Thursday, 30 August 2018


As a result of listening to The Truth about Britain's Beggars on Radio 4 last Tuesday, I have had to amend my views somewhat. Neath's favourite grit in the oyster Stan (n.b. not Disney's dog with a blog) maintains in comments on the Neath Ferret that the young people we see sat on our streets are not really homeless but are part of a scam and that at the end of the day they gather up the money they have gained from a gullible public, get into their BMWs and drive back to their council houses. It seems that there are people who do have a roof over their head who resort to a bit of passive begging (actually asking for money or even just putting a cap or a tin out renders one liable to arrest as an aggressive beggar) in order to "help out with the electricity bill". There are even instances of exploitation in organised begging, which is probably where the sightings of BMWs comes from. However, these are in the minority. The typical day's take is no more than a few pounds. The story of Luke in Cambridge is more typical, and probably more like those unfortunates we see on the streets of Neath.

Mark Johnson, who presented the Radio 4 programme, knows whereof he speaks, having been on the streets himself and admitting to resorting to drugs to get him through the experience, before getting a job and cleaning himself up. He was fair in giving a voice to the police, who have to serve the majority using the town centres, and to a local tourist official who was concerned about the poor impression which the homeless give to a seaside resort. But the overall impression one had was that schemes helping the street-bound young were few and far between, that nobody was a beggar by choice and that much more needs to be done.

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