DEMAND for support from homeless services in East Lancashire has rocketed by 50 per cent in just a year, campaigners said.

Increased living costs coupled with benefits being axed and council cut backs have been blamed for the shock increase.

Among one of the biggest rises is with young families who cannot afford to put food on the table.

And donations are also down as generous benefactors also feel the pinch.

The Thomas Centre in Blackburn currently has more than 600 homeless registered with its drop-in centre - a rise from around 400 people since January.

And in Pendle a major campaign to hand out food parcels has been inundated with requests from working families who cannot afford to get by.

Angela Pasquill, volunteer co-ordinator at Thomas, said: “We’ve registered 204 new people since January. Day to day we have about 60 people using our services, and those numbers are increasing very rapidly.

“The economic issues are impacting on everyone – and we now have young families coming to us who can’t afford to eat. It’s just as important to offer support to them, as it is to support people living in hostels.

“This means we need more supplies and I have never seen our stocks so low. Our cupboards are half as full as they usually are.

“The kind people who do donate are perhaps only donating half as much as they did last year, because at the end of the day, they have to look after their own.

“I really don’t know how we will go on doing the work we do if the economy remains like this - we are feeling the pinch at the moment.

“Looking forwards, if numbers keep growing at the rate they currently are, then without more donations, it’s going to be difficult to find the funds to keep going.”

Thomas also provides support to people battling addiction.

Another challenge is finding enough volunteers to help cope with the increase in service users access the Drop-In.

Many of the volunteers are in recovery, having just completed THOMAS’ 12 steps programme.

Angela added: “I have to look after them too and we have to pay their travel expenses and feed them. We couldn’t do it without them but the workload is just becoming too much.”

A major campaign has taken place in Pendle to help people in need.

Nelson Town Council chairman Eileen Ansar along with local Beavers, Rainbows, Scouts and Guides, have handed out hundreds of food parcels to people struggling to make ends meet.

She said: “We have never seen such demand for help. I have never know a Christmas like it. The people that we are helping are not just those on benefits but people with jobs who just cannot afford to pay the bills and get through Christmas.”

She said parcels included tins, potatoes, vegetables, tuna, biscuits, fruit, rice pudding and treats like mince pies and Christmas puddings.