Tag Archives: DCLG

Government Slammed By Regulators Over Misleading Homelessness Statistics

Soaring street homelesness much worse than even this say charities

This looks bad but it’s even worse say homelessness charities.

Government homelessness statistics due out next week have been slammed as ‘potentially misleading’ by the UK Statistics Authority after charities warned they were under-estimating the true scale of the homelessness epidemic.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) produces three different sets of homelessness statistics and all have shown a rising trend in the number of those without a home over the last five years.   Two of these reports – statistics on how many people people have approached local councils concerned they are about to become homeless as well as figures recording the number of people sleeping rough – are released on an annual basis whilst the number of people actually accepted as homeless by Local Authorities are recorded on a quarterly basis.  This needs to change according to the Statistics Authority who recommend that all local authority statistics are released quarterly in a single publication.

The authority also questions whether rough sleeping statistics are truly an accurate portrayal pointing out significant difference between the number of street homeless people estimated in counts carried out by charities and those produced by Local Authorities.  Astonishingly rough sleeping figures are gained from a single annual street count managed at local level with councils able to opt out if they do not believe they have a siginificant number of rough sleepers.  Front-line workers in the homelessness industry have long warned that these counts are often fixed with police sent in to clear the streets of rough sleepers before the count takes place.  Sadly the UK Statistics Authority have not called for an examination of how widespred this practice is.

DCLG are now required to carry out an overhaul of rough sleeping statistics as well as provide an explanation of the methods used to collect these figures and the reasons why.  Basically, until a better system can be found, then DCLG have been ordered to add a disclaimer to the statistical releases saying that these numbers are actually a load of old bollocks so don’t believe a word of them.  Which no-one did anyway.

You can read the UK Statistics Authority’s asessment at: http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/assessment/current-assessments/homelessness-and-rough-sleeping-statistics.html

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‘Massive’ Rise In Street Homelessness Blamed On Benefit Sanctions By Charities

sanction-sabsThe Manchester Evening News (MEN) has reported a ‘massive’ rise in street homelessness with benefit sanctions singled out as one of the main causes.

The paper carried out an investigation into rough sleeping in the region claiming that people are living in ‘caves, old air raid shelters and under a supermarket.’  Two charities working on the frontline told the MEN that benefit sanctions are to blame for the rise in homelessness, with one citing the case of a man who had been sanctioned seven times and left unable to pay his rent.  One charity worker told the paper: “Whereas before, most homeless people had benefits, now they have nothing.”

Officially the number of people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester is just 24.  One local charity however claims there are around 60 street homeless people in Stockport alone, whilst local councillor Daniel Gillard told the MEN he believed around 150 people were now sleeping rough in Manchester City Centre.

National statistics on street homelessness are based on little more than a guess and the government is determined to keep things that way.  Previously local authorities who believed they had more than ten rough sleepers in their jurisdiction were required to carry out an annual ‘street count’ and report their findings back to the Department of Communities or Local Government (DCLG).  Following changes made last year they are now only required to provide an ‘estimate’ of the number of street homeless people.

The DCLG used to provide some monitoring of the procedure for recording rough sleeping figures however that responsibility has now been passed onto the charity Homeless Link who will rely on volunteers to do the work from their “member agencies and interested faith groups”.

Even when councils can still be bothered to carry out a street count the true number of homeless people is likely to be woefully underestimated – sometimes perhaps even deliberately.  When the first street counts were carried out in London they were largely believed to have been fixed with widespread stories of the police clearing the streets of homeless people before the count took place.

Street counters are warned not to venture anywhere they feel unsafe and not to record people living in squats, on camp sites, organised protest sites or travellers.  Unlike homeless people, street counters do no break into parks or other areas which may be closed to the public at night and therefore safer to sleep in then on the High Street.  Only those spotted asleep, or in the process of ‘bedding down’ are included in the count, ignoring the large number of homeless people who wander the streets at night and try to sleep in the day time.  Few street counts extend far out of city centres and therefore miss the people hidden away in local communties, or camping, or sleeping in cars and other vehicles because they have nowhere else to go.

Despite all of this, the number of street homeless people that do get recorded in the figures has still soared under this Government, by around a third between 2010 and 2013.  The figures for last year are set to be publised next month and are unlikely to be worth the paper they are written on.  But as the Manchester Evenings News found, and we can see all around us, this most damaging form of homelessness is becoming much worse and it is far from just a London problem.

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