'Claims that rough sleeping is falling in England should not be trusted until the government has explained how an emergency funding scheme for the worst-affected areas might have skewed the latest figures, the chair of the UK statistics Authority (UKSA) has said.
Sir David Norgrove’s comments are the latest development in a row over the apparent 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018, which ministers said was a sign the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) was tackling the homelessness crisis.
In a significant intervention, Norgrove said the official figures for 2018 should not be used to make claims about rough sleeping in England until the government addresses concerns that some councils that received RSI funding had deliberately underreported the scale of the crisis in their area.
The official rough sleeping statistics for England, based on estimates and spot counts from all local authorities on a single night in autumn, are intended to include everyone about to bed down or already bedded down on the street, in doorways, parks, tents and sheds, but not hostels or shelters.
Estimates, akin to a local census, are typically agreed by agencies who work closely with rough sleepers in the area all year, whereas street counts are one-night snapshots.
After the official figures for 2018 were published at the start of the year, the prime minister, Theresa May, hailed an apparent 85% fall in rough sleeping in Southend from 2017 to 2018.
Southend was among several local authorities that changed its methodology after it received short-term RSI funding, along with Brighton, Southend, Redbridge, Eastbourne, Medway, Worthing, Thanet, Exeter, Basildon, Ipswich and Warwick.'
Read more: Rough sleeping figures cannot be trusted, says statistics chief
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