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Given the availability of alternative data on rough sleepers, we are proposing to stop the national annual rough sleeper count in Wales.

First published:
17 April 2024
Last updated:


This count had been suspended since 2019. We welcome the views of our users (such as those in national and local government, academia, charities or as interested members of the public) on our proposals.


From 2015 to 2019, the annual national rough sleeper exercise was carried out by local authorities, in partnership with other local agencies, to gauge the extent of rough sleeping across Wales. 

Data was collected in two ways: a two-week information gathering exercise (usually undertaken during a period in October), followed by a one-night snapshot count in November. The results were published by Welsh Government (National rough sleeper count).

Rough sleeper count 2020 to 2023

The national rough sleeper count was initially suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but was subsequently also suspended in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Proposal to cease annual national rough sleeper count

Welsh Government proposes to cease requesting local authorities to undertake the annual rough sleeper exercise. 

There are limitations to the annual rough sleeper count. It is inherently difficult to identify all people who sleep rough and to therefore include them in data collections when compared with people with more secure forms of accommodation.

The national rough sleeper count statistics provide a snapshot estimate of rough sleeping levels on a single night. The methodology provides robust, verified estimates but despite best efforts some people rough sleeping may be missed. Snapshots can be difficult to conduct and findings can be affected by external factors such as the weather, making comparisons over time difficult. Also, the individuals and number of people sleeping rough on one night will not be the same as on other nights.

Alternative source of rough sleeper information

Since August 2020, in addition to the collection and publication of annual data on statutory homelessness, local authorities in Wales have submitted monthly information which has been published by Welsh Government. Homelessness accommodation provision and rough sleeping. This includes the number of people placed in temporary accommodation and the number of people sleeping rough.

The rough sleeper estimates in the monthly collection are provided by local authorities and based on local intelligence at the end of the month, rather than a one night count between the hours of 10pm and 5am. The monthly data collection ensures that timely and regular evidence on rough sleeping activity is available. Over time it will allow users to look at trends and see fluctuations within the year.

Due to the scope and content of this data being different to the rough sleeper count, we do not recommend comparisons between the rough sleeping estimates from the monthly collection and the annual rough sleeper count.

In recent months Welsh Government have worked with local authorities to improve the monthly data collection by strengthening the guidance provided to local authorities and publishing an expanded range of data, including at local authority level.

Future plans

Longer-term, Welsh Government are developing an individual-level homelessness data collection to replace our current aggregate statutory homelessness returns. While this will not initially contain data on rough sleeping, it will record detailed information on individuals and families who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, their passage through the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and details of their temporary accommodation placements. Collecting more granular, linkable data will move us in-line with the approach taken in England and Scotland and facilitate more in-depth research to be conducted into homelessness, especially as a cross-cutting issue. This will greatly increase the quality and detail of information from which homelessness policies are made in Wales.

The Programme for Government makes a commitment to reform housing law and fundamentally reform homelessness services to focus on prevention and rapid rehousing. This is underpinned by Welsh Government’s Ending homelessness in Wales: a high level action plan 2021 to 2026. In line with this Plan, the Welsh Government launched a consultation on a White Paper on ending homelessness in Wales on 10 October. Our longer-term strategy for individual-level data will enable us to obtain more granular data regarding a service user’s journey through the homelessness system.

UK coherence and comparability

Homelessness policy is devolved across the UK and each country produces data and statistics on rough sleeping according to their own legislative framework. According to the Office for National Statistics article 'Rough sleeping in the UK', the different approaches prevent direct comparison between each country's statistics. For rough sleeping statistics it says “it is often not advisable to directly compare across countries or data sources”, and that it is “difficult to definitively report trends on rough sleeping for the UK as a whole”.


We want to hear what you think of this proposal, to allow us to continue to provide the statistics and analysis that matter most to you. Please let us know your thoughts by providing responses to the following questions to by the end of Friday 10 May.


  1. Please indicate whether the proposal to cease the annual rough sleeper count will impact your work? (and if so, how).
  2. Please explain which statistics you use from the annual National Rough Sleeper Count for Wales; how do you use these statistics?
  3. Please indicate the impact of the suspension of the annual rough sleeper count between 2020 and 2024, and what alternative data sources you’ve used.

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