Homeless deaths in UK soar 85% since 2019

Mon, 24 Apr 2023 8:06 GMT
Someone now dying every 6-and-a-half hours on average, says Museum of Homelessness.
Homeless deaths in UK soar 85% since 2019

The number of people in the UK dying while homeless shot up to 1,313 last year, rising 85% from 2019, said a London-based advocacy museum on Thursday.

Since 2019, more than 4,000 people have died while homeless across the UK, with someone now dying every six-and-a-half hours on average, said the Museum of Homelessness.

Fatalities increased more than 20% in England and Wales versus 2021. Some 85% were under the age of 65. The reliance on dangerous unregulated temporary accommodation is contributing to deaths, alongside a broken system for mental health and addiction support, said the museum.

The figures highlight significant regional differences. Last year, fatalities in England rose 22% and 27% in Wales. In contrast, the number of deaths in Northern Ireland fell by a third but remained more than double the number in 2020, while Scotland saw a 15% decrease.

A total of 83% of the deaths in 2022 took place after the person was placed in some form of homelessness accommodation rather than rough sleeping.

For the first time, the study specifically asked about deaths in exempt accommodation and found only 12 local authorities kept record of such information. There have been growing concerns about the quality of accommodation and support, with the crisis starting in 2021 “due to a lack of oversight and regulation,” said the museum, adding that “many exempt providers are abusing the system for financial gain.”

Of the 12 who responded, Manchester reported a staggering 109 deaths across 98 properties. More people died in exempt accommodation in Manchester than recorded in the whole of Wales, suggesting under-reporting of the true scale of the crisis.

Since 2010, cuts to services such as health, mental health, and drug and alcohol services have taken their toll, as in 36% of cases the cause of death is known to be related to drugs and alcohol and 10% died by suicide, it said.

Matt Turtle, the museum’s director, said: “The government’s misguided approach to homelessness and housing has fatal consequences. A toxic cocktail of cuts, criminalisation and crackdowns is making life even harder for UK’s most vulnerable.

"Just tinkering around the edges as government plans, won’t fix the damage of the last 12 years. Far stronger policy and investment are needed to deal with the appalling loss of life.”


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