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Rough sleeping up 141% since Conservatives took power despite year-on-year decline

Rough sleeping up 141% since Conservatives took power despite year-on-year decline
3 min read

The number of rough sleepers in the UK has more than doubled since 2010, new figures show.

This is despite the total number of people sleeping rough falling for the second year in the row, a total 10% drop from the 2017 peak.

Campaigners cautiously welcomed the fall in street sleeping, but called on the Government to do more to provide affordable housing. 

The stats, released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, come after the Government pledged £236m on Thursday morning to tackle rough sleeping.

Figures show that there were 4,266 people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019, compared to 1,768 people in 2010.

It was found that men are far more likely to be sleeping on the streets, making up 83% of the 2019 total. 

London has also seen a fall in rough sleeping for the first time in six years, representing the largest total decrease since 2010.

But Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, John Healey MP said the figures were “misleading” and “are an unreliable undercount of the true scale of the problem”.

His comments come after the BBC released research on Wednesday suggesting that rough sleeping was in fact five times higher than official stats show.

Their analysis suggested that over 28,000 people slept on the streets in a 12-month period, according to local council data.

Mr Healey said: “Even on these partial figures, the Government is still set to break its own pledge to end rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament, which it isn’t set to achieve until 2037 at the current rate of progress.

“Ministers won’t fix the crisis of rough sleeping until they deal with the root causes of the problem, which means facing up to the impact of deep cuts to housing, social security and homelessness services since 2010.”

the Ministry of Housing instead uses a 'snapshot' approach to counting rough sleeping, which counts those on the streets in a single Autumn night. Those figures are then verified by the Homeless Link charity.


Charitable organisations have also called on the Government to do more. 

“It’s good news if fewer people are facing the trauma of sleeping on the streets. But a word of warning, the number of people sleeping rough remains well over double what it was in 2010,” said Polly Neate, Chief Executive of homelessness charity Shelter. 

“The Prime Minister rightly wants to end rough sleeping before the end of the parliament, but unless his government tackles the drought of genuinely affordable homes, homelessness isn’t going anywhere. 

She added: “Rough sleeping is only the tip of the iceberg – there are literally hundreds of thousands more homeless people stuck in temporary accommodation.   

“You can’t put a plaster on a gaping wound. Serious investment in social housing is what’s needed. The upcoming budget is the perfect opportunity to champion a new generation of social homes and increase housing benefit, so it covers the basic cost of private rents.”

Meanwhile Helen Barnard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the Government needed to reform Local Housing Allowance rates and the Universal Credit system to help tackle the issue. 

She said: “The problem is that the underlying factors which pull people into homelessness aren’t being addressed - people are stuck in expensive private rented properties because there aren’t enough social homes, and housing benefit has stopped being an anchor to help people cope with high housing costs."

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