Sunday, 05 July 2015

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

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