The Royal College of Psychiatrists responds to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman’s proposals for new laws to restrict the use of tents by homeless people, and the suggestion that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.
President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Dr Lade Smith CBE, has written to the Secretary of State with the following response:
“We are deeply concerned regarding the Secretary of State’s recent proposals to restrict the use of tents by homeless people on the street and her suggestion that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”.
“Street homelessness is absolutely not a lifestyle choice.
“There are often multiple contributing factors to homelessness, mental illness is one of these. It can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness.
“Rates of psychosis are up to 15 times as high in homeless people and common mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety, and panic disorder – are over twice as high, compared with the general population. Research shows people are around 50% more likely to have spent over a year sleeping rough if they are also experiencing mental ill health.
“Homelessness and mental illness are inextricably linked. People with a mental illness often find it difficult to sustain stable housing and employment, which can then lead to homelessness. While housing insecurity and homelessness can trigger a mental illness or make an existing illness worse.
“We agree that 'British people are compassionate', and we believe that they recognise that taking away tents is not the answer to solving street homelessness.
“It is critical that we confront the root causes of homelessness. This includes providing effective mental health support to those sleeping rough, and those at risk of losing their home.
“As the College is committed to securing the best outcomes for people with mental illness, learning difficulties and developmental disorders, we strongly urge the Secretary of State Suella Braverman, to reconsider these proposals as a matter of urgency.”
Update in response to King's Speech (7 November 2023)
“Having written to the Secretary of State yesterday, we are very pleased to see that the proposal to restrict the use of tents by homeless people, has not been included in today’s King’s Speech.
“As we previously stated, sleeping on the streets is not a 'lifestyle choice'. Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable in society and they are often at much greater risk of suffering from serious mental illnesses like psychosis than the general population.
“It is critical that we confront the root causes of homelessness. This includes providing effective mental health support to those sleeping rough, and those at risk of losing their home."