Homelessness remains one of the most pressing, some say growing, issues that policy makers face but a clear understanding of the causes is hampered by a lack of clear data. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the charity, The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) have just launched a consultation to better measure the factors that influence homelessness, such as housing, poverty, and relationships to try and find new ways to measure what areas are most at risk.
Homelessness statistics are already collected and published in the four nations of the United Kingdom by the ONS, however these statistics by themselves do not reveal the huge number of complex drivers which could be a factor. Last year, experimental figures were released which estimated that 597 people who were homeless died in England and Wales in 2017. This tragic figure gives an idea of the scale of the issue but is not the whole picture.
Working with government and a broad range of support and outreach organisations, the aim is to explore how the quality of homelessness figures can be improved.
The CHI can help to improve our understanding of homelessness. As an established charity in the sector, they are well placed to draw on a range of expertise from academics, practitioners and international evidence and best practice.
According to Ligia Teixeira of the charity, the UK Government, and devolved administrations have all made commitments to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping. Attempts have been made to tackle homelessness, such as progressive legislation and the shift to prevention. Yet it’s been hard to move the needle, and despite the many good efforts, homelessness still seems stubbornly high.
The charity knows that they must tackle the root causes of homelessness like poverty, poor housing stock, and relationship breakdown in order to reduce homelessness sustainably.
If everybody is working to a common and agreed description of “homelessness ended” and of the indicators towards that goal, then there will be more of a chance of success. The aim is to create a framework which allows any change to be sustainable and gives a more holistic way of measuring success.
What will these new homelessness indicators look like?
Hugh Strickland of the ONS said ‘If you just look at numbers at a point in time you may well miss a whole range of factors which may well contribute to someone presenting as homeless. People tend to move in and out of sleeping rough and we don’t have great insights into those journeys.
‘Our current understanding suggests there can be many complicating factors that can lead to homelessness including private tenancies, poverty, job losses, family breakdowns and domestic abuse. It is important that we look at all of these in the round to provide a better evidence that helps policy makers, local authorities and charities recognise these signs early on.’
Ligia Teixeira of the CHI said ‘At the moment we lack tools that help us understand what all the relevant datasets collectively tell us about the state of homelessness across the UK. By collecting a range of sources we hope that we will be able to produce a product which helps to recognise areas which are succeeding or need improvement, in order to encourage sustainable policy solutions.
‘Whilst better use of data won’t end homelessness, it is a crucial part of the answer. Achieving it will require the collective push of many actors across a complex system but better use of data will be invaluable to give the power to make better choices.’
Who is this consultation for?
The consultation is aimed at anyone who can give any insight or experience on this issue. From policy-makers, to practitioners, to academics, people with lived experiences and the wider public who might also have insights to offer.
Likewise, anyone who has experience of working in and around homelessness can provide an insight into what some of the key measurements should be for these indicators.
The aim of the consultation is to produce data that has value and relevance to policy and practice, so it can have a positive impact on society. It is hoped that responses to this consultation will make sure that these indicators can have real world importance which can inform policy to help create lasting change.
How can people get involved?
The consultation is now live on the Office for National Statistics consultation hub. Responses are invited from any interested parties between now and July 10th when the consultation closes.
The feedback provided will help shape the approach to monitoring and reporting progress against the SHARE framework. A response will be published within 12 weeks of the consultation end date.
To find out more or to take part in the consultation visit https://consultations.ons.gov.uk/policy-evidence-and-analysis-team/homelessness-indicators-consultation/