Homelessness / rough sleepers (all mentions)

Martin Searle made this Freedom of Information request to Wiltshire Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

Dear Wiltshire Council,

It has been in the recent news that the number of homeless people has risen by nearly a quarter in the last year, and also there have been allegations reported that some councils have under-reported the number of rough sleepers in their area.

Specifically, I read in this article:
http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/coun...
that Wiltshire Council has been accused of under-reporting the number of rough sleepers in the Council area by 76%.

In light of this, as a Wiltshire Council area resident and council-tax payer, I would like to see any mentions, data regarding, or discussion thereof, of homelessness / homeless / rough sleepers in the Council's records.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Martin Searle MRCGP

Dear Wiltshire Council,

I meant to say 'in the last 12 months'.

Sorry.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Searle

Edwards, Mark, Wiltshire Council

Dear Dr Searle

Freedom of Information Request – RFI 4099

Thank you for your enquiry received on 24th February 2012.

On 1 April 2009 Wiltshire County Council, Kennet, North Wiltshire, Salisbury and West Wiltshire District Councils formed a unitary authority. Your request is therefore being processed by Wiltshire Council.

Your request is being considered and if the information is held you will receive the information requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days of receipt of your request as defined by the Freedom of Information Act 2000, subject to the information not being exempt.

When we have located the information, if there is a fee for providing this information, I will write with a fees notice to advise you how much the council will charge to respond to your request.

I may also contact you if the request needs to be clarified; this is to ensure that we provide you with the information you require.

Please note that some information you have requested may not be provided to you; this will only be information that can be withheld by law. In most cases the reasons will be explained to you along with your copy of any information that can be released to you.

Mark

Mark Edwards
Programme Lead (Customer Service) - Adult Care
Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8JN
(t) 01225 713953  (f) 01225 713983
Customer Advisors 0300 4560111 
Website www.wiltshire.gov.uk

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Edwards, Mark, Wiltshire Council

Dear Dr Searle

I have been asked by the teams involved to clarify the information you are requesting.

If you are able to identify what you are looking for this will enable us to complete our searches and issue the information we hold.

Mark

Mark Edwards
Programme Lead (Customer Service) - Adult Care
Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8JN
(t) 01225 713953  (f) 01225 713983
Customer Advisors 0300 4560111 
Website www.wiltshire.gov.uk

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Dear Mark,

Thanks for this response, and I apologise for the delay in replying.

I am specifically requesting to see info held on:

- the Wiltshire Advice Partnership report on 'gatekeeping' at Wiltshire Council Housing / Housing Options.

- Which agencies and organisations took part in the estimate of the numbers of rough sleepers in Wiltshire on or around the 23rd Nov 2011?

- What instructions and/or directions were given to these organisations prior to carrying out the estimate?

- For each participating organisation, what was the number of people they identified as having been sleeping rough in the agreed period?

- How many people (including any possible double counting) were reported as sleeping rough in Wiltshire in total before any checking took place?

- How many unique individuals were reported as rough sleeping in Wiltshire in total after taking account of any double counting but before any were removed from the list for other reasons? And, what were the specific reasons why each of these was included or excluded from the final figure sent to Government?

- Was there any agreed procedure between Council and organisations involved being followed when assessing which people to include in/exclude from the estimate sent to the Government? If so, what were agreements, understandings, official regulations and guidelines (including, but not restricted exclusively to, Government guidelines, and including references to documents as appropriate) that the procedure was based on?

Thanking you in advance.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Searle

Edwards, Mark, Wiltshire Council

Dear Dr Searle

Thank you for your e-mail clarifying your request. We are currently working on collating the information you have requested.

Mark

Mark Edwards
Programme Lead (Customer Service) - Adult Care
Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8JN
(t) 01225 713953  (f) 01225 713983
Customer Advisors 0300 4560111 
Website www.wiltshire.gov.uk

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TO Mark Edwards
Programme Lead (Customer Service) - Adult Care
Wiltshire Council

Dear Mark.

On March 6th, I received your acknowledgement of my e-mail clarifying my request, under the FOI Act, for the details of information held by Wiltshire Council re homelessness / rough sleepers.

I note that 31 days have now elapsed since that acknowledgement, and that, by law, the Council should normally have responded promptly, by April 3rd.

I am therefore querying when I shall receive a reply.

Thanking you in advance.

Yours sincerely.

Martin (Dr Martin Searle)

Edwards, Mark, Wiltshire Council

5 Attachments

Dear Dr Searle

Request for Information – RFI 4099

Thank you for your clarified request for information received 6th March 2012. Please accept our apology for the delay in responding.

As of 1st April 2009 Kennet, North Wiltshire, Salisbury and West Wiltshire District Councils and Wiltshire County Council ceased to exist and a unitary authority, Wiltshire Council, was created.

In response to your request for information:

1. The Wiltshire Advice Partnership report on 'gate keeping' at Wiltshire Council Housing / Housing Options.

Please find attached
• Social Policy Document No.001 dated 8th September 2010 from the Wiltshire Advice Partnership (WAP) prepared Dominic Cassidy (WAP Social Policy Officer) and Addendum document
• Notes from the Wiltshire Housing partnership meeting dated 25th January 2011

In issuing these documents, it is essential to set them in the some context. The Wiltshire Housing Partnership meeting identified some inaccuracies within the Report and agreed an action for both parties to work together to provide additional information and to ensure services provided would be improved for customers. To this end a Service Review is being carried and which will commence within the current financial year. This review will identify any gaps in service provision and will focus on how all advice agencies can work together effectively to deliver services for customers

2. Which agencies and organisations took part in the estimate of the numbers of rough sleepers in Wiltshire on or around the 23rd Nov 2011?

Those who participated were: Amber; BCHA, Alabare, Doorway, NHS Wiltshire, Wiltshire Council

3. What instructions and/or directions were given to these organisations prior to carrying out the estimate?

Please find attached minutes from the Rough Sleepers Group 7th November 2011 which provided guidance.

See also (shown below) guidance from Homeless Link:

Local authorities must provide government with numbers of rough sleepers each year between 1 October and 30 November.

The estimate should record as a single figure the number of people thought to be rough sleeping in the local authority area on a typical night between 01 October and 30 November. The figure should be as robust as possible and using the guidance provided will help to get the most accurate estimate.

Who to include in the estimate

In 2010 the Government widened the definition of rough sleeping and when estimating or counting it is essential that those included in the count figure fall into the following definition:

People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as stairwells, barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or “bashes”).

• Explain how the definition does not include: people in hostels or shelters, people in campsites or other sites used for recreational purposes or organised protest, squatters or travellers.
• Discuss with the group the size of the rough sleeping population and how to ensure an estimate is only those rough sleeping, rather than a larger sample of street activity or people using homeless services.
• Discuss with the group the need to ensure that those who are accessing more than one service are not double estimated.

Choosing a typical night for the estimate

The estimate should be about the ‘usual numbers’ that sleep rough in an area gathered from the day to day knowledge that agencies are bringing. Ask the group members to discuss what would be a typical night to consider for the estimate during the period October to November. As it would be beneficial to reach agreement on the estimate in this meeting, it makes sense, unless there are exceptional circumstances, to choose a recent typical night (i.e. within a few days).

In choosing a typical night it is important to take into account the following:

• Avoid a night when unusual local factors may distort the numbers, such as events, festivals, higher levels of police activity or changes to service opening times
• Identify an appropriate day of the week: choosing a weekend may mean that people bed down later or are less visible. Also take into account whether key days during the week, such as those on which benefits are collected, may also provide a false picture of the average levels of rough sleeping in the area.
• Particularly extreme weather conditions may impact on numbers

ACTION: Local authority to agree a typical night

4. For each participating organisation, what was the number of people they identified as having been sleeping rough in the agreed period?

24 rough sleepers were reported in total by the participating agencies

5. How many people (including any possible double counting) were reported as sleeping rough in Wiltshire in total before any checking took place?

24

6. How many unique individuals were reported as rough sleeping in Wiltshire in total after taking account of any double counting but before any were removed from the list for other reasons? And, what were the specific reasons why each of these was included or excluded from the final figure sent to Government?

24

The reasons for not counting was due to the fact that the information provided by the agencies was not in line with the government guidance i.e. initials and town name only provided or squatting in a dwelling; after checking the details, the housing options team was able to confirm that some individuals had a tenancy, were staying with friends and not sleeping rough on the streets.

7. Was there any agreed procedure between Council and organisations involved being followed when assessing which people to include in/exclude from the estimate sent to the Government? If so, what were agreements, understandings, official regulations and guidelines (including, but not restricted exclusively to, Government guidelines, and including references to documents as appropriate) that the procedure was based on?

The minutes of the rough sleeper group meeting confirmed the processes to follow and the emails below confirm the council’s position in requesting more robust information prior to the council providing the final figures to government.

The following information was shared :

From: Rawlins, Angie
Sent: 08 December 2011 10:54
Subject: Data collection to discuss and update at meeting
Importance: High

Dear all

Please find attached a spreadsheet that options has put together following receipt of the rough sleeper numbers.

I am afraid that many of the forms were limited in information and options have had to do a lot of work to try and get up to date information. I am also concerned that places where people are meant to be sleeping rough are unknown and details about the people using your projects are also limited. I am suggesting that if you are unable to record where someone is sleeping rough, then they cannot be counted?

We can discuss this afternoon but I would appreciate action and updates in relation to the queries that I have made in red. You may not be able to provide today but before my deadline to report to government on 16 December, please.

Just to confirm: names on the attached are confidential and only to be shared within the group.

From: Rawlins, Angie
Sent: 16 November 2011 16:32
Subject: Minutes of the last meeting
Importance: High

Dear all
Please find attached minutes of the last meeting. Please note that I have included the definition of a rough sleeper to help with your count. I have also attached the form again for your use and please could I remind you to:

1. collate the information on those who are identified as sleeping rough on the night of 23 November
2. use the prescribed form and not deviate from it as this is the government form and the information provided not only assists in identifying those who are sleeping on the streets but also assists in potential future funding and guidance from government.

3. send me completed forms by 2 December to enable me to collate and cross reference details and in preparation for when we meet on 8 December. You can send to me via email, fax (01225 770316 or via post but ideally email or fax, please to be sure I get the info in time).
If you think that we have missed any other agencies, please let me know by return. Please remember that we do not publicise the count to our customers.

Many thanks all and please let me know if you have any queries as happy to assist.

The Council has not withheld any information in relation to this request under the exemptions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I hope the information received is what you were expecting. However if you are unhappy with what has been provided, you can ask us to reconsider under the council’s review procedure (attached) or you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, 01625 545745. If you would like to discuss any of the information provided to you or would like further information on the review procedure, please contact me on the number below.

Information supplied under the Freedom of Information Act and/or Environmental Information Regulations will be subject to copyright protection under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Information can be re-used for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes, for private study or for news reporting and reviews, without requiring formal consent. However, if you wish to re-use the information for commercial purposes, including publishing, you are required to seek the permission of the copyright owner. Permission to re-use Wiltshire Council’s copyright information is granted in the form of a licence. Authorisation to re-use copyright material not owned by Wiltshire Council should be sought from the copyright holders concerned.

Mark

Mark Edwards
Programme Lead (Customer Service) - Adult Care
Bythesea Road, Trowbridge, Wiltshire, BA14 8JN
(t) 01225 713953  (f) 01225 713983
Customer Advisors 0300 4560111 
Website www.wiltshire.gov.uk
 

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Dear Mark

Thanks very much for the FOI information re rough sleepers / homelessness.

I am indeed grateful.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Searle (Dr)