Homelessness in Wales: Count method 'outdated'

A homeless person sleeping on the street Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Denbighshire council recorded just one homeless person for 2018/19, but Shelter said it helped 13

Methods for calculating homelessness have been labelled "totally inadequate" after official figures claimed a county had only one rough sleeper in a year.

According to Welsh Government figures, provided by Denbighshire Council, only one person slept rough in 2018/19.

Shelter Cymru said it had worked with 13 people living on Denbighshire's streets and that the method involved "a single one-night count in November".

The Welsh Government said it was only intended to give a "very broad" count.

Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane questioned how the count was carried out and said more accurate information was needed.

"I find this hard to believe when you've got 24 in Wrexham, and even Anglesey has three," he said, speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Denbighshire has a population of about 93,000 and has some of the most deprived areas in Wales, according to the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

"We need to have a clearer picture and I think this lack of clarity is not just at local authority level, it is at a national level as well."

Homelessness charity Shelter Cymru said the one-night count method is failing those in need of help.

"The way we currently count people sleeping rough is totally inadequate," a spokeswoman said.

"At that time of year people often stay up all night and walk around to stay warm, meaning they won't be counted as they haven't met the definition of 'bedding down'.

"The danger of using such outdated monitoring methods is that rough sleeping is under-estimated, the need to provide services isn't recognised, and people sleeping rough go without the help they need."

But she said Shelter understood the Welsh Government was "actively" developing better monitoring methods.

The Welsh Government said it was investing more than £30m in tackling homelessness, adding that individual councils are responsible for providing accurate figures.

Denbighshire Council, which is a pilot authority for the Housing First scheme, said it follows national guidelines regarding the rough sleeper count.

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