THE full scale and long-term nature of deaths among the homeless residents of an East Lancashire borough has been exposed.

On October last year the Lancashire Telegraph revealed that eight people without a permanent roof over the heads died from accidents, overdoses and diseases in Blackburn with Darwen – the second highest rate in the country.

Now a council document has revealed that the borough has been in the worst five nationwide for homeless deaths for six years with 42 dying since 2013.

The consistently high death toll is revealed in the local authority's new 'Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Strategy 2020 to 2025' which outlines measures to get people off the streets and out of hostels and bed-sit houses and into permanent, safe accommodation.

Cllr Mustafa Desai, Blackburn with Darwen Council's adult social care boss, said: "This is indeed an alarming statistic. It is something to do with the high number of homeless people in the borough. This is a very challenging problem."

Cllr John Slater, leader of the council's Conservative group, said: "I am really concerned about this high death rate among the borough's homeless. This strategy is a good start but it is not the complete solution."

The document says: "Blackburn with Darwen has one of the highest rates of death amongst the homeless population with eight recorded deaths in 2018.

"This places us the second highest in the UK; and in the top five consistently since 2013.

"Recorded deaths are not just for those sleeping on the streets: it also includes those that were living in direct access hostels and Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

"The borough has over 800 bed-spaces in HMO’s of which 550 are in eight large HMO’s close to Blackburn town centre.

"This is an over-supply compared to our population with approximately three times the places available in comparable towns across the UK.

"The quality of such accommodation and the support offered is also a concern reflected in the importance placed on holding the owners of such properties to account in this strategy."

Last month the council was given £360,000 by the government to improve support for the homeless and vulnerable including providing or improve dozens of properties.

The new strategy proposes to prevent and relieve homelessness; limit the use of bed and breakfast placements by creating suitable temporary accommodation; reduce the levels of rough sleeping; and address the over-supply of HMOs, closing those posing a risk to residents.

The document reveals that the number of rough sleepers on the borough's streets has risen from two in 2017 to 15 in 2018 and 21 in 2019.

Cllr Desai said: "There are some people who do not wish to accept offers of accommodation for reasons such as addiction or mental health but we have got new government money to help tackle these issues."