GOVERNMENT policy changes have led to increased intervention with possible cases of homelessness in Pendle.

Over the course of last year, council officers dealt with 130 enquiries related to homelessness.

But government legislation changed earlier this year, extending the definition of ‘threatened with homelessness’ from 28 days to 56 days.

And so far this year, the council has dealt with 272 homelessness enquiries.

The council's housing, health and economic development services manager, Julie Whittaker, said: “Whilst people do sleep rough from time to time, historically, it has tended to be for a very short period of time eg a few days, and then the person has been helped into alternative accommodation or resolved their housing issues themselves.

“It appears however that over the last couple of years that this, most visual expression of homelessness, has been more prevalent, whether rough sleeping itself, or more commonly, street begging.

“It should be noted that not all of those begging are found to actually be homeless.

“The council’s housing needs and community safety services seek to offer help to anyone rough sleeping or begging whether via help to secure accommodation, multi-agency support panels such as Transforming Lives, and referring to community-based agencies who are able to offer assistance.

“However, unfortunately not all rough sleepers and beggars choose to engage with council services and accept help.

“Sadly, on occasion, there have also been issues with some people begging aggressively or causing a nuisance and where such inappropriate behaviour occurs, the council will, if need be, take steps to address this issue such as through community protection notices.”

Pendle, along with other councils in East Lancs, conducts an annual count of people sleeping rough on the borough's streets.

Over the last two years, no people have been found sleeping rough during these counts.

Ms Whittaker added: "[Figures suggest] that rough sleeping is broadly not a major issue in Pendle although the evaluation is limited in that is a ‘snapshot’ of one night only, rough sleeping numbers may vary on a daily basis.

"People sleeping rough may seek places to sleep which are hidden from view of agencies working in the area.

"It should be noted that even if an actual ‘street’ count occurred, officers would not be able to check all areas of the borough due to the potential dangers of checking particular desolate areas during the middle of the night or being able to check buildings and allotments as there is risk of trespassing.

"Hence, any evaluation of levels of rough sleeping undertaken would always have limitations although it is anecdotally believed that there is probably between one and three people sleeping rough on any one night in Pendle."