23 February 2012 | By Alex Wellman, Inside Housing

Councils must stop slashing homelessness services and instead invest more in prevention, an organisation has demanded as figures show rough sleeping has risen by almost a quarter.

Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities, said that the leap in rough sleepers was not a surprise as it comes at a time when local authorities are cutting services. According to the latest Communities and Local Government department figures, rough sleeping is up 23 per cent in England.

A survey of 500 services, undertaken by Homeless Link and due for publication in March, shows that in the last year 75 homelessness projects have closed while in the last two years, 2,206 bed spaces in hostels and other accommodation have been lost.

The survey also says that 58 per cent of projects reported a cut in their budgets in the last year while 55 per cent have been told by councils to expect further cuts.

Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of Homeless Link, said:

The dramatic rise in rough sleeping is depressing but not unexpected. For some time, our members have been reporting that more people are seeking help and many are struggling to meet demand.

This comes at a time when reduced funding has already hit services and further cuts are expected this year.

Our research indicates that there are now fewer projects, fewer beds and more of our members are turning people away because they are full.

Councils need to ensure that they protect critical services for the most vulnerable and do more to prevent people from ending up on the streets in the first place.”