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Ministers are drawing up plans for a network of emergency response squads, comprising psychiatric nurses, medics an...
Ministers are drawing up plans for a network of emergency response squads, comprising psychiatric nurses, medics and youth workers to take action on rough sleepers 24 hours a day.

According to The Daily Telegraph (p2), the squads will be able to remove disruptive, ill or vulnerable homeless people who have been identified by the police, the public or homeless organisations.

The squads, whose members will carry pagers, will have emergency access to psychiatric or hopsital beds and secure refuges for teenagers who are at risk.

The government also plans to alert councils to little-used vagrancy laws to force unco-operative homeless people into accommodation.

A government spokesman said: 'There are more by-laws that can be used by local authorities. It's something that local authorities can look at when people are refusing help.

'Our job is to provide good incentives to get people off the street. We will say we will deal with people's problems but we will say it's part of your obligation that you accept them.'

However, the plan has alarmed some charities for the homeless. 'The Whole idea of compulsion raises issues about civil liberties,' said John Fitxmaurice, director of the National Homeless Alliance. 'You need to act in the interest of society and not what is expedient to society. The vagrancy act goes back to Napoleonic times and was designed to deal with rogues and vagabonds.

The new strategy is being spearheaded by Louise Casey, the government's homelessness 'tsar', who writes an article in today's Guardian (p24).

She writes: 'I would never say that we need to 'sweep the homeless off the streets' or call for an end to the 'kindness culture'.' But she adds: 'I do believe that some of the help given to rough sleepers, however well meaning, is misplaced.'

'A debate needs to be had because there are tough challenges that we, as a nation, all need to address.'

She says the strategy to tackle the homelessness issue will be published in December. 'The strategy will not be a document full of empty words and promises. It will be about a radical new partnership to deliver what the country wants - to be able to walk home at night withouth seeing people sleeping in doorways, vulnerable and alone.'

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