'Lifestyle choice': Charity's anger after PM refuses to criticise rough sleeping comments

  • Watch Russell Hookey's report for ITV News Anglia

Homeless charities have reacted angrily after the Prime Minister refused to criticise the Home Secretary's comments that rough sleeping is sometimes a "lifestyle choice".

The Prime Minister, who visited the Bacton Gas Terminal in Norfolk on Monday, stopped short of repeating the comments by Suella Braverman, but would not say if he thought the language was "offensive".

Melody Brooker from Winter Comfort, a charity that supports homeless people in Cambridge, was among those concerned by the language used.

"To suggest that it's a choice to sleep in a tent, on the street, in the winter. I think really that's a bit of a stretch," she said.

"Choice is a very interesting term to use, if your choice is driven by a lack of funds, trauma you've experienced in your life, mental health issues and inability to live in hostel accommodation.

"Perhaps we're working with people who suffer from PTSD which means that being in a hostel accommodation setting is just not possible for someone with those kind of mental health needs."

Rishi Sunak was asked about the Home Secretary's comments on a visit to Bacton Gas Terminal in Norfolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It was reported over the weekend that Mrs Braverman has proposed establishing a civil offence to deter charities from giving tents to homeless people.

Organisations could be fined for doing so if it is deemed to have caused a nuisance under the plans being pitched for inclusion in the King's Speech, which will set out the UK Government's legislative agenda on Tuesday.

Rishi Sunak said: "I don't want anyone to sleep rough on our streets.

"That's why the Government is investing £2 billion over the next few years to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

"I'm pleased that the number of people sleeping rough is down by a third since the peak, but of course there is more to do.

"Our Homelessness Reduction Act, which is a landmark law that we passed, has already ensured that over 600,000 people have had their homelessness prevented or relieved. So I'm proud of that record."

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