HCRN Seminar: Controlling homeless people? Power, interventionism and legitimacy

Room 710 Muirhead Tower
Research, Social Sciences
Monday 13th March 2017 (16:15-17:45)
Download the date to your calendar (.ics file)

Please get in touch with Helen Harris – h.m.a.harris@bham.ac.uk – if you would like to attend.

Speaker: Dr Beth Watts, Research Fellow, I-SPHERE (Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research), Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

This seminar will engage with intense and longstanding debates regarding the legitimacy of interventions which seek behavioural change on the part of street homeless people. 'Hard' measures, such as arresting people for begging, are particularly controversial, but 'softer' interventions such as motivational interviewing have also prompted objections on the grounds that they are paternalistic. At the same time, the 'non-interventionist' stance of some service providers has been accused of perpetuating harmful street lifestyles.

Inspired by Ruth Grant's philosophically-informed interrogation of the ethics of incentives, a normative framework for application in this field will be proposed. Grant's three 'legitimacy standards' (legitimate purpose, voluntary response, and effects on character), and an additional outcome-focused fourth (effectiveness, proportionality and balance) will be used to structure a systematic exploration of the normative dilemmas associated with the use of social control measures. 

The paper has two core aims: to unsettle any intuitive assumption that non-interventionist approaches are necessarily more morally defensible than interventionist ones, and to explicate the high ethical and empirical bar required to justify social control measures.