688 homeless people died in 2020, official figures show

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A total of 688 deaths of homeless people were registered last year in England and Wales, including 13 deaths involving coronavirus, according to new estimates.

It is the first time the annual number of registered deaths has fallen since 2014, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

But it said the 11.6% decrease from 2019 was not statistically significant.

The estimated number of deaths is also 42.7% higher than it was in 2013, when the ONS started collecting this data.

The ONS also said the 2020 figures may underestimate the true number of homeless deaths.

It said the Everyone In scheme, which saw thousands of homeless people rapidly brought to safety at the start of the pandemic, had made it more difficult for it to identify homeless people in its records.

People were given emergency accommodation such as hotels to keep them safe and, with no centralised record of these locations, it “has made it difficult to identify deaths of homeless people housed under this scheme”, the ONS said.

Charities said the overall fall and low number of deaths involving coronavirus was testament to Government action to bring people to safety, and that ministers must do the same this winter.

The figures include the deaths of people sleeping rough or using emergency or temporary accommodation at or around the time of death.

The total figure includes identified deaths and an estimate of the most likely number of additional death registrations not identified as concerning homeless people.

Due to delays in death registrations, about half of the deaths registered in 2020 occurred before this year, the ONS said.

It said it is too early for it to comment on the impact of the pandemic, lockdowns and Everyone In scheme on the number of deaths due to these delays.

Some 265 deaths (38.5% of the total) were related to drug poisoning, while deaths by suicide fell by around a third from 112 in 2019 to 74.

Deaths related to alcohol made up 12.1% of the total.

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