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28th February 2019

Manchester has the highest number of deaths of homeless people in England, ONS says

Burnham’s campaign to end rough sleeping by 2020 takes yet another hit, following the recent proposal of a £100 fine for rough sleeping
Manchester has the highest number of deaths of homeless people in England, ONS says
Photo: Flickr @ Garry Knight

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Manchester has the highest death rates of homeless people than any other local authority area in England and Wales in 2017.

This report came after a homeless man was found dead on Market Street in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The statistics show a direct correlation between the relative poverty of an area and the number of rough sleeper deaths.

In Manchester alone, rough sleeping counts have risen from just seven in 2010 to 123 in 2018, and it was found that more deprived areas had about nine times more deaths of homeless people compared to the least disadvantaged areas.

More than half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to liver disease, suicide or drug poisoning and around 84% of deaths were men.

Ben Humberstone, from the ONS, said: “[Today’s] findings show a real contrast between areas in terms of where homeless people are dying. Every one of these deaths is a real human tragedy and understanding where these deaths occur is particularly poignant.”

The Guardian recently revealed that council bosses have been ‘accused of deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis’ in England, and have done so by ‘changing the way they complied figures for the 2018 official count’.

ONS reported that there was a 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018, although critics have questioned whether the decrease was due to councils changing their counting method as results ‘did not reflect the reality on the streets’.

When The Guardian contacted local authorities, they were told that they needed to change their reported estimates to a street count, as advised by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Minister of homelessness, Heather Wheeler, said: “These claims are an insult to the hardworking outreach workers, local charities, and other groups that collate these figures and are independently verified by Homeless Link.

The Homeless Link is a government paid charity which aims to guide councils to collect rough sleeping statistics and to officially verify their count for their constituency.

Wheeler added: “The rough sleeping count uses a well-established method – adopted by many cities across the world – providing us with a reliable way of comparing change over time, and councils have the freedom to choose how they conduct their count to best suit their area and individual circumstances.

“We have set out bold plans to end rough sleeping – and these figures show our work is already making a difference.”

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), have put together Greater Manchester’s Plan for Homes, Jobs and the Environment which aims to find the right housing, in the right places for those who need it. Other aims include creating jobs and improving infrastructure to ensure the future prosperity of Greater Manchester.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, promised to eradicate homelessness in Manchester by 2020 as part of his mayoral manifesto.

Mayor of Salford and Greater Manchester Housing Lead, Paul Dennett, said: “We have always wanted this to be a plan for everyone in Greater Manchester and the only way we can be confident of this is by as many people as possible having their say.

“We listened to the response to the 2016 plan and have produced this radical redraft which will improve the city-region for generations to come.”

It is currently predicted the final plan will be adopted, and in late 2020/early 2021 which will fall behind Burnham’s campaign to end homelessness in Greater Manchester, although the plan will surely be a start to getting people off the streets.

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