Rough sleeping figures ‘should not be trusted’

homeless is sleeping outdoor in Milan, Italy

The manner in which data on the numbers of those sleeping rough on the streets has been subject to much debate in the sector of late, particularly following recent government claims that the number of rough sleepers has actually fallen. This has caused – to put things mildly – some slight consternation.

Enter stage left Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority. He has said that these recently released figures, showing an apparent 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018, “should not be trusted” until the government explains how data from an emergency funding scheme might have been interpreted.

The reason for the controversy surrounding these figures? Many councils have changed their data collecting methodologies over the past few months and years, moving away from estimates to a count. Doing so sees a reduction in the official numbers of rough sleepers across the board. Critics claim that this methodology does not portray an accurate representation of the reality of rough sleeping.

Norgorve seems to be among these critics, saying that the official 2018 figures should not be used to make claims about rough sleeping until concerns that some councils deliberately under-reported the “scale of crisis” in their area are addressed.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and all that. In related news, perhaps the Big Issue can shine some further light on this…er, big issue (well, you would think they know what they’re talking about). They’ve published a report of their own using FOI requests to detail the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act, with some intriguing results.

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