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Following on from the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) systemic review on Housing and Planning Statistics, the GSS Harmonisation Team have worked closely with government departments, the devolved administrations, academics and third sector organisations to explore the feasibility of harmonising definitions of homelessness for UK official statistics.

Why harmonisation of homelessness statistics is difficult

Homelessness is a devolved matter in the UK so homelessness statistics are produced by each UK country separately. Statutory homelessness and rough sleeping are the two main concepts of homelessness which are collected in each country and published as official statistics. However, due to devolution, legislation and administrative data collection, systems are different in each country and information about comparability is generally limited.

What have we done to help?

To provide you with a better understanding of the comparability of homelessness statistics, we have published a feasibility report looking into the harmonisation of definitions of homelessness in UK official statistics (pdf, 605KB). This report identifies the different definitions of homelessness in use across the UK and assesses what can be done to improve the clarity, comparability and transparency of homelessness statistics.

This work has been exciting and challenging but extremely rewarding. We have collaborated with many different stakeholders and explored both UK and international definitions of homelessness. The report focuses on the feasibility of harmonising UK definitions of homelessness and provides some clear recommendations to help improve users’ understanding of the comparability of homelessness statistics.

This report is our first step in helping to provide transparency of the comparability of official homelessness statistics across the UK. Following on from this report, we will produce a conceptual framework for UK homelessness statistics to explain the comparability in a user-friendly format. We will also provide guidance on comparability for statistical publications.

We are appreciative of the engagement and commitment colleagues from across the UK have shown to this work, and we look forward to further discussions to ensure our recommendations are met.

Further work on housing statistics

In addition to homelessness, the GSS Harmonisation Team are also committed to improving the comparability of other housing statistics across the UK. We are investigating the feasibility of harmonising a definition of affordable housing for UK official statistics and how to improve the transparency of the definitions used. We will publish a more detailed work plan later this year.






GSS homelessness report (PDF, 0.62MB)