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Beggars collection scheme 'flop'

BBC News, 23 August 2007


A street collection box scheme, which aimed to reduce the number of beggars in Aberdeen, has been branded a failure after raising £348 in three months.

Aberdeen City Council installed "giving boxes" in the city centre in April and encouraged the public not to make donations directly to beggars.

Homeless charity, Aberdeen Cyrenians, said it has not reduced the number of people on the streets. However, the council insisted the money raised would go to good use.

"It appears to me that it's not really made any difference to the number of people that are begging on the street," said Paul Hannan, of Aberdeen Cyrenians. "I don't think it's probably made any difference to the income that they've made during that time either.

"There might be people who wouldn't give directly to beggars that are putting into the boxes but those who would normally give to beggars seem to still continue to do so."

However Martin Greig, chairman of Aberdeen City Council's Community Safety Partnership, defended the scheme. "It's hoped that it will be used for things like food and clothing and I think that's the kind of thing that the public want their money to go to," he said. "They want to be contributing towards people in need so that they get something to eat, so that their life is made somehow more bearable.

"It's over £300 which will be used to good effect and it's also £348 that will not be spent on drugs and alcohol."

Current legislation

The funds will be divided among charities and agencies who help the city's homeless.

The Aberdeen council project is the first of its kind in Scotland.

The boxes, which cost about £180 each, have been installed at a variety of locations in the city.

Currently an estimated 25 beggars a day can be found on the city's streets.

The move comes after a bid by the local authority for a by-law to outlaw begging was rejected by the Scottish Executive last year. At the time, ministers said current legislation adequately dealt with the problem.

While begging is not illegal in Scotland, it became a recordable offence in England on 1 December, 2003 as part of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour.