THE number of rough sleepers in Warrington has more than quadrupled in two years.

Annual statistics on the number of people sleeping on the streets in local authorities across England have been published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The figures, which follow a street count, reveal Warrington had a total of five rough sleepers in 2016, four in 2017 and 21 in 2018.

England’s total was 4,134 in 2016, 4,751 in 2017 and 4,677 in 2018.

Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, executive board member for public health and wellbeing, said every person sleeping rough is an individual needing support to ‘get back on track with their lives’.

She added: “Sadly, these figures don’t come as a shock – they reflect the very real and complex pressures that are pushing people to the very margins of our society, not just in Warrington, but across the country.

“This Labour administration continues to be fully committed to doing everything we can to tackle the scourge of homelessness and rough sleeping.

“In recent years, targeted council initiatives have helped to hold back the tide against an increasing trend of rough sleeping, but with continued austerity and the impact of the full rollout of universal credit here in Warrington, we are now experiencing levels of homelessness similar to those seen in other areas in previous years.

“We have worked with our partner agencies to ensure that they are offered a safe place for the night throughout the winter period.

“We do everything we can to offer individuals the help they need to get off the streets and move forward with their lives.”

A range of measures are in place to help those in need in the borough.

The council says it negotiates with social landlords and housing providers to form a partnership agreement to ensure referrals are made when tenants are at risk of eviction.

Furthermore, supported housing is commissioned by the authority for people threatened with homelessness, while support agencies are commissioned to provide tenancy, health and wellbeing support, money management and debt advice to people at risk.

In October, ‘duty to refer’ legislation came into force, which requires public services to refer anyone who may be homeless, or at risk of homelessness, to the council so that intervention can take place.

Warrington’s rough sleeper action group is a multi-agency body which meets every two weeks to review individuals known to be rough sleeping.

And the council’s Housing Plus service delivers statutory homelessness services for all homeless people, including those who are rough sleeping.

Accommodation for those in need includes provision through the New Start project, James Lee House, Verve Place, Room at the Inn and the Safe Seats project.

Anyone who is aware of someone sleeping rough should report it to the council on 246868 during office hours, or 444400 outside of office hours.