Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 17 DECEMBER 2001
40. You do not?
(Ms Casey) No.
41. The reason I say discredited, it is another
way of saying people do not believe them. If you do not accept
they are discredited, and presumably there are people who do believe
them, how do you account for the fact that reputable organisations
have put their words in measured tone. Organisations like Shelter
have said, "the allegations that have been made about the
street count need to be fully and urgently investigated".
Crisis have said, "Louise Casey needs to carry out a full
review of how the count is being done". The Simon Community,
which has been helping the homeless in London since 1963, has
called for an independent investigation into the methods used.
People are not believing you, are they?
(Ms Casey) Shelter and Crisis have now fully endorsed
the figures that the Prime Minister announced on 3 December. What
they said was if any of the allegations turned out to be true
they would be worried, so would I. In relation to the major national
organisation Homeless Link, which represent over 1,000 different
organisations, some funded by the government, some not funded
by the government, to help people who are homeless, including
those who are rough sleepers, themselves wrote to the Guardian
on 26 November after the original Guardian article that
quoted the Simon Community. As to the Simon Community I can only
say we have asked to meet with them to discuss their concerns,
and I am hopeful that meeting will take place this week. I think
some of what they are saying is based on myth and misinformation.
Hopefully once the air is cleared we can move on.
42. You said that Shelter and Crisis fully endorsed
your figures. I was reading an article from Inside Housing
which says, "Crisis Chief Executive says Louise Casey needs
to carry out a full review of how the counts are being done".
Have you carried out a full review?
(Ms Casey) We have done a review. We are very happy
to look at anything that needs to be changed in the future, if
it does. In fact Shelter and Homeless Network set up this methodology,
it has been done pre 1996 and onwards, the same method is used,
independent volunteers are involved and the counts are done by
local authorities and charities as well as independent people.
They pass those statistics to the government and we publish them.
I am quite clear at the moment that this is the most robust, consistent
method of checking the rough sleeping population as it happens
every six or 12 months. That is what the figure represents, that
is what the street counts do.
43. There are allegations that the Rough Sleepers
Unit paid for rough sleepers to go into bed and breakfast accommodation
for the night of the count so that numbers would be low. What
is your comment on those allegations?
(Ms Casey) There is no truth in those. I am quite
pleased about the timing of this Committee, although this was
not a subject matter, I am very pleased to be here and able to
answer it. The truth of the matter is I believe five people moved
into bed and breakfast that night via the St Thomas's Contact
and Assessment Team, which is an independent charity. Those five
people are not atypical, sometimes people do not want to move
into shelters, particularly people who have been out on the streets
for quite some time. They do not want, and I quote, "to be
social-worked to death in hostels and projects, sometimes they
just want the anonymity of being able to the move into B&B".
Over 16 per cent of the total accommodation used in London during
every given year is actually bed and breakfast hotels, so nothing
different was done on the night of the count than any other night.
44. The Rough Sleepers Unit itself does spend
money on putting people into bed and breakfast.
(Ms Casey) The Rough Sleepers Unit funds organisations
to try and ensure that people move off the streets and get the
help and support they need. Some of those organisations use taxpayers'
money to place people in bed and breakfast hotels, and I think
that is okay.
45. Is it possible that some could be put into
bed and breakfast for a couple of nights and then on the third
morning they are cast out on to the street again?
(Ms Casey) That is not.
46. That is not possible. So the people that
have told me that has happened are wrong.
(Ms Casey) People are basing some of their thinking
on myth and misinformation. People are moved into bed and breakfast
and people are moved into shelter.
47. When you say myth and misinformation, we
are familiar with mythology, we all know Lord of the Rings has
just been launched on our screens, what are you saying when you
say that is a myth, do you mean they are making it up, they are
(Ms Casey) No, I would not be that uncharitable. People
do not know what happens and for whatever reason they are making
their own views. The truth is that bed and breakfast is one of
many options which is available to people trying to help people
move off the streets. We know that people move off the streets
all of the time into B&B, into rolling shelters, into hostels
and into permanent housing, it is just one of many options.
48. Can you just clarify another point, there
has been an allegation that the RSU officials that took part in
the count pressured experienced Outreach workers to exclude rough
sleepers who were well known to them, particularly if they had
not bedded down. If they were in a doorway and they were sitting
up, even if they had a sleeping bag on them or a blanket over
them, they were not counted as rough sleepers.
(Ms Casey) That would have been counted as rough sleepers.
No undue pressure has been put on anybody.
49. That was a specific allegation, that specific
pressure was put on Outreach workers when they came back with
the numbers that they had, to change those numbers.
(Ms Casey) That is simply not the case. We have to
accept the numbers that are given to us by the local authorities
and voluntary organisations who are there to undertake the street
count using independent people, it is as simple as that. There
are a number of people, I think it was on the Today programme,
which I did last week, I think, undoubtedly some of the Outreach
workers in Central London, I believe they are small in number,
feel under a great deal of scrutiny from the RSU throughout the
year. I do Outreach sessions all the time with CAT workers, without
CAT workers, so do members of my team, it is called getting out
there and doing your job.
50. What about the question of workers being
prevented from visiting an area that they would visit the other
364 days of the year that may contain rough sleepers, such as
parks, where the workers were told not to go for personal safety
on the night of the count?
(Ms Casey) That really is complete nonsense. I know
full well that the parks were counted on the particular night
that the central London street count took place.
51. Your figures say that in Birmingham, England's
second city, there are only two people sleeping rough compared
with 56 in 1998 and in Nottingham there were only three. The BBC
went out the following night and found 10. How credible are these
(Ms Casey) That was Bob Walker from the Today
programme, who has been spending months on this.
52. Is it not likely that the more time that
he has spent on it the more facts he uncovered?
(Ms Casey) It would be good if he did it with Outreach
workers or learned what he was doing properly, that is neither
here nor there, that is Bob Walker for you and that is me for
you. The bottom line is this, the local authority in Birmingham
and the organisations, the charities out there, it really upsets
me because Focus Housing Group have done a phenomenal job in Birmingham
to ensure that there is no longer a reason for somebody to be
sleeping out on the streets. They still have people who they are
working with who are just off the street and that is where their
focus and attention comes from. Interestingly the Sunday Mirror
journalist the week before found four people sleeping on the streets,
two of whom were wandering about and two of whom were not.
53. I have to confine my questions to the Report,
if I can turn to page 72, in column two it talks about rough sleepers
getting access to appropriate housing. Could you say what criteria
are used to assess what is appropriate housing for any given rough
sleeper? How do you go about understanding what "any given
rough sleeper means"?
(Ms Casey) That is why the government fund organisations
like Thames Reach, St Mungo's, Focus Housing Group and many others,
as well as funding approved social workers who have mental health
skills, people who are specialists in drug, alcohol, and mental
health, basically frontline staff, work on the street
54. This is the contact assessment team.
(Ms Casey)in projects, in night shelters, in
night centres and in hostels to try and assess if somebody needs
help with a mental health problem, whether they need drug detox,
whether they need rehabilitation, whether they simply want a bed
for the night or what kind of problem they have and how they can
help them come inside.
55. They would undertake an assessment and the
rough sleepers would be placed in the most appropriate housing
according to that.
(Ms Casey) It depends. Sometimes people might move
straight into a shelter and then the shelter would do the assessment.
There are lots of different ways, we are not that prescriptive.
56. But it would not be a case of just putting
them in the back of a vehicle and marching them up to a shelter
and putting them off there, you would not do that?
(Ms Casey) From time to time I think outreach teams
or other peopleShelter Line, for example, might do a telephone
referral. If somebody rings up from a call box and says "I
am in Sheffield and I need somewhere for tonight", sometimes
they would ring up and book the hostel bed and the person would
move in there and then it is down to the hostel to do that sort
of assessment. It varies. It is not a science.
57. You mentioned the Catterick Project for
ex-servicemen and you said you are doing your own independent
evaluation. Who is doing the evaluation?
(Ms Casey) The Department is undertaking an evaluation
of many different aspects of the rough sleepers strategy and Geoff
Randall, I think he is from Resource and Information ServiceThey
went through a tendering process and the research department in
the DTLR let the contract to him and he is
58. This is Geoff Randall?
(Ms Casey) I think it is called Resource and Information
59. So he is part of the department?
(Ms Casey) No, he is not. We tendered a research contract.