Levels of homelessness in the UK are actually five times higher than official reports

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 10:23 am
Updated Thursday, 27th February 2020, 10:26 am
Government rough sleeping figures are understated according to a BBC report (Getty Images)

Research has suggested that 28,000 people in the UK were recorded as sleeping rough in the previous 12 months.

Collated by the BBC, the stats are five times higher than widely quoted government figure of 4,677 from 2018. The 2019 figure is released later today (February 27).

The stark contrast in figures has lead to calls for an investigation into how government statistics are compiled.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

How are official government figures collected?

Government collection methods have been labelled as "seriously misleading" by Labour shadow housing secretary John Healey.

He said: "the government’s own published statistics are seriously misleading and an unreliable undercount of the number of people sleeping rough."

Government figures are compiled on one night in autumn based on the numbers of people seen sleeping rough in each local authority.

This has led to stark differences in local figures, for instance the government's single-night snapshot for 2018 found 45 rough sleepers in Oxford, compared to the 430 collected by BBC.

Breakdown of BBC's figures

The BBC's figures were collected directly from the council using the Freedom of Information Act.

Councils in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales responded with the following

England council figures found that 25,000 people were recorded sleeping rough at least onceIn Scotland 2,800 were recorded and mainly came from housing applications in which people said they slept rough during the previous three monthsThe Northern Ireland Housing Executive provided a single night snapshot figure of just 38In Wales 599 rough sleepers were recorded, but hese were taken from Welsh Government figures.

How have the government responded?

The government have claimed that single-night figures provide a "good estimate" of rough sleeping on "a given night".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government had initially pledged £437m to tackling homelessness. Since the release of BBC's figures they have pledged an additional £236m.

A key Conservative manifesto pledge was to end homelessness within a single parliamentary term.

Funds will be put towards accommodation, the refurbishment of existing units, and the lease of private rented sector properties.

Prime Minister Johnson said: "It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets,"

"We must tackle the scourge of rough sleeping urgently, and I will not stop until the thousands of people in this situation are helped off the streets and their lives have been rebuilt."

Speaking to BBC chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, Polly Neate said the cause of homelessness was evident.

She said: "as we see in our services day in and day out, most people are tipped into homelessness simply because there are not enough affordable, safe, and secure homes in this country,"

"The bottom line is people can't afford to live anywhere - a problem made infinitely worse by a dire lack of social homes and cuts to housing benefit."