but I didn’t fit the criteria. I wasn’t a single, pregnant female, I wasn’t a drug addict or alcohol dependant, I hadn’t been released from prison and I wasn’t an asylum seeker. I was just a single guy going through life’s difficulties.”

In the past four years, youth unemployment has quadrupled, and peaked at over 1 million amongst 16-24 year olds during April-June 2012. With the increase in the possibility that the next few years may be financially difficult for some, now seems an especially bad time to tighten squatting procedures. In December 2011, “48% of homeless agencies reported turning away young single homeless people because their resources were fully stretched.” But with the potential increase in unsheltered youths, and now the apparent illegalisation of homeless altogether, the last thing this country needs as the days get shorter is more young people sleeping rough.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


About the Author

Isabelle Mngadi

Isabelle has recently graduated from the University of Kent, with a degree in Comparative Literature. She has completed work experience with her local MP, Ann Keen, and during her time at university, a significant portion of her studies were dedicated to exploring neo-colonialism and post-colonial development in Africa and Latin America. She has a background in working with young people from the UK and all around the world, and is passionate about helping them express their voice and be a positive influence to those around them. She is mostly interested in discussing international politics, particularly the intricacies of conflict resolution, globalisation and the establishment of human rights.



Back to Top ↑