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The Government will now officially count the number of homeless deaths

The Office of National Statistics will have its own experimental statistics out by the end of 2018 after the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that 449 people died in the last year

rough sleeper

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s UK-first count of homeless deaths has already had a huge impact after finding that 449 people died last year.

The pioneering study has received widespread coverage in the media after being revealed yesterday, including in this week’s Big Issue magazine, a Channel 4 News report as well as featuring in most of the major national newspapers.

The Bureau acknowledges – after a year of collaborating with charities, journalists and hospitals – that the figures represent a significant underestimate.

Now, the government’s official statistics body The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has announced that its own count is coming with experimental statistics to be published at the end of the year.

In a blog written on the ONS website, Ben Humberstone, ONS deputy director for health analysis and life events, revealed how the group plan to close the evidence gap.

Homeless deaths factbox 1328
Homeless-deaths-factbox

“There has been increasing public interest in homelessness, an important problem affecting some of the most vulnerable people in society, but which is difficult to measure as well as to solve,” he said.

“The government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy set new aims, including that deaths or serious harm of people who sleep rough should be rigorously investigated, while the Welsh Rough Sleeping Action Plan called for better monitoring and measuring the extent of rough sleeping.

“To date, there are no official figures on deaths of homeless people. The problem is two-fold: firstly, that homelessness takes many different forms, and secondly, that there is no specific way of recording homelessness at death registration.”

Humberstone outlined how ONS’ statisticians will measure the information, using death certificates to find indicators like “no fixed abode” or hostel addresses to determine if the person was homeless.

He also insisted that the project, which is in its final stages after  a new range of work on housing and homelessness began in November 2017, will refer to the Bureau’s work to determine the most accurate method of identifying how deaths will be incorporated in the final figures.

“We are working to estimate the number of deaths of homeless people throughout England and Wales, and as far as possible produce breakdowns by age group, sex, region and cause of death,” added Humberstone. “The focus of the statistics will be people who sleep rough or use emergency shelters and hostels.”

Read more on the Bureau’s Dying Homeless project and late Big Issue vendor Fabian Bayet in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now from vendors and The Big Issue Shop.

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