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Men and Boys Coalition lodges official complaint after Government report erases the gender of 88% of rough sleepers

Press release

3rd February 2017

Men and Boys Coalition lodges official complaint after Government report erases the gender of 88% of rough sleepers

Analysis reveals two in five local authorities report that all their rough sleepers are male

The Men and Boys Coalition has made an official complaint (see annex 1) to the UK Statistics Authority1 regarding the Department of Communities and Local Government’s exclusion of the overall numbers of male rough sleepers and their proportion in an official report2 on the subject.

The official report published on 25 January was the first Government report which included the gender of those rough sleeping, however it only included statistics on female rough sleepers, even though it can be deduced that the overwhelming (88%) of rough sleepers are male.

Further analysis by the Coalition also revealed that in 40% of the local authorities in which rough sleepers were recorded, fully 100% of those sleeping rough were men. Despite this, in each of these local authorities gender was only recorded for the “zero” number of rough sleepers who were female.

The Men and Boys Coalition is a network of charities, academics and professionals committed to highlighting and taking action on gender-specific issues that affect men and boys. The Coalition made the official compliant because it believes there has been a breach in the UK Statistical Authority’s Code of Practice3.

The Coalition believes that excluding this data further marginalises male rough sleepers. The one demographic characteristic which puts individuals at greatest relative risk of becoming homeless and sleeping rough is male gender. These statistics show that a man is almost eight times as likely to end up sleeping rough as a woman. By failing to even acknowledge the gender of the vast majority of rough sleepers, the DCLG is failing to recognise the fundamental social and political causes of homelessness.

The omission also carries a powerful and deeply offensive subtext that homeless people and rough sleepers are less deserving of sympathy, attention and intervention if they are male than if they are female. The statistical reporting also fails to ensure that society, policy makers and commissioners have full awareness and information on rough sleeping in England, which impacts on public attitudes, public policy and funding.

Mark Brooks, co-founder of the Coalition and Chair of the ManKind Initiative (a charity supporting male victims of domestic abuse), said: “We have made this complaint because we feel it is vital to understand publicly the Government Department’s reasoning behind why it excluded men who are rough sleeping from its report. The fact that men make up the overwhelming majority of people who are rough sleeping makes it far harder to comprehend its decision.

“This exclusion has serious consequences as it impacts on how the public and service providers recognise and understands rough sleepers in England, ultimately further marginalising men in this situation.”

The report states that 12% of the 4,134 people sleeping rough in England in autumn 2016 were female. It is therefore deduced that 88% were men. The report failed to mention the numbers of male rough sleepers or their proportion in either report or the dataset.

The Coalition believes in a gender inclusive approach on homelessness so welcomes the inclusion of statistics of the number of women who are sleeping rough and any services and funding to help them.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1        UK Statistics Authority: Better Statistics, Better Decisions

https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/

2        Rough sleeping in England: autumn 2016 (Department for Communities and Local Government)

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/rough-sleeping-in-england-autumn-2016

3        UK Statistics Authority

https://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/monitoring-and-assessment/code-of-practice/

For further inquiries contact Mark Brooks on 07834 452357 or Dan Bell on 07747 463255

Email: info@menandboyscoalition.org.uk

Annex 1: Letter of Complaint

Formal Complaint: Department for Communities and Local Government – Rough Sleeping Statistics Autumn 2016, England

I am writing on behalf of the Men and Boys Coalition, a network of charities, academics and professionals committed to highlighting and taking action on gender-specific issues that affect men and boys.

This is a formal complaint with regard to the above statistical report which we believe is in breach of the UK Statistical Authority’s Code of Practice, especially Section 2 (Integrity), and, Section 8 (Frankness and Accessibility).

The complaint against the Department for Communities and Local Government on this basis is made on four counts.

1)     The complete exclusion in the dataset (Table 2 Demographics of rough sleeping in England, Autumn 2016) of the number and percentage of male rough sleepers (at a national level) and the number of male rough sleepers (at a local authority level), when the corresponding data for female rough sleepers has rightly been published. This is despite the fact that the data on male rough sleepers has been collected as part of this statistical release and therefore is available for publication by the Department. This is compounded by the fact that via a method of deduction the overwhelming majority of rough sleepers are in fact male (it is deduced that 88% of rough sleepers are male, given that the data states that 12% of rough sleepers are female).

2)     The complete exclusion in the written report that explained and accompanied the dataset of any reference to male rough sleepers or their number and percentage of all rough sleepers, when the publication rightly presented the corresponding data for female rough sleepers. This can be clearly seen in the section on demographics and visually by Chart 2 and Chart 3. As set out in 1) above, this is compounded by the fact that the overwhelming majority of rough sleepers are in fact male.

3)     The presentation of data which rightly includes female rough sleeping but excludes male rough sleepers who are the vast majority of rough sleepers ensures that full knowledge, understanding and awareness of the rough sleeper population in England is not made available to a range of key audiences. This includes the general public, media, Government, statutory bodies, the third sector and broader policy makers, research bodies and service delivery organisations.

4)     Partially presenting the available data, so that it excludes the statistics on male rough sleepers, will have a negative impact in a number of ways, by reinforcing:

  • The lack of public policy and service provision for male rough sleepers
  • The lack of funds for research into the reasons why men sleep rough, and therefore the lack of targeted support
  • The lack of public and financial (statutory funding and public donations) support for third sector organisations in delivering support to male rough sleepers
  • The lack of societal acknowledgement, understanding and public recognition of the existence of male rough sleepers
  • The lack of media and public presentation of the number and percentage of male rough sleepers which compounds all of the above

The sole inclusion of female rough sleepers and the exclusion of male rough sleepers in the statistical release lead subsequently to an incomplete presentation of the facts in the media. This includes where the only gender referenced is female.

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38719087

Ultimately, the exclusion of this data from this statistical release has a negative impact on male rough sleepers themselves. As well as the reasons set out in 3) and 4), it also has a direct impact because the message it gives to those men is that they are invisible and that there is no official acknowledgement that they exist. This not only compounds their sense of isolation, it also creates a further obstacle to public and policy concern for tackling the factors that have caused them to sleep rough.

It is important to make clear that this complaint is aimed at the exclusion of male rough sleepers from the statistical release dataset and not the inclusion of figures for female rough sleepers. We believe that both should be made available in the report and dataset.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to receiving a positive outcome to this complaint.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Brooks, Co-founder, Men and Boys Coalition