The photo above and its accompanying message were posted by SNP MP Dr Paul Monaghan on Twitter, I assume today. I can’t be certain when because he chose to block me even before I first wrote about him briefly on this blog. So I only saw it when someone else retweeted it.
I am deeply unimpressed with what he’s done here.
First, he sees an apparently homeless person sleeping rough and chooses to take a photo of them and then post it on social media, presumably without asking their permission. In doing so he removes one of the last vestiges of dignity the person might possess.
Second, he states categorically that ‘UKGov policy isn’t working.’ He doesn’t even say which aspect of UK government policy he means. In my work life I had some tenuous connection with the housing function of a local authority. I remember the manager of a homeless families’ unit explaining to me that the immediate cause of homelessness is almost invariably a crisis in a person’s life. That can include, for example, a young person falling out with parents, marriage or relationship breakdown, unemployment, mental health issues, alcoholism or substance abuse. Behind these immediate causes there may of course be many contributory factors, only one of which might be government action, inaction or policy.
I have no way of knowing what, if anything, Dr Monaghan did with the rough sleeper apart from post the photo of him (I’m assuming he’s male). Perhaps he called one of the bobbies always outside parliament to move him on. Perhaps he walked past pondering how he could give his tweet a political spin. Perhaps he even tucked a fiver in his coat and told him to get a decent meal.
As it happens, Dr Monaghan has some professional experience of homelessness as he was the director for a while of the Highland Homeless Trust; so he should know about its complexity. In 2011 one of the Trust’s homeless units in Inverness was the subject of poor publicity when police were called out twelve times to deal with the behaviour of residents. Monagahan was quoted as saying he was ‘unaware how many times police had been called to the house, believing only one incident had been reported.’ A bit too hands off perhaps. Maybe too busy with politics.
Housing is a devolved responsibility in Scotland. The SNP has been in government since 2007. In 2014/15, according to Shelter, 30,000 people in Scotland were assessed as being homeless. Homelessness is of course not the same as sleeping rough. Earlier this year, in Glasgow alone there were estimated to be as many as 800 people sleeping rough regularly. After eight years of SNP government. Or would Dr Monaghan blame all Scottish homelessness on ‘UKGov policy’?