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Ministers accused over 'national scandal' of homeless figures

Ministers have been accused of ignoring the plight of the homeless as new figures showed a sharp rise in the number of people sleeping rough on the streets of England.

Local authorities estimated on a single night in autumn 2016 there were 4,134 rough sleepers compared to 3,569 the previous year - an increase of 16% - according to figures compiled by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The number of people sleeping rough is now more than double the number there were in 2010 when it was estimated at 1,768.

For Labour, shadow housing secretary John Healey described the figures as a "national scandal" and said Government policies were to blame for the increase.

"It is a national scandal that in England in the 21st century the number of people forced to sleep rough on our streets is spiralling upwards - and this is only the tip of the iceberg," he said.

"These figures are a terrible reminder of the consequences of Conservative ministers' seven years of failure on housing."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the figures were an "utter disgrace".

"Britain is one of the richest places on earth. It is a stain on our nation's conscience that thousands of people are still sleeping rough on the streets every night," he said.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, called on the Government to come together with charities and local authorities to tackle the problem.

"Behind these statistics are thousands of desperate people, sleeping in doorways, bin shelters, stations and parks - anywhere they can find to stay safe and escape the elements," he said.

"Rough sleeping ruins lives, leaving people vulnerable to violence and abuse, and taking a dreadful toll on their mental and physical health. This is no way for anyone to live."

A DCLG spokesman said the Government was currently funding projects in 225 local authorities to help rough sleepers and people who were at risk of becoming homeless.

"This Government is determined to help the most vulnerable in society, which is why we're investing £550 million to 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping," the spokesman said.

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