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Homeless Deaths Are Highest in UK Councils Hit Hardest by Budget Cuts: Report

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Homelessness is a crisis in the UK and around the world, and the UN Global Goal 11 for sustainable cities and communities includes a call for safe and affordable housing for everyone. This analysis suggests a link between lack of local authority funding and people experiencing homelessness not getting help, which is important to highlight. Help tackle homelessness and support the Global Goals by taking action here.

A new analysis has reportedly identified a link between the number of people dying while homeless in an area, and the cuts to public services that area has experienced. 

The research, produced by the Labour Party and reported in the Guardian, looks at the average cut to councils' "spending power" per household in each location where homeless fatalities are at their highest. 

Of the 10 councils with the highest number of homeless deaths in England and Wales between 2013 and 2017, nine had reportedly seen cuts amounting to more than three times the national average, of £254 per household. 

These areas were: Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Blackburn, Liverpool, and the London boroughs of Camden, Westminster, Lambeth, and Tower Hamlets.  

Birmingham, for example, has seen cuts of over £939 for every household since 2010, and is the seventh most deprived council in England and Wales. The city has also seen the highest number of deaths of people who are homeless in the country — 90 people were estimated to have died between 2013 and 2017. 

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Camden, a borough in north London, has the second worst rate of fatalities, with 89 people either sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation passing away during the period of time recorded. The borough has seen cuts of £980 per household over the past nine years, according to the research.    

The figures on numbers of deaths come from the Office of National Statistics estimates, and the numbers on council spending power per household are government statistics.  

The homelessness charity St Mungo’s has done its own research on the issue, which it describes as a "national scandal".

A report from St Mungo’s says that a range of support is required to prevent people from dying on the streets or in temporary accommodation, including shelters, outreach, and mental health support being made available to people who don't have a permanent address.

Their report from December 2018 concludes: “The failings in the system which is supposed to get people off the streets are clear – overstretched outreach and support services, inadequate provision of emergency accommodation, and a failure to take safeguarding responsibility for the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people. Urgent action is needed to change all of this.”  

The issue has gained more public attention in the past year as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Dying Homeless Project has hit the headlines and some high-profile cases have caused outrage.

Last month, a member of the public started placed cardboard gravestones in areas of Bristol near where a person was known to have died while homeless. 

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In response to the findings, a Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government spokesperson told the Guardian: “Every death on our streets is a tragedy. That’s why we are investing £1.2 billion to tackle homelessness and have bold plans backed by £100 million to end rough sleeping in its entirety. Councils have used this funding to create an estimated 2,600 more bed spaces and 750 additional specialist support staff this year."

They added: “We are committed to ensuring independent reviews into the deaths of rough sleepers are conducted where appropriate – and where this does not happen we will hold local authorities to account.”

John Healey, a Labour MP and the shadow housing secretary, said: "These figures show that the areas with the highest homelessness deaths are facing the deepest cuts… The next prime minister must put an end to this national shame of people dying on our streets.”