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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 09:34 GMT
Workers back homeless survey concerns
Selling the Big Issue in London
Fewer than 550 people sleep rough in England
Outreach workers who helped carry out a homelessness survey for the government have backed claims that the figures are not accurate.

They say homeless people sitting up were not included in the census because they were not bedded down.

Figures released by the Rough Sleepers Unit (RSU) earlier this month showed the government had achieved its pledge to cut the numbers sleeping on the streets by two thirds.

No special measures were taken on the night of the count

Louise Casey, RSU
Philip Burke, of the Simon Community, was among charity representatives who questioned the results, claiming rough sleepers were moved to bed and breakfast accommodation so they would not show up on the census.

Now more than 30 people who took part in the RSU survey in London have raised similar concerns through the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU).

TGWU spokesman Darren Waplington told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that outreach workers who took part in the count had raised concerns with their shop stewards.

Change of tactics

"They confirmed what Philip Burke has just said - that rough sleepers were placed in bed and breakfast accommodation for a short period of time over the count," he said.

"The RSU employees who also took part in the street count pressured skilled workers in the outreach teams not to count people who were sat up, as opposed to bedded down.

Homeless statistics
550 people now sleep rough
In 1998 2,000 slept rough
400,000 single people homeless
Record numbers in B&B
95% unemployment among ex-homeless, says Aspire
"I think our main concern is that the methodology of the way the count is done has changed dramatically over the last two years which has enabled the RSU to meet its figures."

The survey figures show there were now fewer than 550 people sleeping rough in England, compared with nearly 2,000 in 1998.

The government's own figures show the number of families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation has never been higher.

Louise Casey, head of the RSU, denied the claims, saying: "There is absolutely no evidence that this has taken place.

Millions spent

"The allegations are based on myth and misinformation and I think it would have been better in many ways if the trade union official and his members had raised it with the charity managers and chief executives and, if necessary, the Rough Sleepers Unit.

"No special measures were taken on the night of the count."

Ms Casey said people across the country had worked hard for two years to ensure taxpayers' money had gone on the 200m worth of new services including new hostels and new projects

"That is why the numbers have come down," she added.

Following the unit's success, the government is to replace it with a "Homelessness Directorate" to tackle the wider problem of general homelessness.

Philip Burke, chairman of the Simon Community
"We conducted our head count ten days prior to the government's"
Louise Casey, head of the Rough Sleepers Unit
Darren Waplington of the Transport and General Workers' Union
See also:

22 Oct 01 | UK Politics
House 'decent' homeless first - Tories
10 Oct 01 | England
Homeless food scheme expands
03 Dec 01 | UK
Life on the streets goes on
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