We don’t have resource to investigate all rough sleeper deaths, says council

PUBLISHED: 07:58 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 07:58 11 October 2018

The body of a man was found in an alleyway leading to Murrell's Court near King Street in August. Picture: Archant

The body of a man was found in an alleyway leading to Murrell's Court near King Street in August. Picture: Archant


Authorities have said they do not have enough resources to investigate every rough sleeper death in Norfolk - despite being told to by the government.

An investigation by this newspaper found at least ten homeless people have died in Norfolk and Waveney since October last year.

Six of them died on the street, two in hospital, one in a hostel and one in friend’s flat.

But nobody records or investigates their deaths.

In August the Government told Safeguarding Adults Boards (SABs), which are run by local councils, to review the deaths of all rough sleepers in their areas.

But Norfolk County Council has said that would be difficult and no Government department had asked them to do it.

Director of Public Health Dr Louise Smith said: “We would consider doing that; however, this comes with a significant cost and our limited resources mean we need to find balance to provide people with help.”

Local SABs carry out a review when someone dies or is seriously harmed as a result of abuse or neglect and where authorities could have done more to help.

But homeless deaths are hardly ever reviewed by them.

But Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “For a review to take place, all it takes is for a statutory body like the police, social services or the NHS to say they think one is necessary.

“So why doesn’t that happen?

“Frankly, it’s partly because we as a society don’t value the lives of homeless people very highly and there’s an undercurrent of belief that many of them probably brought it on themselves.

“And if that’s not awful enough, the consequence of not looking into these deaths of our fellow citizens means that homelessness issues fall further and further down the list of priorities.”

Conservative Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said all rough sleeper deaths should be counted.

“Any death is a tragedy and rightly no one should be overlooked or forgotten,” she said. “I understand the government will be reviewing all deaths and physical attacks on rough sleepers from now on, which I welcome.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said it would publish data on homeless deaths later this year.

At least 449 homeless people have died in the last year, a campaign by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found.

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