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Equalities and Rights Equalities and Rights

Halve rough sleeping over the course of parliament

Last updated: 11:19pm 5 December 2019

Our aim will be to halve rough sleeping over the course of the parliament and eliminate it altogether by 2027.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.58

Our verdict

Rough sleeping is defined as people sleeping in the open air, or people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation.

There are two promises here about rough sleeping. Firstly, to reduce rough sleeping by half during this parliament, and secondly, to eliminate it altogether by 2027. We can track the first promise, but because 2027 is outside this government’s term of office, we’re not going to track the second part.

In Autumn 2016, the total number of rough sleepers was 4,134 (up from 1,768 in 2011). 4,134 is the number the government wants to reduce by half (i.e. the target is 2,067 – an average reduction of about 413 per year over 5 years). Since the election, figures were released showing that rough sleeping increased to 4,751 in 2017, and the figure for 2018 was 4,677. The figures for 2019 should be available in early 2020.

So rough sleeping has gone up since this government came to power, but let’s look at what’s been done to try to reduce rough sleeping. Firstly, specific policies are mentioned in the manifesto to help achieve the target (see “Related policies” below). They are all significant and they certainly count towards the delivery of this policy. But we can’t say rough sleeping will be halved solely by implementing those policies, so we are tracking this promise separately.

The main pillar of government action on this promise is its Rough Sleeping Strategy, published in August 2018. It promises a £100 million investment until 2020 to tackle rough sleeping, emphasising investment in housing (including Housing First pilots) and social impact investment, as well as measures already included in the Homelessness Reduction Act.

Also in 2018, the creation of a Rough Sleeping Team of experts was announced, and additional funding for particularly affected local authorities and frontline workers. The Rough Sleeping Strategy also includes a pilot scheme targeted at tackling homelessness among former prisoners.

Given all this activity we can see that the policy was ‘in progress’ at the time the election was called. However, we did not see a positive impact on the number of rough sleepers – we actually saw rough sleeping rise by 13% based on figures for 2018. We’ll update this policy when the 2019 figures are out in January or February 2020. We’ll provide a final verdict then, but for ‘in progress’ (as in work has been done, but the promise has not been delivered) seems fair for now. Follow this policy to hear as soon as the 2019 figures come out.

Get the detail

Related policies

There's always room for debate

We’re serious about providing clear, up-to-date, non-partisan information. We focus on being consistent and fair in how we reach our verdicts, and always explain our reasoning. But there is always room for debate. So if you see it differently, we’d love you to tell us why. Or even better, submit an edit.