David Cameron has used his New Year message to commit his last four years in Downing Street to beating poverty.
But on the same day new figures revealed that homelessness has doubled in London under his premiership, with the Conservative government’s cutbacks to housing benefit and its poor record on provision of affordable housing cited as key factors behind the worrying rise in people sleeping rough.
More than 7,500 people were left without a home in the capital, compared to 3,673 in 2009/2010 – the year he entered Number 10 – according to figures collected by the Combined Homelessness Information Network.
In his traditional message to the nation Mr Cameron said tackling poverty will be one of four priorities in 2016 and said his 10 years as Prime Minister will be looked back on as one of the “great reforming decades”.
“We have taken great leaps in recent decades, but stubborn and persistent poverty still exists,” he said in his New Year message.
“So we need a more targeted strategy for those most in need of help, focusing on tackling the root causes like worklessness and family instability.
“And as we develop our Life Chances Strategy this spring, I want us to move further on addiction and mental health, especially in prison, and to rescue more children from being stuck in failing care systems.
“That’s why, in the next five years, our reforms to social services will be as radical as the reforms to our schools.”
However, the homelessness charity St Mungo’s said it was Mr Cameron’s policies in Government that had triggered the more than 100 per cent rise in people sleeping rough.
Cuts to local authority funding meant councils were unable to offer homes to some people in the most need, while housing benefit cuts and a lack of affordable housing had also contributed to the increase.
It also said EU migrants were being forced to sleep on the streets due to mistreatment by employers.
Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: “Worryingly, the number of people who’ve previously slept rough and are returning to the streets is rising.
“We need to ask what more can be done for these people, what gaps need to be filled to prevent repeat homelessness.”