Rough sleeping in England has soared by a shocking 55% since David Cameron and the Tory-led coalition came to office, new figures show.
Official Government figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, reveal that there were a total of 2,744 rough sleepers across England in Autumn 2014. The figure represents a 14% rise on the same time the previous year and a 55% rise on 2010 – the year the coalition took office.
London accounts for 27% of all rough sleepers, with 742 people without shelter. The number of rough sleepers in London has increased by 37%, compared to an increase of 7% in the rest of England.
Figures were provided by all 326 local authorities in England. The rough sleeping figure comprises of counts from 49 local authorities and estimates from 277.
Responding to the figures, Emma Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, said:
“These shocking figures show a significant rise in the number of people sleeping on our streets since David Cameron became Prime Minister. Sleeping rough has a devastating impact on people’s lives and it is disgraceful the Tories have not only failed to act, but that their policies have made things worse.
“The Prime Minister once said homelessness and rough sleeping were a disgrace. But warm words are cold comfort to those sleeping rough if you fail to act.
“Rising housing costs and low pay have made it more and more difficult for people to keep a roof over their head.
“The Tory-led Government has presided over the lowest levels of housebuilding in peacetime since the 1920s, a drop in the number of affordable homes being built and policies like the Bedroom Tax have made things even worse.
“Labour is committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping by building more affordable homes, tackling low pay by raising the minimum wage, getting a fairer deal for private renters, and abolishing the unfair Bedroom Tax.”
The homeless and housing charity Crisis blamed the rise on benefit cuts and a shortage in affordable homes. The charity warns that councils are turning an increasing number of homeless people away to a life on the streets.
Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive, said: “These figures show that the law is badly failing people facing homelessness.
Welfare reform, benefit cuts and a chronic shortage of affordable homes mean more and more people are coming to their council as homeless. But as the law stands, far too often when single people ask for help, they are turned away to sleep on the street.
“Homelessness is a frightening and isolating experience – the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47. No one should be condemned to these dangers. That’s why we’re calling on political parties to commit to review how the law protects people from the devastation of life on the streets.”
Howard Sinclair, St Mungo’s Broadway Chief Executive, said: “We are extremely concerned that yet again we are seeing a rise in the levels of rough sleeping. This is a problem that we cannot ignore and needs to be a top priority for the next Government.
“As well as tackling the housing crisis overall, there is an urgent need to improve the help people receive from councils when looking for help with their homelessness.
“However, it’s important that we look below the surface of these snapshot figures.We know that the annual street counts can often be an estimate and fluctuate throughout the year, and with more workers out on the streets, more people are being found.
“The street counts provide a useful headline but more detailed analysis in London provided by CHAIN data shows that at least a proportion of the rise is driven by an increase in rough sleeping among non-UK nationals, in particular Eastern Europe.
“This trend, which has been apparent over the past decade, is particularly concerning as many of the traditional routes off the streets are not available to people who may have limited entitlement to welfare benefits. Further tightening of entitlement could exacerbate this.”
Last edited at 12:47pm on 26th February 2015 to correct a percentage error.