Shelter and councils respond to rise in deaths of homeless people

By agency reporter
October 2, 2019

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released new figures on the number of homeless people who died in England and Wales in 2018. The figures show:

  • In 2018, an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales, with 692 (95 per cent) of those in England. This is the biggest annual increase (22 per cent) since records began
  • The number of estimated deaths in England and Wales has increased by 51 per cent over the last five years (between 2013 and 2018)
  • Last year, the areas with the highest numbers of estimated deaths were Birmingham (23), Newcastle (20), Manchester (19), Bristol (17) and Liverpool (16).
  • There were 148 estimated deaths in London, the highest of any region. This accounts for 20 per cent of deaths in England and Wales. (Although London is a city, it is counted as a region because it is made up of 32 different local authorities.) 
  • In 2018, the average age at death of homeless people was 45 for men and 43 for women. This is more than 30 years lower than the average age at death of the general population of England and Wales.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing and homelessnes charity Shelter, said: “This is a moment to pause and reflect on what matters to us as a society. These tragic deaths are the consequence of a housing system that is failing too many of our fellow citizens. We desperately need to set a new course, and to do that we need urgent action.

“You can’t solve homelessness without homes, so we are calling on all parties to commit to building the social homes we need to form the bedrock of a more humane housing system.”

Also responding to the figures Councillor David Renard, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, said: "What is especially saddening about these worrying figures is that every single case of a homeless person dying could have been prevented.

"It is really important that we make this everybody's business to work together to stop this tragic loss of life and prevent homelessness and rough sleeping from happening in the first place.

"This is why we need the Government to provide councils with a long-term sustainable funding solution if we are to reduce homelessness, and with two in five deaths related to drug poisoning, adequately fund public health services so that councils can invest in drug and alcohol treatment services to make sure people get the support they need.

“The Government should also adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of becoming homeless, and give councils the powers to invest in new homes for those that need them, such as through reforming the Right to Buy scheme to enable councils to keep all sales receipts and set discounts locally.”

* Read Deaths of homeless people in England and Wales: 2018 here

* Local Government Association https://www.local.gov.uk/

* Shelter https://england.shelter.org.uk/

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