As we’ve pointed out before there’s a certain amount of dissembling over homeless numbers in the UK. We have figures of hundreds of thousands bandied about when in fact there're more like 5,000 or so rough sleeping. The hundreds of thousands number is of those protected by our welfare system from that agreed destitution of having to sleep in the streets.
We’ve the latest insistence from the campaigners though:
Councils have been accused of deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis in England by changing the way they compiled figures for the 2018 official count, the Guardian can reveal.
Gosh. That would be bad.
Official government statistics reported a 2% fall in rough sleeping in England in 2018 after seven consecutive years of rises when the figures were released last month. But critics have suggested the percentage decreased after several councils changed their counting method and does not reflect the reality on the streets.
The government has described the claims as “an insult” to the volunteers and charities who help compile the official figures. But back in 2015 the figures were also criticised as low-quality, untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation by the UK Statistics Authority who threatened to remove their official status.
The rough sleeping statistics for England, based on a combination of estimates and spot counts on a single night in autumn, are intended to include everyone about to bed down or already bedded down on the street, in doorways, parks, tents and sheds but not hostels or shelters.
Estimates, akin to a local census, are typically agreed by agencies who work closely with rough sleepers in the area all year round, whereas street counts are one-night snapshots.
Analysis by the Guardian found that more than 30 councils switched from submitting an estimate to a street count from 2017 to 2018, with some councils reporting reductions in rough sleeping of up to 85%.
So the old method of using estimates was criticised as being low quality, untrustworthy and vulnerable to political manipulation. Therefore many moved to the better system of conducting an actual census. It is these new, presumably better, numbers which are being critiqued because. Well, because what? They show the previous level of political manipulation?
We’d not expect homeless charities to underestimate now, would we?
But it’s that basic contention which has so many uses. Ignore reality and instead depend upon our estimates of the problem. Because our estimates are going to be so much more accurate.
You know, the cry of the snake oil salesman down the centuries. Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?