'Councils have been accused of deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in England by changing the way they compiled figures for the 2018 official count, the Guardian can reveal.
Official government statistics reported a 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018 after seven consecutive years of rises when the figures were released last month. But critics have suggested the percentage decreased after several councils changed their counting method and does not reflect the reality on the streets.
The government has described the claims as “an insult” to the volunteers and charities who help compile the official figures. But back in 2015 the figures were also criticised as low-quality, untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation by the UK Statistics Authority who threatened to remove their official status.
The rough sleeping statistics for England, based on a combination of estimates and spot counts on a single night in autumn, are intended to include
Estimates, akin to a local census, are typically agreed by agencies who work closely with rough sleepers in the area all year round, whereas street counts are one-night snapshots.
Analysis by the Guardian found that more than 30 councils switched from submitting an estimate to a street count from 2017 to 2018, with some councils reporting reductions in rough sleeping of up to 85%.
In Brighton and Hove, the official number for rough sleepers fell from 178 to 64 people in 12 months after the council made the change. Opposition councillors have described the drop as a “deliberate misrepresentation” of the scale of rough sleeping in the area.'
Read more: English councils accused of hiding scale of homelessness crisis
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