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Government to repeal law criminalising homelessness – Crisis responds

The UK government has confirmed that it will repeal the Vagrancy Act, the 1824 law which criminalises rough sleeping and begging in England and Wales.  

MPs had been set to vote on a Lords amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill repealing the act but the government has now tabled its own amendment to enact repeal. 

It follows the Scrap the Act campaign by UK national homelessness charity Crisis, which has received support from Peers and MPs of all parties, as well as Crisis supporters and people with experience of homelessness. 

Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “For almost two hundred years, the criminalisation of homelessness has shamed our society. But now, at long last, the Vagrancy Act’s days are numbered and not a moment too soon.  

“This offensive law does nothing to tackle rough sleeping, only entrenching it further in our society by driving people further from support. We know there are better, more effective ways to help people overcome their homelessness.  

“We thank the UK government for using the policing bill to finally consign this appalling act to history, where it belongs. We look forward to working with them to finish the job without delay and ensure the criminalisation of destitution is over.  

“We are immensely grateful for the tireless work of Peers and MPs from across parties, as well as every Crisis supporter who has got behind our Scrap the Act campaign, who have all brought us to this historic moment.” 

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, previous Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, added: “The repeal of the Vagrancy Act builds on the success of the Everyone In programme I established during the pandemic and is another important milestone on the road to ending rough sleeping. 

"This long overdue reform will reframe the issue of homelessness away from it being a question of criminality, and towards our modern understanding of homelessness as a complex health, housing and social challenge.  

"The Vagrancy Act is an archaic piece of legislation which creates a wholly unnecessary obstacle that homeless people must overcome in order to rebuild their lives. I welcome the action that is now being taken to put repeal into law and I urge the government to continue to work with charities, including Crisis, on the detail of its implementation.” 


Notes to Editors 

The amendment to repeal the Vagrancy Act can be viewed here.