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National review of homelessness figures after overstatement of Dublin numbers

A Homeless person sleeping in a doorway on Dublin's Parnell Square. Photograph: Alan Betson

A national review of the recording and reporting of homelessness data has been agreed following an error which has led to the over-statement of numbers in Dublin by over 300.

The Department of Housing, in a statement on Friday, said the City and County Managers Association (CCMA) had “agreed to an external review of processes and procedures for the collection of this data and how it is verified ... across all nine regional homeless leads in order to ensure the accuracy of the data”.

The statement comes on foot of the error in the capital, where the highest numbers of homeless people are concentrated, was discovered over the summer.

The mistake, which may date back up to a year, has resulted in a cumulative overcount of homeless adults of 308 and will result in an apparent fall in homelessness when August homelessness figures are published on Friday.

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Sources say the error is down to a communication gap between private emergency accommodation providers and the central register operated by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), known as the Pass (Pathway Accommodation and Support System).

The Pass system is an online register that holds details of every individual accessing emergency accommodation in Dublin. It is accessible to all homelessness services to provide “real-time” information on homeless presentations and bed occupancy across the Dublin region.

In its statement the Department said: “The error related to data on single adults in emergency accommodation in the Dublin region. After the overstatement was identified the DRHE corrected the system to reflect the true number currently in emergency accommodation.

“The information now provided by DRHE indicates that there were 308 fewer single adults in homeless emergency accommodation in the Dublin region in August, compared to the number reported in July. This reduction is a result of the correction of the error. The subsequent adjustment to the national figures is reflected in the monthly report published on Friday 29th September.

“The Department welcomes the appointment by the DRHE of an independent person of appropriate qualification to review the data and thanks the DRHE for its forthrightness in the matter.”

It remains unclear how long the overcounting of homeless adults has been going on. While most errors have been tracked to recent months, a smaller number could date back longer.

Sources stress the discrepancies amount to less than 1 per cent of all emergency placements of single adults in the capital and the apparent fall of 308 does not equate to a genuine drop in homelessness, which remains on an upward trajectory.

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Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times