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Brighton re-count reveals rising number of rough sleepers

October 06 2011
 Seven-fold increase under new headcount guidelines


A recent change in the way rough sleepers are counted in Brighton has found the total figure to be more than seven times higher than last year’s figures.

Earlier this year, the Department for Communities and Local Government issued new guidelines on the way those sleeping rough should be counted.

Previously, only those physically lying on the pavement in public places were counted - meaning those asleep in car parks or on benches were ignored. Furthermore, any figure less than 10 was rounded down to zero.

As a result, the number of rough sleepers counted in Brighton and Hove - who trialled the new headcount system in June - is 106, compared with 14 last year.

Under the new scheme, carried out between 13 and 16 June, the council also counted people sitting or standing near their bedding. Officers also consulted with local homeless charities on the numbers of people they helped.

Councils have now also been asked to replace Government count officials with representatives from Homeless Link, the national charity for homeless agencies.

Since the new headcount guidelines were introduced, the figure for the national total of rough sleepers now stands at 1,768 - considerably higher than the 440 under the previous system. Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: “For too long a supposedly national figure of rough sleepers hasn’t reflected the reality on our streets.

“By having these more accurate numbers and a better national picture of the problem - we can start to help the homeless much more effectively.

“So whilst on the surface the new figures show a large jump in those sleeping on the streets, they actually reflect a more accurate way of evaluating the extent of rough sleeping. We had a situation before where large numbers of those spending the night on the street were simply being ignored, with cities like Manchester not counting in 2010 and Coventry not counting on a number of occasions.”

The actual rough sleep figure could however be considerably higher as many councils have not yet conducted a headcount under the new system.

In May, Stockport council sparked outrage after saying that there was no-one sleeping rough on their streets, after carrying out a count under the old system. This announcement came despite the fact that 137 people had reported themselves as sleeping rough to homeless charity The Wellspring.

At the time, Labour MP Ann Coffey said: “The council should be listening to and working with Wellspring to support homeless people in Stockport. This review suggests these people won’t get the help they need because according to the council they don’t exist.”