Wednesday 26 February 2020 / 11:52 AM Homelessness / John Healey

John Healey writes to UK Statistics Authority about misleading rough sleeping figures

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, has today written to the UK Statistics Authority to ask them to investigate the accuracy of the Government’s rough sleeping statistics, following new data obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that Ministers have been dramatically under-reporting the scale of rough sleeping.


The new data reveal 28,000 people sleeping rough over 12 months, of which nearly 25,000 were in England – five times the number recorded by the Government: 4,677 in 2018. While regularly used by Ministers, these Government statistics have been refused Official Statistics status, which is a mark of “trustworthiness, quality and public value”.


Research by specialist homelessness charities also confirms that the Government’s figures are misleading and that they seriously undercount the scale of the country’s current rough sleeping homelessness.


John Healey MP said:


“These figures expose the shameful scale of rough sleeping on our country’s streets.


“They also confirm that the Government’s own published statistics are seriously misleading and an unreliable undercount of the number of people sleeping rough.


“The Conservatives can’t begin to fix the problem when they won’t admit the scale of it. Ministers should replace these discredited statistics and adopt Labour’s plan to end rough sleeping for good.”




Notes to editors 


Data from BBC Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed that 28,000 people were recorded sleeping rough over 12 months, 25,000 of whom were in England. This is more than five times the Government’s own estimate:


John Healey has today written to the UK Statistics Authority Chair, Sir David Norgrove to ask that the UKSA investigate the Government’s rough sleeping statistics, in light of this new information. Mr Healey’s letter is reproduced below.


Labour’s plan for rough sleeping is available here:


The text of the letter is reproduced below:


Dear Sir David


New data obtained from local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act have been published today by the BBC suggesting 28,000 people were sleeping rough across the UK over 12 months, of which nearly 25,000 were in England.


The Government’s own figures, as published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the latest publication ‘Rough Sleeping Statistics: Autumn 2018, England’, declare that the total number of people counted or estimated to be sleeping rough was just 4,677. You’ll be aware that this data is gathered each year on a single night in the autumn.


In light of the new figures published today, it is clear that the use of the Government’s own figures as the sole official measure of rough sleeping is seriously misleading as it dramatically undercounts the number of people sleeping rough.


You will know the long-standing concern about the Government’s rough sleeping statistics, including from expert organisations and charities. For example, in 2018 the charity Crisis commissioned research which calculated that the number of people sleeping rough in England is more than double what Government statistics suggest.


The UKSA’s own work in this area confirmed in 2015 that these rough sleeping statistics do not meet the standards required of National Statistics – trustworthiness, quality and value.


The Government’s rough sleeping statistics are the sole statistics produced by Government on rough sleeping so they are naturally and inevitably assumed by the public to be an accurate portrayal of the scale of rough sleeping. This is clearly not the case, as the statistics are an unreliable undercount and are an unsound basis for public policy-making or debate. I would be grateful if you would investigate the flaws in these figures and how the Government’s statistics could be improved so they better capture the level of rough sleeping in our country.


With good wishes.


Yours ever


John Healey MP

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary