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Labour asks statistics watchdog to investigate ‘undercounting’ of street homelessness

LABOUR has called for an investigation into the “undercounting” of rough sleepers after official figures showed today that the number has fallen for a second year in a row.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government estimates that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night in autumn last year.

That was down by 411 (9 per cent) from 2018 but is still up by 2,498 (141 per cent) from when the measure was introduced in 2010.

Shadow housing secretary John Healey said: “Any apparent fall in street sleeping is welcome, but everyone knows these misleading statistics are an unreliable undercount of the true scale of the problem.”

He added that, even by the government’s own estimates, ministers are set to break their pledge to end rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament which, at the current rate of progress, would not be met until 2037.

In the Commons shadow housing minister Sarah Jones revealed that Labour has written to the UK Statistics Authority questioning the accuracy of the figures.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick responded that the statistics were not the government’s but were “produced by local authorities with independent verification.”

Homeless charity Glass Door, which runs shelters in London, said that the data from the report was gathered through annual snapshot counts or estimates on a single night.

The charity’s chief operating officer, Lucy Abraham, said that the data “grossly underestimates the true scale of homelessness” as the street-count for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea took place after Glass Door shelters opened, meaning that no individual staying in their shelters was included.

She suggested that snap-shot counts and estimates often take place after most shelters open their doors for the night.

Ms Abraham added: “These figures matter because they are used to allocate resources to tackle homelessness in London.”

The charity is calling for counts and estimates to take place before shelters open and for transparency about when they are conducted.

The official street homelessness figures came after PM Boris Johnson announced £236 million in what was described as additional funding to provide “move-on” accommodation for up to 6,000 rough sleepers.

He has also appointed former homelessness tsar Dame Louise Casey to carry out a review of the causes of the problem.

During a visit to homelessness charity The Connection at St Martin’s in Charing Cross, London, today, Mr Johnson admitted that the rough-sleeping crisis was “totally unacceptable” .

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