The UK Statistics Authority has received complaints about the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s use of homelessness statistics on Sky News and BBC Radio 5 Live on Thursday 5 December.

In both interviews, the Chancellor stated that homelessness reached its peak in 2008, under the last Labour government, and that since then it has decreased by almost half. The Conservative Party has since said that the Chancellor misremembered the statistics.


So, what do official statistics tell us about homelessness?

There are a range of official statistics available, to help users understand trends in homelessness. We encourage users to take a broader view of the range of available homelessness data to appreciate the full homelessness picture in England.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) publish statutory homelessness statistics. These statistics show that statutory homelessness in England peaked in 2003 before falling to a low of around 42,000 households in 2009. Between 2009 and 2017, statutory homelessness then increased from this low point to around 58,000 households.

MHCLG’s separate statistics on homelessness prevention and relief activity undertaken by local authorities show that homelessness prevention support increased steadily between 2009/10 and 2017/18, with relief activity declining slightly over that period.

Other statistics show that there has been an increasing trend in the number of households living in temporary accommodation over the last decade, and MHCLG also publish estimates of the number of people sleeping rough.

Following recommendations made by the Authority in 2015, MHCLG have been improving the UK’s suite of homelessness statistics. However, we will continue to encourage the Department to bring together a range of statistics to provide a broader overview of homelessness.


Notes to Editors

  1. The UK Statistics Authority is an independent body operating at arm’s length from government as a non-ministerial department, directly accountable to Parliament. It was established on 1 April 2008 by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
  2. The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. OSR provides independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.
  3. Up until 31 March 2018 Statutory homelessness statistics measured households which were ‘unintentionally homeless’ and in a ‘priority need’ category (such as having dependent children), where the local authority had a ‘main duty’ to secure settled accommodation, and to ensure that suitable temporary accommodation was provided until settled accommodation is available. The definition of statutory homelessness changed from 1 April 2018, when MHCLG introduced a new data collection system to coincide with the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Users cannot make direct comparisons between years before April 2018 and years following April 2018.
  4. MHCLG also publish statistics on the number of households living in temporary accommodation and the level of rough sleeping. Rough sleeping statistics provide a snapshot estimate of the number of rough sleepers on one night between October and November each year.
  5. Prior to the introduction of the Homelessness Reduction Act, MHCLG had also published statistics on prevention and relief activities undertaken in local authorities.
  6. For more information please contact the Authority press office on 07810 657 788 or the OSR press office on 020 7592 8659.