The number of people sleeping rough in Lancashire has reached record levels despite a wider drop across the UK.

Rough sleeper levels across the county are at their highest level in a decade, despite national levels falling, with some 85 people sleeping on the streets in Lancashire.

The number of rough sleepers has risen in Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen - both to record amounts.

Despite receiving funds from the government's Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI), the number of rough sleepers in Blackpool has increased from 12 to 15.

Cllr Neal Brookes, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member responsible for Housing and Welfare Reform, said: “Blackpool faces numerous challenges many of which are a direct result of the Government’s austerity agenda, and the fact that as an authority we have endured cuts of almost a billion pounds since 2010. That said, the number of rough sleepers in Blackpool is relatively low compared to the national picture and that’s because a lot of the council’s work is directed at stopping people from being homeless in the first place.

“The reasons why a person is sleeping on the streets are often complex. It is important that we understand what those are in the first instance and the individual’s circumstances.

“Here in Blackpool the council along with a number of partners are extremely active in engaging with rough sleepers. The council’s Housing Outreach team or partners go out in the town nearly every day to identify people who may need support and assistance. We work closely with Horizons (Drug and Alcohol Services) and many charitable organisations to assess a person’s situation so that we can provide the right support. This may involve finding suitable accommodation which in most cases we are able to do but in some cases we can only offer support to someone who may not be ready to engage with the council and partner services more generally.

“The number of people finding themselves rough sleeping is still rising nationally, but the money received from central Government through the Rough Sleeping Initiative will enable us to respond and increase vital support locally.”

Blackburn with Darwen had the most rough sleepers in Lancashire with 21 recorded an increase from the 15 recorded in 2018 and also received money from the Rapid Rehousing Pathway (RRP).

The levels of rough sleepers is at a record high in Lancashire.

Sayyed Osman, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of adults and prevention, said: “Our council and its partners including the Salvation Army and Thomas (Those on the Margins of a Society) care about everybody and really do everything in our collective powers to support people.

"Our Streetreach team are dedicated and do everything they can to help people sleeping rough but this is dependent on people being willing to accept this support and despite our efforts sometimes this doesn’t happen.

"The issues here are complex and made worse by the fact we have a disproportionate amount of hostels which people from out of our borough are coming to use which in turn puts further pressure on limited resource and services.

"These are major issues affecting towns and cities across the country and there are no quick or easy solutions and this is certainly not something that the council can deal with in isolation.

"We are doing what we can with partners and continue to provide help and support whilst lobbying Government for legislative changes around hostels and communal accommodation.”

The council say that since they conducted their count in November 2019, rough sleeping numbers have fallen back down to 15. This is yet to be verified.

Some 85 people were estimated to be sleeping on the streets in Lancashire, up from 72 in 2018, following a night count carried out by local authorities in autumn 2019.

The number of people sleeping rough in Preston has dropped since 2018.

That number is the highest recorded since the autumn counts began in 2010 when just 29 sleepers were recorded.

Most areas in Lancashire have not received money through the government’s Rough Sleeping Initiative, which aims to support those living on the street into accommodation.

Only Blackpool (from 2019), Lancaster (from 2019), and Preston (from 2018) have received money funding from the initiative.

The number of rough sleepers in Preston dropped from 23 to 14.

Councillor Nweeda Khan, Cabinet Member for Communities and Social Justice at Preston City Council, told LancsLive that more is being done to combat rough sleeping.

He said: “The fall in the number of homelessness people recorded in Preston is a testament to the fantastic work of local services including the Foxton Centre and Community Gateway.

“While this is a positive step, there is much more to be done to support vulnerable people in the city.

"The recent announcement of the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) funding is positive and will enable local services to support even more people who find themselves homeless.

“However, these figures do not tell the full story of homelessness as they ignore the ‘invisible’ homeless, those sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation. It’s imperative that more is done to support these people in Preston.”

Across Lancashire, the number of rough sleepers included 13 women, 61 men, and 11 whose gender wasn’t recorded.

Most (68) were from the UK, with one EU national and three from outside the EU, nine of them were under 26 years of age.

Across England 4,266 people were found to be sleeping rough in autumn 2019, down by 9% from 4,677 in 2018, and down from the peak of 4,751 in 2017.

However, that is still nearly two-and-a-half times as many rough sleepers as the 1,768 counted nationally in autumn 2010.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “It’s great news to see any reduction in the numbers of people rough sleeping – fewer people sleeping on our streets means fewer people exposed to exploitation, extreme weather and the threat of violence.

“But unless we see people being offered homes, not hostels, we know from experience that people will return to the streets.

“To truly end rough sleeping, the Government must recognise the intolerable pressure many in society are under with low incomes, high rents and a lack of affordable housing pushing people into homelessness.

“The reality is that this problem will persist until we build the social homes we desperately need and restore housing benefit to a level where it covers the cost of rents.”

Councils that have received RSI funding are more likely to have seen decreases in the number of rough sleepers counted.

Across the 244 local authorities receiving funding there were 3,863 people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019.

This is down by 514 people or 12% from last year.

In the 83 local authorities who have been receiving funding since 2018, there were 2,474 people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2019.

For these local authorities this is down by 294 people or 11% from last year and down by 942 people or 28% from 2017.

In the remaining 73 local authorities that are not part of the RSI the number of people estimated to be sleeping rough is up by 103 people or 34% compared to last year, from 300 people in 2018 to 403 people this year.

However, the numbers, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) are likely to be an underestimate of the true scale of rough sleeping.

It is difficult to account for everyone who is sleeping rough based on a single night’s count or an estimate of those known to local services.

Research by the BBC suggests the number of people sleeping rough across 2019 may be five times higher, with councils identifying nearly 25,000 people who had slept rough at least once during the year.

Councils are encouraged to gain intelligence for street counts and estimates from local agencies such as outreach workers, the police, the voluntary sector and members of the public who have contact with rough sleepers on the street.

There are many practical difficulties in counting the number of rough sleepers within the area of a local authority.

It is not possible to cover the entire area of a local authority in a single evening, so counts will be targeted to areas according to local intelligence.

As well as this, rough sleepers may bed down at different times meaning that some may be missed. Some places of rough sleeping may be difficult or unsafe for those conducting the count to access.

For these reasons, the MHCLG says the figures are subject to some uncertainty.