Deaths of rough sleepers in Redbridge shows significant increase

The number of rough sleepers dying each year has increased significantly after “virtually no contact” with health services, according to a report.

Ten rough sleepers died in Redbridge between October 2017 and November 2018, compared to eight in the previous five years put together.

Speaking at the people scrutiny committee meeting last night (February 4), Redbridge Safeguarding Adults Board chair John Goldup admitted the council seemed unlikely to meet its target of ending rough sleeping by 2022.

He said: “It’s a terrible story, 10 people a year dying on our streets. This is a population with very little contact with statutory health services other than hospitals.

“Traditionally, rough sleeping is seen as an issue for the housing department to solve but the needs of rough sleepers cannot fully be met by the council and the voluntary sector.

“I think that the chances of ending rough sleeping by 2022 are limited unless we succeed in putting together a much more coordinated, multi-agency system for tackling the problem.

“And even then, let’s be honest, it’s going to be very challenging.”

As the chair of the Redbridge Local Safeguarding Children Board, Mr Goldup said he felt the protection of vulnerable adults was sometimes less valued than the protection of children.

“My key aim in charing these boards,” he added, “Is to do what we can to raise the priority and profile of safeguarding adults.”

The 10 who died

A report presented to the committee showed that of the 10 who died, the majority were non-UK nationals with “undetermined immigration status”, although they were not recent arrivals.

Only one had been in the UK for less than a year, while five had been in the UK for more than a decade.

The report adds that most of the 10 had “virtually no contact” with health and care services, apart from repeated A&E attendances or short term admissions, after which they were discharged back on the streets.

In 2018 alone, King George Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital collectively recorded 34 discharges of the same nine homeless people, averaging out to four hospital admissions for each person.

None of those who died were receiving mental health support or support from the social care team, who in fact had “no recorded knowledge” of seven of them.

Only one was receiving regular help for alcoholism, although at least six of those who died had a problem with alcohol.

Cllr Suzanne Nolan (Con, South Woodford) pointed out that Redbridge, unlike neighbouring boroughs, does not receive a “dedicated budget” for safeguarding vulnerable adults from its Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Mr Goldup said this point had been “forcefully made” to the CCG and that they had “accepted there need to be equity in funding” between Redbridge and neighbours Havering and Barking & Dagenham.

The report notes the CCG has “agreed to commission a specialist primary care service for rough sleepers”.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter