William Eichler 28 September 2016

Council's anti-begging posters banned for being ‘offensive’

Four council posters aimed at tackling begging in Nottingham have been banned for being ‘likely to cause serious or widespread offence.’

Nottingham City Council has started a poster campaign designed to discourage residents from giving to beggars. Instead, they encourage people to donate to charities.

One poster featured a close-up image of a person smoking a roll-up cigarette, with text that stated: ‘BEGGING: WATCH YOUR MONEY GO UP IN SMOKE Begging funds the misuse of drugs #givesmart.’

One of the other posters showed an image of a discarded lager can, with the message: ‘BEGGING: WATCH YOUR MONEY GO DOWN THE DRAIN Begging funds the misuse of alcohol.’

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) received seven complaints which accused the council of portraying homeless people in a derogatory manner, implying they were all engaged in criminal and anti-social behaviour.

The ASA upheld the complaints and said four of the posters ‘portrayed all beggars as disingenuous and underserving individuals that would use direct donations for irresponsible means.’

They also added they ‘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.’

‘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,’ the agency said.

The leader of Nottingham City Council has hit back arguing the ASA had ‘completely failed’ to understand the seriousness of the begging problem in Nottingham.

Cllr Jon 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.’

Referring to the original complaints, Cllr Collins pointed out that the posters do not mention homelessness.

‘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,’ he said.

‘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 councillor added the posters needed to be ‘hard-hitting’ to get the message across effectively.

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