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8 June, 2020 Open access

‘Lack of transparency’ risks undermining public trust in management information on rough sleepers used by MHCLG, says UK Statistics Authority

UKSA Director General for Regulation also calls on government to clarify its definitions of the terms 'rough sleeper' and 'homeless'

A 'lack of transparency' risks undermining public trust in the management information on rough sleepers used by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has warned.

In a letter to MHCLG Permanent Secretary Jeremy Pocklington on 2 June 2020, Ed Humpherson, the Director General for Regulation at the UKSA, highlights that figures provided by the MHCLG - including that nearly 15,000 rough sleepers having been housed in emergency accommodation since the beginning of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic - have been used and picked up widely in the media, yet none of the underlying data and associated limitations have been published by the Department.

Urging the MHCLG to publish the information as soon as possible, Mr Humpherson writes - 

'We appreciate the challenging environment your department is operating in and the need to manage the demand for up-to-date information. Given the impact that COVID-19 is having on the rough sleeping and homeless communities and the clear media and public interest in these figures, there is likely to be a continuing need for this information. Decisions on use of data such as those on rough sleeping, and the best approach to publication, should be informed by advice from your department’s head of profession. A lack of transparency risks undermining public trust in the data, as well as the organisation producing the data.'

In addition, Mr Humpherson advises - 

'To minimise confusion, the terms ‘rough sleepers’ and ‘homeless’ should also be clarified when referring to the numbers of people who have been housed in emergency accommodation, including whether the figure of 15,000 includes the wider homeless and rough sleeping population.'

NB - on 4 June 2020, Mr Pocklinton replied to confirm that the management information - Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency accommodation survey data: May 2020 - had now been published.

Mr Humpherson's letter is available from statisticsauthority.gov.uk