Thanet council defends rough sleeper count data following Guardian criticism

Rough sleeping in Thanet Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet council says it provided ‘additional contextual information” alongside its last rough sleeper spot count in response to reports that local authorities have been accused of “deliberately hiding the scale of the rough sleeping crisis.”

A report in The Guardian says more than 30 councils, including Thanet, switched from submitting an estimate to carrying a one night street count in November 2018.

The count figures nationally produced a 2% drop in the number of people sleeping on the streets in 2018

Thanet count

For Thanet the number of people verified as sleeping rough fell by 50 per cent from 46 in 2017, to 23 in 2018.

The figures followed a count which took place between 4am and 7:30am on November 22.

The verified rough sleeper count only included people bedding down on the street (in parks, churchyards etc) on one given night.

People using the Thanet Winter Shelter were not included– that night there were 14 guests at the shelter.

Dying on our streets

Shockingly data released today (February 25) by the Office for National Statistics shows there have been 7 identified deaths of  people who were sleeping rough in Thanet between 2013 and 2017. Estimates, meaning those who died on the street but may not have been registered as homeless, for the same period show eight deaths.

In Canterbury there were 16 deaths of people registered as sleeping rough for the same period, with the estimate standing at 20.

For Dover three deaths were recorded and the estimated figure was the same. For Folkestone four deaths were recorded in both categories.

There were an estimated 597 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales in 2017, a figure that has increased by 24% over the last five years.

Men made up 84% of deaths and the mean age was 44 years for men and 42 years for women. Over half of all deaths of homeless people in 2017 were due to drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide; drug poisoning alone made up 32% of the total.

Changing method

The method used for last year’s rough sleeper count has been criticised as not showing the reality of street homelessness. Estimates are generally agreed by rough sleeper agencies, such as Porchlight as well as TDC, whereas the spot counts are just a snap shot of one night.

Thanet council said: “Ministry for Housing guidance dictates that where there is a significant change in the number, population or location of people sleeping rough in a local area, councils should consider conducting a street count.

“TDC historically conducted its annual rough sleeping figures via an estimate, but by October 2018, following funding from the Government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative, 34 people had been found accommodation, which constitutes a significant change. On this basis, TDC duly conducted a street count in November 2018.

“The council provided additional contextual information to the Government about the number of people that had been accommodated in temporary accommodation or who were staying at the Winter Shelter at the time of the count.

“As street counts only record people found bedding down outside on the night of the count, they are only part of the picture. Counts are however, a useful tool to assess trends in the numbers of rough sleepers over time.

“At any one time there will also be other people without settled accommodation who are not bedded down outside.

“The data showed a larger group of people who, although temporarily accommodated, still required ongoing support to find, and keep a permanent home.

“The council is confident the reported number accurately reflected the number of people sleeping rough locally and that there had been a genuine reduction in this figure.”

RISE team

Thanet council said the reduction was due to the introduction of the RISE team – Rough sleeper Intervention, Support and Empowerment –  which has three outreach workers and a dedicated worker for mental health and another for drug and alcohol addiction.

While the number was lower than previous years, council housing boss Bob Porter acknowledged that homelessness on the isle seemed more visible with a number of people living in tents in churchyards, parks and beaches.

Sleeping rough on the streets in Thanet

YearNumber of persons confirmed as sleeping rough in Thanet (TDC count)


  1. The number of rough sleepers is only the extreme tip of a miserable iceberg. Not counted will be the thousands of people living temporarily with friends or relatives, moving from place to place, sleeping in the living room, “sofa-surfing” as it is known.

    And the young couples living back home with the parents at a time in their lives when they would be hoping to get their own place. Or the people who finally get “their own place” by taking a privately-rented property that will never , really, be “their own place” because all the power lies with the landlord and they can be evicted at any time.

    This country does not just need “more houses”. We need more Council houses and flats at genuinely affordable prices. Prices that enable the tenants to save up for their first mortgage if they so wish. The bottom is dropping out of the housing market because the new, young, potential buyers are having to wait for years , or give up trying, because all of their spare cash goes to the landlord. Using that cash, the landlord then buys another house because only he has the money to buy it. His tenants won’t have the cash. They give it all to him, every month.

    And woe betide you if you fall into debt because of illness and inability to work or inability to understand the new , reduced, Benefit payments. Out on the streets with you and , if you want another tenancy, you need a “deposit” of one months rent (let’s say around £4-500)as well as a months rent in advance (another £4-500). How many rough sleepers can get their hands on up to £1,000 just like that?

    Our housing system is broken but a few people are making a fortune out of the human misery of thousands. And nothing is done. Ah well! Never mind!! Brexit is coming! All our problems will be solved! As if!

    • You also need a guarantor with a decent salary in case you can’t pay your rent due to unemployment, sickness or other changed circumstances. It’s not enough for your guarantor to say they will help out as evidence is needed. We need more affordable homes and benefits more in keeping with costs.

  2. But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.

    If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly.

    I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.

    We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.“ The above is part of the speech that Mrs May made outside Downing Street when she became prime minster.

  3. All lies and fake statistics. Ask anyone volunteering in foodbanks and soup kitchens around Thanet, they will tell you the truth. t is increasingly getting worse and worse under the government we have who haven’t got a clue the seriousness of what harm they are doing to this Country.

  4. The figures are snapshot figures of rough sleepers in the Town and in any other circumstance would be considered as not robust enough, to be considered as evidence.The national rough sleeper count is now challenged by some housing charities, because of the way statistics are compiled.Rough sleepers are mobile and are difficult to count.Not all want to be counted and some find secluded spots to camp away from the scrutiny of RISE or anyone else.The campers present a problem in the count because if they don’t answer or respond they are not counted and in the circumstances would you respond to some clipboard wielding official?
    Rough sleeping is but an extreme end of the homelessness spectrum as has already been suggested and the lack of social housing (not ‘affordable housing’ what ever that means) is finally coming home to roost. Buying/building/converting/ sequestrating/ anything to increase the number of good quality social homes, would be cheaper than relying on the private sector and paying ever higher Housing benefit levels.
    So in conclusion TDC’s assertion that their RISE team has reduced rough sleeping by nearly 50% is open to question. If we drill down into the statistics and look into how they are collected, there is much room for critical analysis .

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