ROUGH SLEEPING INCREASES IN ENGLAND WHILE FALLING IN SCOTLAND
WESTMINSTER WELFARE DECISIONS RISK UNDERMINING SCOTTISH PROGRESS
Newly published figures suggesting that the number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 50 per cent since the Tories took office has underlined the importance of Scotland’s distinctive approach.
The latest UK Government rough sleeping estimates for England indicated that while 1,768 people reported to be rough sleeping on a single night in Autumn 2010, that figure had increased to 2,744 in Autumn 2014.
Homeless charity Crisis has previously described the methodology behind these figures as “inherently compromised” and warned that the actual figures for rough sleeping in England are likely to be even higher, suggesting they should “be best regarded primarily as a basis for trends analysis rather than an attempt at a ‘true’ absolute number”.
In contrast the situation in Scotland – where homelessness statistics are more comprehensive and are measured through applications under homelessness legislation over the course of a year – has seen a 35 per cent fall in the number of applicants for housing under homelessness legislation who reported sleeping rough the night before applying between 2009/10 and 2013/14.
Similarly the number of people who reported being ‘long-term roofless’ in Scotland when applying for assistance fell by 31 per cent from 296 in 2009/10 to 204 in 2013/14.
The SNP has today highlighted that the different trends in rough sleeping show the differing priorities of the Westminster and Scottish Governments, and warned that plans to strip young people of housing benefit risks undermining efforts to tackle homelessness.
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford said:
“The rise in the number of people sleeping rough in England is a damning indictment of the Tories’ performance and highlights the contrasting approach to Government in Scotland.
“It shows that while the Scottish Government has been determined to act to address homelessness, the Westminster Government has been unwilling to follow suit in England.
“While we have made strong progress in Scotland thanks in large part to ambitious homelessness legislation, the Tories’ plan to scrap housing benefit for young people risks undermining what has been achieved.
“It underlines why Scotland needs to be able to make our own decisions when it comes to welfare, so that progress in Scotland cannot be undermined by the austerity agenda of the Westminster establishment.
“With a strong team of SNP MPs holding the balance of power at Westminster we can make Scotland’s priorities Westminster’s priorities – and can deliver the real powers of Home Rule to allow us to create a fairer welfare system which complements our efforts to tackle homelessness rather than undermines it.”
Details of Tory plans to remove housing benefit for 18 – 21 year olds can be viewed at http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06473.pdf
The latest estimates of rough sleeping in England can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2014
The same figures from 2010 can be viewed at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7377/1845810.pdf
Details of the 35% reduction in the number of housing applicants under homelessness legislation in Scotland who reported sleeping rough the night before applying can be viewed at http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/06/3967/45
The Scottish Government figures are based on actual applications under homelessness legislation over the course of a year. The UK Government does not collect figures in the same way, instead basing its rough sleeping figures on single night snapshots, where 49 local authorities count the number of rough sleepers in their area on one night of the year and 277 local authorities provide an estimated figure of the number of people sleeping rough that night.
A discussion of the shortcomings of the methodology used in England can be viewed at http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness_Monitor_England_2015_final_web.pdf