New additional estimates published today show that the number of people sleeping rough on the streets could be more than treble the official national Rough Sleeping Count - a truer reflection of the problem according to Housing Minister Grant Shapps.
The official count published last week showed there were 440 rough sleepers in England, but additional official experimental estimates published today showed the figure could be as high as 1,247. This is because for the first time, all councils have been asked to submit estimates of the number of people sleeping rough on the streets in their area.
Previously, only councils which deemed themselves to have a problem had to do an official rough sleeping count, which was then submitted. This meant that only 70 councils conducted street counts leading to a total figure of 440 rough sleepers counted in England.
However, a further 256 councils have now provided estimates of the scale of the problem in their areas, many of them for the first time. This has added a further 807 rough sleepers - leading to a national total of 1,247 rough sleepers.
The new estimates follow calls from Mr Shapps for a review of how rough sleepers are counted and for a more comprehensive method of assessing the scale of the problem.
This is just one part of the Government’s drive to ensure homelessness is given the attention it deserves. Mr Shapps is also bringing together Ministers in 8 different Government departments to work closely together to look at ways their respective policies and frontline services can help rough sleepers and those at risk stay off the streets.
Mr Shapps said:
At first glance today’s figures might seem like the number of people sleeping on the streets has trebled overnight - but the reality is that the situation on the ground has been much worse than the official rough sleeping count suggested for many years.
I’ve consistently called for an honest street count and today’s new official figure is a much more comprehensive measure than in previous years. For the first time, all councils have been required to at least estimate the scale of the problem in their area, where previously they would not have contributed at all. So in some of our biggest cities, while local people would have seen people sleeping on the streets, official statistics in the past showed there was no problem at all.
This Government is serious about helping those sleeping on our streets and won’t shy away from the true scale of the problem. Today’s figures are a step towards getting a truer picture of the situation on the ground - but I want to go further.
That’s why I’ve announced plans for an overhaul of the way we assess rough sleeping and why I am asking councils and charities to help us come up with a more credible method of counting. We need a measure we can all rely on if we are to bring people in off the streets and give them a long-term future.
The Coalition believes that good Government is transparent and open, even when it is difficult. By instigating a more accurate rough sleeping count Ministers believe they can shine a light on helping those most at need.
Proposed changes to the way rough sleepers are counted include encouraging neighbouring authorities to hold counts on the same night, adjusting the timing of counts to capture rough sleepers who bed down later, and a greater role for voluntary organisations like Homeless Link to attend and verify counts. Charities and councils are being asked for their views on proposed improvements in a consultation also published today.
Notes to editors
The new rough sleeping estimates can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/roughsleepingcount2010.
Charities and councils are encouraged to respond with their views on improving the rough sleeping count methodology which can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/evaluatingroughsleeping.
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