NFor the first time since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough falls – but there is a mixed picture across England.

          Image: Rough sleeping in England

The number of people sleeping rough has continued to soar in the Midlands and some areas of the North – despite an overall fall in total figures across England for the first time in eight years.

The number of people sleeping rough across England in autumn last year was estimated at 4,667, according to new statistics released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

This represented a 2% fall from autumn 2017, from 4,751 people, the first time the number of people sleeping rough has fallen year-on-year since comparable records began in 2010.

Over that period, rough sleeping has increased by almost 165%.

However, despite the improvement in overall figures for England from last year, regional figures revealed a worsening situation in some areas of the country.

:: In the West Midlands, 420 people were sleeping rough in autumn 2018, representing a 42% increase from the year before.

:: In the East Midlands, an increase of 14% from 2017 saw 358 people sleeping rough in autumn last year

:: The North East experienced a 29% rise, with 66 people sleeping rough in autumn 2018

:: Yorkshire and the Humber had 246 people sleeping rough last autumn – an increase of 19% from the year before

:: London also saw a 13% rise in the number of people sleeping rough, to 1,238 people in autumn 2018

However, there was a significant improvement in rough sleeping figures in the East of England (a 21% fall to 484), the South West (a 21% fall to 458) and the South East (a 17% fall to 934).

Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire welcomed the overall fall in the number of people sleeping rough, but stressed there was a “need to go further than ever before” as the government aims to eliminate rough sleeping within the next eight years.

He said: “The number of vulnerable people sleeping on our streets has now fallen for the first time in eight years.

“I am pleased to see our strategy to end rough sleeping, backed by a record investment of £100m, is starting to have an effect and there are particularly encouraging results in those areas funded by our Rough Sleeping Initiative where numbers have fallen by almost a quarter.

“But while these figures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I do not underestimate the task ahead in achieving our ambition of eliminating rough sleeping altogether by 2027.

“Councils have used the new funding to create an additional 1,750 beds and 500 rough sleeping support staff, who are working tirelessly to support people off the streets and into recovery.

“I am clear we need to go further than ever before to build upon today’s results and sustain momentum as we move towards ending rough sleeping.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an “urgent emergency programme that provides enough places for rough sleepers to get a roof over their heads”.

“It can be done if there’s a national endeavour to do it – in government we would do it straight away,” he added.

Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said:

“It’s a damning reflection of our society that night after night, so many people are forced to sleep rough on our streets – with numbers soaring in the capital – especially when we know that with the right commitment, rough sleeping could be ended for good.”

With severe weather warnings for heavy snow across parts of England and Wales on Thursday night, Mr Sparkes added: “Living on the streets is one of the most dangerous experiences anyone could face.

“Not only will rough sleepers experience extreme isolation and often severe weather conditions, but we know they have a high risk of dying young and our own research shows they are 17 times more likely to experience abuse than the general public.

“No one should have to live like this.”

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