Rough sleeping has increased by 74% since the Tories took office in 2010

Figures released on February 28 showed that the number of people sleeping rough in England rose by 26% in 2022. This is the first time the figures have increased since 2017.

Rishi Sunak was asked about these figures at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Labour MP Ruth Cadbury asked: “Yesterday, new figures showed that there’s been a 26% increase in people sleeping rough. Meanwhile, a Conservative Party donor spent £25,000 on a crystal-incrusted portrait of the prime minister, and another paid £40,000 for a shooting trip. Doesn’t this show just how out of touch the Conservative Party is on the cost of living crisis?”

Sunak responded by saying, “rough sleeping levels are actually 35% lower in this past year compared to the peak. That’s partly as a result of the two billion pounds of extra investment that we’ve made over these three years to tackle rough sleeping, and we continue to have one of the lowest rates of rough sleeping in the world, globally when last measured.”

The claim he made there is true – rough sleeping has dropped since 2017. However, it is only part of the story.

Since 2010, the total number of people sleeping rough has increased by 74%. Indeed, rough sleeping has increased in nine out of the 13 years since the Tories took office. Two of the four years where the has been a decline were during the Covid-19 pandemic, when local Councils were required to provide accommodation for everyone sleeping rough or at risk of sleeping rough.

Polly Neate, chief executive of the homelessness charity Shelter has said the figures “show that more and more people are losing the battle to keep a roof over their heads. We’re facing a truly bleak situation, from the huge rise in people being forced to sleep rough on the streets, to the tens of thousands of households turning up at local councils desperate for help.”

She added that “homelessness is getting worse not better”.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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