Homeless deaths rise 8% in return to pre-pandemic levels

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Some 741 homeless deaths were recorded in 2021 in England and Wales, up 8% from the previous year, according to estimates.

This increase means that the number of deaths has returned to pre-pandemic levels after a drop in 2020.

It’s “too early” to tell whether the rise signals a return to an upward trend in deaths that was underway before Covid-19, however.

Estimates released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 26 homeless deaths recorded last year involved coronavirus, double the number in 2020.

Nearly two in five deaths (35%) were related to drug poisoning, which is consistent with previous years.

London recorded the highest number of deaths with 154 – 21% of the total – followed by the North West of England with 114 (15%).

James Tucker, of the ONS Health and Social Care Division, said: ‘The latest figure is more in line with pre-pandemic levels after a notable drop in 2020, although it is too early to say whether This is a resumption of an upward trend in homeless deaths.

“Any death under these circumstances is a tragedy and our estimates are designed to help inform the work of all those seeking to protect this very vulnerable part of our community.”

Estimates of homeless deaths in England and Wales rose in the years before Covid-19, from 482 records in 2013 to 778 in 2019.

The drop in 2020, to 688, likely reflects the impact of the Everyone In program, which saw thousands of homeless people rushed into shelter early in the pandemic to protect their safety.

This made it difficult to identify some of the deaths of homeless people housed under the scheme.

While the 741 deaths in 2021 represent a return to pre-pandemic levels, they are “significantly higher” than estimates for the period 2013 to 2017, the ONS added.

Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said the figures were ‘totally horrendous and unacceptable’, adding: ‘Our frontline services are seeing more and more people who no longer have options, face homelessness and the very real possibility of rough sleeping.

“It will be one of the toughest winters yet as so many struggle with rising rents while housing benefits remain frozen.

“The government has promised to end the street, but things are getting worse, not better. They must immediately thaw and increase housing allowances to protect people from the ravages of homelessness this winter, and to keep people off the streets for good they must invest in building good quality, supported social housing .

His comments were echoed by the charity Crisis, which said its services were preparing for “an incredibly difficult winter, with thousands of people facing the brutality of homelessness as the cost of living rises on them. pushes to the breaking point”.

Chief executive Matt Downie said: “These tough economic times must not lead to more people falling through the cracks and dying unnecessarily on our streets.

“We can stop this before it’s too late. We desperately need more social housing and the UK government to invest in housing allowances so that they cover the true cost of rents. Only decisive action will guarantee everyone a safe place to call home and prevent further loss of life in the future.

Due to delays in recordings, around half of the deaths recorded in 2021 were in previous years, the ONS said.

The figures mainly cover people who were sleeping rough or using emergency accommodation such as homeless shelters at or around the time of death.

The total number of deaths includes people identified from death records held by the ONS, as well as an estimate of the most likely number of additional registrations not identified as homeless.

Men accounted for 87% of recorded deaths in 2021 compared to 13% for women, a ratio similar to previous years.

An estimated 259 deaths were related to drug poisoning, representing 35% of the total.

Causes specific to alcohol and suicide accounted for 10% (71 deaths) and 13% (99 deaths) respectively.

Together, these three causes accounted for around 58% of homeless deaths recorded last year, a proportion consistent with previous years.

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