One homeless death recorded in Bucks during first year of the pandemic

New data shows that one person identified as homeless perished during the first year of the pandemic

By James Lowson
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 12:22 pm
Updated Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 12:42 pm

One homeless person died in Bucks during the first year of the pandemic, new official data shows.

The government launched an 'everyone in' scheme to protect rough sleepers during the pandemic, it asked for hotels to temporarily house vulnerable people.

Despite this scheme, 688 estimated deaths have been recorded in new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, covering 2020.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

one death was recorded in Bucks

This represents a 7.7% fall from the previous year's data, but ONS says this data may be misleading as the government's scheme made tracking cases more difficult.

In Bucks there has been a significant decrease in incidents, in 2019 there were six estimated deaths, in 2018 ONS recorded four of these fatalities.

Among the near 700 people who passed who were identified as homeless, the leading underlying cause of death was 'accident', affecting 307 people.

The underlying cause is a disease of injury which initiated the series of events that led to that person's death.

Two out of five (39%) of all the deaths were related to drug poisoning – 265 in total. There could be many underlying causes for drug related deaths, ranging from accidents to suicides to illnesses caused by drug abuse or dependence.

An estimated 13 deaths, included a mention of Covid on official certificates.

ONS data only covers people aged between 15 and 75, due to the difficulty in identifying youngsters as homeless and to avoid accidentally recording elderly people in institutionalised settings.

Findings show that more than one estimated death was discovered in 101 local authorities.

Bucks was one of 52 local authorities where ONS believes a homeless person died in 2020. In 175 local authorities, no deaths were recorded in this time period.

The most estimated deaths were recorded in Liverpool with 29 estimated fatalities. While Blackburn and Darwen saw the biggest increase of deaths proportionally - 129.1 per 1 million people.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said to National World: “To think at least 688 people’s final days were spent homeless in the pandemic is a sobering thought. If it wasn’t for the Government’s Covid response to help people off the streets even more lives would have been lost.

“As we head into another hard winter with the virus still circulating, we cannot leave anyone out in the cold.

“Our services are already being approached by people in need of emergency accommodation, who are being turned away by councils and often told they have no rights.

“The Government must step in again to keep people safe from Covid and the ravages of homelessness this winter.

“Councils need clear guidance to ensure everyone at risk of sleeping rough is offered emergency accommodation, and the funding to provide it.”

Men outnumber women seven-to-one in the homeless deaths statistics, with 604 men and 84 women estimated to have died.

Many lost their lives in middle age. The most common age range for male deaths was 45 to 49, with 108 estimated lives lost.

Among women, the most common age range for deaths was 40 to 44, with 22 estimated deaths.

Regionally, the North East has seen the highest annual rise in the death toll, with 34 deaths, a 21% rise from the year before. The East Midlands was the only other region to see a rise, with one extra estimated death.

London topped the table with the most deaths per region at 143.

The North West had the highest rate of homeless deaths per 1 million people, at 23.3.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “Every death on our streets is one too many which is why we remain committed to ending rough sleeping altogether. “

“The Everyone In scheme launched during the pandemic has helped 37,000 vulnerable people, and we are also providing more £2 billion over the next three years to tackle homelessness.”

“This is on top of £800m committed this year which includes funding for safe and warm accommodation over winter and specialist services for those with drug or alcohol issues. We will also continue to work with partners across healthcare to make sure those sleeping on the streets can access the care they need.”

In Aylesbury the government and council has been criticised for ending the 'everyone in' scheme ahead of winter, at a time when conditions are especially dangerous for rough sleepers.