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Debate: using police in supported housing projects

Conversations around policing

 

In recent weeks the Black Lives Matter protests have reverberated around the world. Many branch members have been on protests. It is no surprise that they have been a factor in increased membership and activity in our branch and have been discussed in every workplace. The branch agreed this resolution after a discussion at our last branch meeting and we have reaffirmed our opposition to all cuts. We continue to raise lack of equality in the workplace.

 

Below we carry an article from a member working in a high needs hostel for discussion – we invite further articles and discussion in branch meetings.

 

Lack of resouces

 

The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed have sparked important conversations around policing and police brutality in both the US and the UK.

 

 

 

Recently, there has been research done around the criminalisation of children in care homes. Building on this, we should be examining how the police are utilised in other settings, such as in supported accommodation services, day centres, and hostels.

 

I work in a high needs mental health hostel and see how a lack of staff numbers, inexperienced workforce and high turnover increases the risk of incidents occurring. The lack of resources in projects can mean police are used to manage difficult behavior rather than dealing with serious incidents.

 

Frontline

 

The structural prejudices in the police mean they are disproportionately target certain groups - Black people, homeless people, working class communities, those with mental illness – who make up the majority of our client group. Instead of de-escalating a situation calling the police can often end up leading to clients being criminalised or harmed.

 

In some scenarios, calling the police can feel like the only option and unfortunately in an understaffed project, sometimes it is. £3.56 billion was spent on the Met police in London last year, in contrast the government gave only £3.2 million to house homeless people across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. If only a fraction of the money spent on policing was spent on dealing with the causes of crime, think of the impact it could have.

 

Those of us on the frontline - working in homelessness, mental health, with children and young people - are well-placed to be talking about what those alternatives might look like: what sort of help the people we support really need in moments of crisis; who should deliver that support; and what sort of public services could negate the need for police altogether.

 

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