SALFORD Mayor Paul Dennett has called it “shameful” that people are living and dying on the streets of Britain – with austerity and a lack of genuinely affordable homes partly to blame.
Dennett, who serves as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s lead on housing, planning and homelessness, made his comments following the release of new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Yesterday, the ONS published its first ever experimental statistics at local authority level on the number of deaths of homeless people in England and Wales. The figures, covering the years 2013 to 2017, are a follow up to the December 2018 release of the first official estimates on mortality among homeless people.
“The statistics confirm what we have been reporting to Government for some time,” Dennett said. “Austerity, the emergence of the gig economy, welfare reform and a chronic under-supply of truly affordable housing and supported accommodation have created vast swathes of destitution in the country’s most deprived areas, cities and beyond.
“It is shameful that in today’s world there are still people living and dying on our streets. This is something that simply should not be happening in 21st century Britain, the fifth richest country in the world.”
There were an estimated 597 deaths in England and Wales in 2017, according to those earlier ONS figures, whereas yesterday’s release provides estimates of where homeless people perished at a more localised level.
Manchester topped the grim bill, with 21 deaths, followed by Birmingham with 18 deaths, then Bristol, Lambeth and Liverpool with 17 deaths each, and Camden that saw 15 deaths.
Blackburn and Darwen had nine deaths, but its smaller total population meant it had one of the highest death rates of homeless people. More homeless people die in urban rather than rural areas.
“These new estimates are important because of the need for high-quality health intelligence to inform local homelessness strategies and the most appropriate provision of services,” the ONS said.
Dennett added: “The scale of this humanitarian crisis means that we have prioritised our efforts to address rough sleeping throughout this winter. Our A Bed Every Night programme has already helped more than 1,500 people across the region into accommodation since the start of November, but we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that no-one has to sleep rough on our streets.
“The Manchester Evening News also deserves full credit for helping bring this issue to the attention of the nation, maintaining their focus on serious local investigative journalism. The individual stories we have seen emerge in recent years remind us all that behind these statistics are human beings, people’s lives and our residents of Greater Manchester.”