Rough sleepers have rocketed in number on Swindon’s streets over the last year, as the local authority and charities struggle to cope with demands on their services.

The most recent government numbers show that there were 45 rough sleepers in the town this winter, a 60 per cent rise on the previous year.

With one rough sleeper recorded for every 2,080 households in Swindon, the town has double the rate of the south west as a whole. The England average is one rough sleeper per 5,000 households.

Graeme Willis, the chief executive of local homelessness charity Threshold, said: “I think it’s a perfect storm between increased demand and reduced resources.

“We’ve seen cuts to the number of bed spaces across the country, the introduction of Universal Credit, which has delayed getting payments, and reliance on private sector landlords to meet the housing requirements in the country.

“Universal Credit is having a big impact on private landlords, who just aren’t willing to accept such large arrears.

“There are some significant things there with the lack of support that people get when they come out of prison – people are being released to the streets. They may give an address, and it may be somebody’s sofa, but that breaks down quickly.”

While highlighting that the problem was common across the country – the number of rough sleepers in England has doubled since 2012 – Graeme also said Swindon’s high rate is inflated by other factors.

He said: “We are starting to see people coming in from other areas as well. Probably 20 per cent of the people on the street are from outside of the area – and that’s unusual.

“All regions are seeing this issue, and other cities in the south west are at capacity.”

Graeme said he believes that meaningful change can be made by local authorities, but it required an overarching strategy to encourage different departments and teams to tackle to problem together.

With the Homelessness Reduction Act due to come into force in April, local authorities will be required to develop a housing plan for anyone facing homelessness.

Of Swindon’s 45 recorded rough sleepers – counted in November 2017 – 39 were UK nationals, and two were from other EU countries. The nationality of four was unknown. 38 were male, and the majority were aged over 25.

A spokesman for Swindon Borough Council said: “The number of rough sleepers in Swindon has been rising over the last few years, but this is a situation that has been reflected across the country.

“Although 45 people were recorded as sleeping rough last November, those numbers have reduced considerably and we estimate that figure to be around 27 at the present time.

“Many of the rough sleepers that we deal with have a range of issues. This could be a deterioration in mental health often linked to a significant life circumstance.

"This, coupled with substance misuse and/or alcohol dependency leads to a loss of contact with friends and family, loss of employment and overall a loss of any structure to their lives.

“We are working hard with our partners, including through our Temporary Winter Housing Project, to bring services together to combat the many causes of homelessness.

“As well as this temporary intensive project, the council supports an all year round provision for the single homeless. This is mainly achieved through five key supported housing schemes that specialise in street homeless, offenders, young people, and those suffering from domestic abuse.

“The council awards funding of £1.4 million a year to support these schemes as well as housing individuals within our own housing stock.”