Laura Sharman 01 October 2019

Number of homeless deaths see biggest increase on record

Number of homeless deaths see biggest increase on record image

The number of homeless people dying has increased by 22% in the past year, new figures have revealed today.

The figures from the Office of National Statistics show that an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales last year, up from 597 in 2017.

This figure also means that the number of deaths among homeless people has increased by 51% over the last six years.

The number of deaths related to drug poisoning has increased by 55% in the past year, accounting for two in five deaths.

Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis and life events at the Office for National Statistics, said: ‘The deaths of 726 homeless people in England and Wales recorded in 2018 represent an increase of over a fifth on the previous year. That’s the largest rise since these figures began in 2013.

‘A key driver of the change is the number of deaths related to drug poisoning which are up by 55% since 2017 compared to 16% for the population as a whole.’

The think tank Reform said the figures show government policies are failing.

Dr Luke Heselwood, senior Reform researcher, said: 'One year on from the flagship Homelessness Reduction Act and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, which were meant to bolster efforts to prevent homelessness, the number of people dying on our streets should not be on the rise.

'Short-term, hand-to-mouth funding for local services has inhibited council’s efforts to implement this legislation and prevent those at risk from becoming homeless. Long-term sustainable funding for these services is a must to reverse this terrible trend.'

John Glenton, executive director of care and support for The Riverside Group, said early intervention was key to cutting the number of deaths.

‘Analysis of rough sleeper figures earlier this year showed that areas which received additional RSI funding saw the number of rough sleepers fall by almost a quarter (23%) on average – almost halfway to the Government’s manifesto pledge to halve rough sleeping by 2020,’ he said.

‘However, statistics released earlier this year also show that the number of households in temporary accommodation rose by 5% to the highest level for more than 11 years.

‘In order to tackle our country’s homelessness crisis we need to see significant and sustained funding increases in rough sleeper services, supported housing, mental health and substance misuse services, and affordable housing.’

The figures show that the highest numbers of deaths among homeless people were recorded in London and North West region. The number of deaths in these two regions equated to a third of the total number.

John Leech, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Manchester, said: ‘Today's figures don't just highlight the gross incompetence and lack of priorities from local and national politicians, nor is it just a complete embarrassment, but it exposes the deeply worrying, critical and consistent failure of a local and national system that simply doesn’t care.’

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