MPs slam ministers over ‘utterly shameful’ rise in homeless deaths

Posted On: 
20th December 2018

MPs today blasted the Government after it was revealed the number of deaths among people forced to sleep rough has jumped by a quarter in five years.

A person sleeping rough in a doorway
Credit: 
PA Images

Some 597 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2017, an increase of 24% since 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The harrowing figures showed that over half of all the deaths last year were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide.

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Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn said: “These figures are utterly shameful and reflect a complete failure of Conservative policy on housing, which has seen rough sleeping skyrocket since 2010.

“We are one of the richest countries in the world and there is no excuse for people dying on our streets.”

The statistics come just a day after the death of a 43-year-old homeless man in the underpass between Parliament and Westminster underground station.

Ms Onn said that the case was "not even the first time this year".

She fumed: "In February this year another man died in the same place. What will it take to shake this Government out of its complacency and out of its outsourcing of responsibility?”

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire branded the ONS figures “stark” and reiterated the Government’s commitment to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027.

“It is simply unacceptable to see lives cut short this way, I believe we have a moral duty to act,” he told MPs.

“The death of anyone who is homeless is a tragedy. We remain focused and resolute in our commitment to make rough sleeping a thing of the past and where we need to do more we will.”

He added: "No one chooses to be on the street. No on chooses that life. The figures that she rightly highlights as I indicated in my initial response our stark."

'VERY CONCERNING'

A spokesperson for Theresa May said: “These figures are clearly very concerning. Every death on our streets is one too many.

“These are complex issues, but we are working hard to find solutions to that and that’s why we’re focussed on a homelessness strategy and putting money in to make sure people don’t need to sleep rough in the first place.”

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that there was "no excuse" for the latest increase.

Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said: “These deaths are absolutely tragic. As a wealthy country, we simply cannot accept people dying on our streets.

"The Conservative Government’s failure to look after these individuals is a shameful dereliction of duty.

“Conservative Ministers must recognise the urgent need to build more social homes.”

The Bath MP said the figures showed that mental health services and help in tackling drug abuse “desperately need more funding”.

"The housing crisis is a human crisis. It is depriving people of a roof over their head with devastating consequences. The time for warm words and little action has long gone."