Homelessness Halved: It’s the Methodology, Stupid.
The most likely explanation is a new methodology used to measure the problem.
According to Gary Johns in today’s Australian, this has been the case with homelessness. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been inflating the calculation of the number of homeless Australians. It has done this by its methodology. It has included in the number of homeless those who are potentially homeless, and defines those as people “staying with friends and family…living in boarding houses and…in supported accommodation.” Apparently, the social work fraternity specialising in this area of government policy refers to such people as fitting a “cultural” definition of homelessness.
When I was Premier, I had some encounter with employees of the State Government who thought it their job to raid boarding houses and close them, forcing residents onto public housing waiting lists. These zealots were passionate advocates of more public housing. They believed privately owned boarding houses were illegitimate. All housing for low income people should come from the state.
This psychology, it seems, had seeped into the calculation of homelessness.
Now, the ABS is adapting the methodology used in 2001 and 2006 census estimates. It has announced there are only half the number of homeless in Australia as previously believed.
There. If you see a sudden spike in some social pathology, always check the methodology.
Under the Wran government, the disability lobby started arguing that one in 10 children in school were children with a disability. But then Education Minister Rod Cavalier made enquiries. There was no statistical basis for this estimate whatsoever. No study, no overseas consensus. Nothing. He peeled back the figure and it had no foundation.
Policymakers should always suspect the dramatic statistic and ask for its underpinning.
Always interrogate the methodology.