Thursday, 02 October 2014

Charity claims council underestimated homeless people by 76 per cent

Council ‘dumbing down’ rough sleeper numbers

A homelessness charity in north Wiltshire has accused a council of under-reporting the number of rough sleepers on its streets.

Chippenham-based Doorway claimed Wiltshire Council undercounted the number of rough sleepers in the county by 76 per cent.

According to Doorway chief executive Lisa Lewis, the rough sleeper count carried out by homelessness service providers around Wiltshire in November was 25 - six of whom were counted by her team in north Wiltshire alone.

However, Wiltshire Council wrote to the charities last week revealing that it had passed on a rough sleeper count estimate of just six for the whole county two months ago without consultation.

Council counts take into account the views of services such as the police and NHS as well as rough sleeper charities. Ms Lewis said she had challenged the council’s figures but received no explanation for the discrepancy.

‘We are fighting the council on this. There are whole swathes of rough sleepers not being counted. We are passing on the figures to the council and they are reducing them.’

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: ‘The estimate exercise, carried out in November 2011, was based on government guidance and following verification of the information provided by members of the [rough sleeper] group, we were able to record a figure of six rough sleepers.

‘The figures we provide to government must be robust and in line with guidance. This is a one-off snapshot of the numbers rough sleeping in our area and presents an opportunity for us to look at ongoing ways to collate and hold data to assist those on the streets.’

A spokesperson from umbrella organisation Homeless Link said: ‘Disputed figures are not unknown, but charities are committed to working with councils to improve the way they collect information to ensure that the figures they get are as robust as possible.’

Last year, housing minister Grant Shapps attacked Birmingham Council for its ‘ludicrous’ rough sleeper count of nine people.

The news came as the government announced its official rough sleeper figures yesterday which showed a 23 per cent increase in the number of rough sleepers in England.

As Inside Housing revealed two weeks ago, many councils across the country saw their rough sleeper figures soar by more than 100 per cent last year as a result of the struggling economy and cuts to welfare benefits beginning to bite.

Rough sleepers

6 - estimated by Wiltshire Council

25 - counted by homelessness charities

Readers' comments (6)

  • What is "goverment guidance"? Not the first time I've heard this experession used to justify an action. Anyone can say anything, hide anything as long as the truth remains well out?

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  • Gavin Rider

    Like the old adage about bears and woods, upwardly-reported statistics are always likely to downplay the size of any problem unless funding is being sought to deal with the problem, in which case the "error" in the figures is likely to be in the opposite direction.

    What amazes me is that anyone should be surprised by this.

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  • Why is there homelessness?

    Surely, they should be able to get a room in bedsit?

    What is going on?

    What has funding got to do with it?

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  • Concerned Landlord

    There appear to be some harsh realities to life you are not aware of.

    Some people can not cope with our modern society, do not get care or support, and end up on the streets as a result.
    Some people suffer a trauma in their lives which removes them from their home, or removes their ability to afford even a room. They can then get trapped into a cycle of living on the streets.
    Some people do not have a call on social security, can not afford even a room, and end up on the streets as a result.
    Some people may be eligible to support, but because the resources required to deliver that support have been cut, they do not get the help that they need so end up on the streets.

    If only everything was as warm and cuddly as some think it is, nobody would have to be on the streets without a roof over their heads.

    Shapps is now attempting to blame this all on immigration - it is appalling that a man of Jewish heritage has resorted to playing on racial tensions to defend his own policy failure. I do hope he knows shame.

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  • Concerned Landlord

    You're lucky if you can get a place in an hostel due to funding cuts.

    'Get a bedsit'........where does the deposit come from?.........number of landlords that take those on benefits dropped as they no longer get maximum HB. No landlord will offer a space with no deposit.....unless you do!!??

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  • Thanks for the story Nick, and congratulations are due to DOORWAY chief exec Lisa Lewis for her dedication on raising this issue. As a resident of North Wiltshire, it comes as no surpise that figures and information being given by Wiltshire Council is inaccurate , misleading and obviously damaging and upsetting to those who are homeless. If only our local press would run stories identifying the many issues and failings of Wiltshire Council !!

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