By Andrew Holt

A 6% rise in the number of people sleeping rough is condemned by national homelessness charity Crisis.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today revealed that 2,309 people were reported by local councils across the country as sleeping rough on one night in Autumn 2012, up from 2,181 in the previous year’s count.

This is on top of last year’s rise of 23%.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “In communities across the country real lives are being blighted by homelessness. To sleep out on the streets is a devastating experience, and it is a scandal that in 21st century Britain we are seeing more and more people left with no other option.

“We have been warning for some time now that the economic downturn combined with cuts – particularly to housing benefit – would drive rough sleeping higher. These figures confirm our fears and with a raft of new cuts coming in April, we think this is just the beginning.”

Today’s figures come as transitional measures for those affected by housing benefit cuts have come to an end and ahead of new benefit cuts in April that Crisis warns will drive homelessness yet higher.

In April:

Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit in the private rented sector) will be increased by inflation rather than with reference to rents

The overall benefit cap will kick in in a number of areas

Elements of the Social Fund (which provides low income households with emergency support) will be abolished

The bedroom tax will hit social tenants deemed to be under occupying their home
Council Tax benefit is being cut

All at a time when local councils across the country are cutting back on services to help people who become homeless, such as hostels and day centres.

Crisis recently published the second year of The Homelessness Monitor – a five-year research project undertaken by Heriot-Watt University and the University of York, which sets out that the combination of the economic downturn and cuts to housing benefit are starting to bite and that homelessness is set to rise yet further in the years ahead across England.

In light of today’s figures, Crisis is calling on the government to:

Reverse the cuts to housing benefit including those due to come in in April

Invest substantially in new social and affordable housing

Ensure all homeless people get the help they need when they approach their local council for assistance including through homeless services being properly funded

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