EXCL Labour hits out at government as number of rough sleepers doubles in five years

Posted On: 
17th September 2019

The number of people forced to sleep rough has doubled in the last five years, PoliticsHome can reveal.

The number of rough sleepers was 4,677 in 2018, up to 2,414 in 2013

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the total has soared from 2,414 in 2012/13 until 4,677 in 2017/18.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey said the data "shames the government", while charities said the Government must do more to tackle the problem.

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The ONS said that the number of people presenting themselves as homeless "has been reasonably stable" since 2013.

But on rough sleeping, the independent statistics authority said that since the current system of recording was set up in 2010, the numbers “have been steadily rising across London and the rest of England”.

They added: “Over the last five years, the numbers of rough sleepers identified across the whole of England have nearly doubled, from 2,414 to 4,677, though a small decrease was reported between 2017 and 2018.”

Mr Healey said: “Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010 as a direct result of decisions made by Conservative ministers: a steep drop in investment for affordable homes, crude cuts to housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services, and a refusal to help private renters.

“This spiralling scale of homelessness shames this government when Britain is one of the richest countries in the world.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It’s a damning reflection of our society that night after night, so many people are forced to sleep rough on our streets – with numbers soaring in the capital – especially when we know that with the right commitment, rough sleeping could be ended for good.

“If the government is serious about its pledge to end rough sleeping within the next decade, it must do more to address the root causes.

“This includes ensuring that housing allowance truly covers the cost of renting, and building significantly more social housing to meet the needs of people across the country.

“It’s the only way to prevent all forms of homelessness in the first place and truly end rough sleeping for good.” 

And Paul Noblet from the homelessness charity Centrepoint said: “Given the number of young people affected and the serious impact that both rough sleeping and sofa surfing have on young people’s lives it is crucial that more is done by local and central government to tackle the problem.

“Centrepoint is calling on the Government to increase the amount of Local Housing Allowance available to young people who’ve been homeless so they have a better chance of leaving homelessness behind.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “While previous governments have embarked on some welcome initiatives on rough sleeping, you can’t solve homelessness without homes. 

“These figures demonstrate the need for major investment in new social homes, and we are calling for all parties to commit to build 3 million over the next twenty years.” 

But in response the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “The latest figures show the number of vulnerable people sleeping on our streets has fallen for the first time in eight years with particularly encouraging results in those areas funded by our Rough Sleeping Initiative.

“A recent evaluation found the number of people sleeping rough is around a third lower than it would have been had the initiative not been in place.

“We are also investing £1.2billion to tackle all forms of homelessness, and have made the most ambitious change to homelessness legislation in a decade - helping more people than ever before access vital support to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.

“But there is still more to do. I am determined to keep momentum up, which is why we’ve allocated £422million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over 2020/21 – a 13% real terms increase on the previous year – ensuring progress continues to be made and people are given the help they need to turn their lives around.”