True scale of rough sleeping far higher than official figures

published on 21 Jan 2021

rough sleeper

A National Audit Office report has shown the Government radically underestimated the number of people living on the streets that would need temporary accommodation during the first lockdown.

The Salvation Army has repeatedly called on Government to invest in more accurate data on rough sleepers in order to  properly plan and fund homelessness support services, including in its own Future-Proof the Roof report. The importance of properly mapping the true scale of rough sleeping, by introducing the London CHAIN [1] (Combined Homeless and Information Network) system more widely across England, is just one recommendation from Future-Proof the Roof.

“If we are to truly end rough sleeping for good, it’s vital that we accurately record how many people need help."
Lorrita Johnson, Salvation Army Director of Homelessness Services

Lorrita Johnson, Director of Homelessness Services, said: “If we are to truly end rough sleeping for good, it’s vital that we accurately record how many people need help.

“Without knowing how many people are out there how can the Government possibly properly fund support services long-term and stand any chance of meeting its own pledge to eradicate rough sleeping by the end of the current Parliament? 

“The Salvation Army is calling for quarterly reporting, like London’s CHAIN to be introduced to areas outside of London with high levels of rough sleeping, so that the Government can better fund support at sustainable levels.

“Everyone In has for the first time exposed the true scale of rough sleeping in England and the Government now needs to grasp this new knowledge to help local authorities better through long-term funding for support services.”

Whitehall’s spending watchdog found more than 33,000 people were housed under ‘Everyone In’, yet the government’s latest rough sleeping count from November 2019 only registered 4,266 people as rough sleeping in England. 

Notes to Editors:

[1] CHAIN (Combined Homeless and Information Network) The data is updated directly by a range of organisations who work with rough sleepers in London. The figures are released quarterly.

These organisations include:

•    Outreach workers

•    Rough sleeper assessment services

•    Accommodation, including hostels and supported housing 

Salvation Army’s Future-Proof the Roof report:

The Salvation Army published its own blueprint for tackling homelessness and rough sleeping last summer, Future-Proof the Roof. The report highlights a new approach to investment in homelessness and rough sleeping, which will allow the Government to maintain recent progress and provide added protection against the wider economic downturn caused by Covid-19.

Key recommendations from Future-Proof the Roof include:

•    The Government needs to introduce a full multi-year investment plan for homelessness across the course of this Parliament. At a minimum, this plan must ensure that investment does not fall below the £700 million invested in 2020/21.

•    The social security system must prevent rather than cause homelessness by maintaining the recent increase in the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), so that people can afford to rent at least three in every ten of the most affordable properties in any given area. Following the Spending Review in November, this means the Government must reverse its freeze on the value of LHA rates from 2021/22 so that its value can increase yearly in line with inflation.

•    The Government must also make the temporary £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April. The Government must keep this lifeline to prevent 700,000 more people, including 300,000 children, from falling into poverty overnight, further increasing their risk of homelessness.

•    The Government must introduce a CHAIN type recording system in city regions outside of London with high levels of rough sleeping, so that the Government can accurately calculate the level of resource and investment required to end rough sleeping during this Parliament in line with its manifesto commitment.

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