Nottingham City Council Begging Posters Banned

28 September 2016, 06:00

homeless man

Four Nottingham City Council posters urging people not to give money to beggars have been banned for being likely to cause widespread offence and reinforcing negative stereotypes.

One of the posters, seen in May and June, showed a person smoking a roll-up cigarette and said: ``Begging: Watch your money go up in smoke. Begging funds the misuse of drugs # givesmart'', and a second showed a homeless man in a sleeping bag with the warning: ``Watch your money to go a fraud. Beggars aren't what they seem.''

Two more said begging ``funds the misuse of alcohol'' and: ``It's your choice: give money to someone begging and feed a harmful addiction ... or give to a charity which provides treatment and support.''

Seven people complained that the ads portrayed homeless people in a derogatory manner and implied that all homeless people were engaged in criminal and anti-social behaviour.

Nottingham City Council said the posters were not about homelessness but aimed to discourage the public from giving money to people who begged - almost none of whom were homeless - as it was likely that the money would fund drug or alcohol addictions.

The council said the campaign was developed in response to the public's view that begging was becoming an increasing problem locally.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the language used in the ads was ``absolute'' and ``reinforced the implication that those who begged would use donations to fund harmful activities''.

The ASA said it understood that aggressive begging was an increasing concern within Nottingham city centre and the objective of the ads was to encourage the public to give to charities.

But it said the ads ``portrayed all beggars as disingenuous and undeserving individuals that would use direct donations for irresponsible means''.

It added: ``We further considered the ads reinforced negative stereotypes of a group of individuals, most of whom were likely to be considered as vulnerable, who faced a multitude of issues and required specialist support.''

It ruled that the ads must not appear in their current forms again, adding: ``We told Nottingham City Council to ensure that future ads did not portray those who begged in a manner that was likely to cause widespread or serious offence.''

Councillor Jon Collins said the ASA had ``completely failed to understand the seriousness of the begging problem in cities like Nottingham and why this kind of campaign was needed''.

Mr Collins said: ``Begging harms those who do it because it provides a ready supply of cash to be spent on life-threatening addictions. Also, local people have clearly told us that begging is their number one anti-social behaviour concern in the city centre.

``The ASA has made a decision based on just seven complaints from people who thought the campaign targeted homeless people. It wasn't about homelessness and made no reference to it. As the Framework housing charity has pointed out, begging shouldn't be confused with homelessness or rough sleeping. Most people who beg aren't sleeping rough and most people sleeping rough don't beg.

``The posters needed to be hard-hitting to get such a serious message across effectively. There's no point in running a campaign that no-one is going to take notice of. The ASA itself states that because something might be offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code, but they don't seem to have applied this to their decision about this campaign.''

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