'Flawed' counting system for rough sleepers to be changed

The current method for counting the number of rough sleepers in the UK will be radically overhauled to give a more accurate picture of how many people are sleeping on Britain’s streets, the government announced today.

A “snapshot” of rough sleepers is currently conducted once a year but homeless charities have long argued that the count is wildly inaccurate and severely underestimates the scale of the problem.

Only those areas of the country that believe they have more than ten rough sleepers are currently required to take part which means that just 76 out 353 local authorities bothered to conduct the survey last year.

Campaigners say the current count is riddled with flaws. Britain currently has an official rough sleeper population of just 464 with less than ten people supposedly living on the streets of major cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. Place like Newcastle and Lancaster, meanwhile, have just two officially documented rough sleepers.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said the government would bring in a new counting method by 2011 which would "better reflect the true scale of the problem."

“Councils and charities are doing a great job in helping people off the streets, but the current counting system makes a mockery of the scale of the problem they face," he said. "This coalition government will not stick our heads in the sand and ignore the true picture of the number of those facing life on the streets.”

The government has yet to decide what shape the new count will take but Mr Shapps said that a new-cross government committee pulling together eight separate departments would decide how best to proceed.

His announcement was generally welcomed by charities and local authorities with known rough sleeper problems. But there were also concerns that a revamped rough sleeper count would mean little if impending cuts resulted in vital services for homeless people being slashed over the coming months and years.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said she “warmly welcomed” the new initiative but added: “It will be vital to ensure that both Government and local authorities provide the resources to back-up this new commitment and that the right services are delivered on the ground and are not cut.”

Claire Linnane, from Southwark Council, added: “Any attempt to improve the national count would be welcome. But they key is to secure long term funding to tackle homelessness and that is what is now at risk.”

As an example, Mrs Linnane highlighted the borough’s “migrant impact fund” which is at risk of being slashed in next week’s emergency budget.

Southwark is London’s largest landowner and has a prominent rough sleeper problem along the south bank of the Thames. Many inner city boroughs in the capital have a sizeable rough sleeper populations from those eastern and central European countries that recently joined the EU – known as the “A10” nations. Unlike British rough sleepers, A10 migrants are not allowed to access public funds unless they have been in full time employment for twelve months meaning many find it difficult to get off the streets and into hostels.

“The vast majority of our funding for these particularly vulnerable people comes from the department for Communities and Local Government (CLG),” she said. “If it went, we’d take a really big hit.”

As London is currently home to an estimated 40% of the UK’s rough sleepers, a more accurate homelessness count has been up and running in the capital for the past three years. The “Chain” count, which is run by the Broadway charity on behalf of the CLG, found that 3,472 people slept rough in London at some point in 2009/10, an increase of 455 from the previous year. Their new figures for the last twelve months will be published next month.

Howard Sinclair, Broadway’s chief executive, said: “If you wanted to really get an idea of how many rough sleepers there are in the country, in an ideal world you’d roll out something like Chain nationwide. But that’s probably unlikely to happen because of the costs involved.”

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, was also keen to emphasise that rough sleeping is only one part of the broader issue of homelessness in Britain. “Over 51,000 homeless households are currently trapped in temporary accommodation, desperately in need of a permanent roof over their head,” he said. “Alongside measures to tackle rough sleeping the government must continue to invest in much needed affordable housing to ensure anyone affected by homelessness can access a secure and stable place to live.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all