The number of people sleeping rough in England has surged by a third over the past year, new Government figures show.
Statistics released by the communities department show the number of rough sleepers up by 30 per cent over 2015, and a 102 per cent increase since 2010, when David Cameron first came to power.
3,569 people were estimated by councils to be sleeping rough on any one night last year, with the biggest increases in the south, east, and midlands.
The sharp rise in people sleeping on the street coincides with the Government’s ending of funding for its “No Second Night Out” programme to prevent rough sleeping.
Charities say the lapsed scheme, introduced in 2012 but ended in March last year, helped over 64,000 people before its £20 million funding pot ran out.
Figures reported in January also show the rise in people without anywhere to live has gone hand-in-hand with an increased reliance on insecure privately rented homes.
The charity Shelter warned then that homelessness, distinct from rough sleeping, was on the rise because of increasing numbers of people being forced to leave their homes when a landlord decided to increase rent or stop renting a property.
A study by that charity found that a quarter of tenants have in the past been kicked out of their own home by their landlord through no fault of their own – a so-called “no fault” eviction.
Under the wildly deregulated private renting rules introduced in the 1980s, landlords do not have to give a reason to throw a tenant out of their home.
The Government says it is committed to a larger private rented housing sector.
Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, an umbrella body representing homeless services, said the situation could have been even worse without the efforts of homeless charities.
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
What does five more years of the Tories mean for Britain?
1/8 Welfare payments will be slashed
One of the most controversial parts of the Conservative manifesto was to cut benefits for the working age poor by £12 bn over the next three years. But during the campaign they only said where £2 bn of these savings would come from. That leaves £10 bn still to find. Some experts think the only way they can close that gap is by means testing child benefit – with millions of families losing out
2/8 There will be tax cuts for those in work and those who die
The Tories will increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable to £50,000 by 2020. They haven’t said so but it is also likely that at some point in the next five years they will abolish that 45p rate of tax altogether for the highest earners. They also want to increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1m
3/8 There will be an in/out EU referendum in 2017
The next two years are going to be dominated by the prospect of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. First off David Cameron has the daunting task of negotiating a deal with other EU leaders an acceptable deal that he can sell to his party so he can go into the referendum campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote. This may be unachievable and it is possible that the Tories may end up arguing to leave. Opinion polls show Britain is divided on EU membership, one poll this year showed 51% said they would opt to leave compared to 49% who would vote to stay in
4/8 There will be more privatisation of the NHS
Having won the election the Tories now have a mandate to go further and faster reforming the NHS. In order to make cost savings there is likely to be greater private involvement in running services, while some smaller hospitals may lose services they currently provide like A&E and maternity units
5/8 There will be many more free schools – and traditional state schools will become a thing of the past
The Tories plans to create 500 new free schools and make 3,000 state schools become academies. They will also carry on reforming the Department of Education and remove more powers from local authorities over how schools are run
6/8 On shore wind farms will be a thing of the past and fracking will be the future
Government spending on renewable energy is under real threat now the Lib Dems are no longer in power with the Tories. Subsidies are likely to be slashed for off-shore wind farm and other green energy supplies. Meanwhile there will be generous tax break for fracking as ministers try and incentivise the industry to drill for onshore oil and gas
7/8 There maybe more free childcare – but not necessarily
In the campaign the Tories pledged to double the amount of free early education for three- and four-year-olds from 15 hours a week to 30. The extra hours would only be offered to working families where parents are employed for at least eight hours a week. However they have not said where the money will come from to fund the pledge
8/8 Workers' rights could be reduced
The Tories want to slash business regulation, merge regulator and cut costs. The Lib Dems stopped them from reducing the employment rights of workers in power – but these are now under threat
“It is unacceptable that anyone has to sleep rough in Britain today – and even more shocking that the number of people in this situation has risen every year since 2010. Unfortunately, many homelessness charities have already seen their funding fall as demand for help rises,” he added.
“Homelessness is costly and damaging to individuals and society, but we know that when national and local government have the right vision and strategy in place and invest in the right services, rough sleeping need not be inevitable.”
John Healey, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for housing said the figures were a "wake-up call" to the Government on housing policy.
“These figures are the starkest possible reminder of Conservative Ministers’ five years of failure on housing. The number of people sleeping rough on our streets has doubled since 2010, and risen by 30 per cent in the last year alone," he said.
“People will find it extraordinary that in England in the 21st Century the number of people forced to sleep rough is going up – and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
“The first step Ministers must now take is to exempt homelessness accommodation and other specialist housing from the Chancellor’s crude housing benefit cuts, which are set to close thousands of hostels and make the problem of rough sleeping even worse.
“Beyond that, these figures must be a wake-up call to Ministers to change tact and adopt a more balanced set of housing plans.”
Marcus Jones, homelessness minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said the Government had protected funding to help with the issue.
“No one should ever have to sleep rough, which is why we have increased central funding to tackle homelessness over the next four years to £139 million.
“We have protected homelessness prevention funding and expect local authorities to provide quality advice and assistance to all those that approach them for help.
“Many rough sleepers have complex needs that include mental health difficulties or addiction, and we are developing a £5 million social impact bond that will help entrenched rough sleepers move off the streets.”