Other issues may have dominated the headlines but 2020 was an important year for UK housing and homelessness statistics. Despite challenging circumstances, the Government Statistical Service and its partners have brought fresh insight to key areas. Here Tony Wilkins outlines recent progress and plans for the future.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an impact on all of us, including the most vulnerable in our society. We have had to adapt to an ever-changing picture, but that picture has only been made clearer because of the work we have been doing together.
We were able to react quickly to the changing situation and know what was happening across the four UK countries through our cross government housing and homelessness statistics working groups. We were able to discuss the differing or similar impacts COVID-19 was having and to use the network to co-ordinate across the four countries where possible.
Challenges of data collection during the pandemic
Due to the uncertainty around the pandemic, we took the decision not to publish an update to our workplan in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that the work stopped.
Much of the work has continued, although sometimes to slower timetables as the Government Statistical Service (GSS) was supporting COVID-19 related analytical priorities.
The pandemic inevitably put pressure on the collection and publication of statistics, including those surveys that would normally be done face to face such as housing conditions surveys. This was particularly noticeable for local authorities who we rely on to collect much of our data, and so we had to make the difficult decision to suspend or delay some data collections and statistical publications.
Impact of the coronavirus pandemic
However, we have been able to shine a light on the effect of the pandemic and policies on housing and homelessness using new and existing data sources:
- In England, alongside the English Housing Survey results additional information was published about household resilience and changes due to COVID-19.
- Scottish Government investigated the impact of COVID-19 on fuel poverty and the housing market in general. The Scottish Housing Regulator has published monthly dashboards including information on the impact of COVID-19 on social landlords and their tenants.
- Welsh Government has implemented a new monthly data collection to provide information on people placed into temporary accommodation and rough sleepers.
- Northern Ireland Planning Statistics have been improved and were awarded National Statistics status by the Office for Statistics Regulation.
- Across England and Wales we were able to monitor effects of the initial lockdown and associated policies on deaths of homeless people due to COVID-19 and housing indicators for England and Wales.
- We have been working with the Centre for Homelessness Impact to maintain and update the SHARE platform and contribute to the homelessness research network.
Our work is continuing into 2021 and beyond. Looking ahead, there is still a lot in store not least the upcoming census in 2021 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and 2022 (Scotland).
We are looking to bring together and compare rough sleeping statistics from across the UK, similar to our previous articles on affordable housing and homelessness as well as expanding our interactive tools.
We are continuing to develop our data linking capabilities within and across departments and our work to be inclusive and build our relationships with others including the Centre for Homelessness Impact.
We look forward to being able to continue to update you on our plans later in 2021. If you have any feedback for us, or have views on our statistics, please contact us at GSS.Housing@ons.gov.uk