It’s all in the data…

Thursday, August 20, 2020 - 5:48pm

Data is part of our everyday lives

Every time we use a bank card, go on a bus journey or interact with a public service, we leave a trail of ‘digital fingerprints’ behind us on the systems and services we use.

Someone sleeping rough will have many data footprints across the public sector. At different times and with different services – health, social care, housing and criminal justice for instance – they will have made their mark. Data that may look quite specific to a problem is not necessarily anonymous and linking up different datasets can help public bodies unlock solutions that seemed impossible just a few years ago.

And that’s why we recommend in our report [opens in new window] that public bodies need to make more intelligent use of data. The data is there, but a big challenge is to use the data to help pinpoint and understand where you should intervene to avoid someone ending up on the streets. It is possible to see all the services people sleeping rough have come into contact with – now it’s about using this data to drive integration and collaboration to deliver better outcomes.

Some numbers:

  • In 2019 over 10,000 people in Wales were threatened with homelessness,
  • The number of people sleeping rough has increased by 69% since 2015.
  • It is estimated that 28 more people died sleeping rough in 2018 than in 2014
  • Local authorities spent £29m on addressing homelessness in 2018-19
  • The estimated cost of not reacting to people sleeping rough is £209m per year (see our earlier blog on the cost of failing people sleeping rough in Wales [opens in new window)

Prevention and early intervention is the key to reducing the incidence of rough sleeping and making better use of the data is critical to doing this. We recognise that this is ambitious, but we also believe that it is achievable.

Public bodies need to understand which young people are at risk of rough sleeping in the future. Our data analysis and research shows that people who end up sleeping rough share some common experiences. Many have had similar adverse childhood experiences, and carry the baggage of these into adult life. Not everyone ends up on the streets, but a large number will. Using data to see where the risks lie within your community allows you to better understand where you need to focus your prevention efforts. Not when someone is on the streets but when they are excluded or suspended from school. Public bodies must get better at using data to pinpoint where to invest money to make the biggest impact. School exclusions are up 96% since 2014-15 – this is a worrying trend and highlights that there it is likely to be seen in more people sleeping rough in the future.

Focussing on prevention and where gaps lie in services can be costly, but it is worth it because the cost of rough sleeping is far higher, both financially and socially. Our data tool [opens in new window] brings many of these ‘risk areas’ together in one place to act as a resource to show where there is a danger of rough sleeping increasing in the future. The tool has been produced to help local authorities and their partners analyse and consider data on the ground to help guide and make informed choices.

Please get in touch to share your feedback on the tool by contacting us at council.studies@audit.wales