A SENIOR cabinet minister stressed the need to work with voluntary groups to tackle rough sleeping.

David Lidington MP, minister for the cabinet office, told the Daily Echo it was key the government talked to local authorities and charities for guidance on national policies to tackle homelessness.

The senior Conservative politician met with Bournemouth council officers, elected members and representatives from some charitable groups yesterday.

He also spoke to a user of the support services.

“I was able to get a snapshot of what is happening here in Bournemouth,” Mr Lidington said.

“What was encouraging was to hear from one of the service users of St Mungo's about the difference that has been made to her life by the Housing First funds and approach of bringing together different services in support of people sleeping rough on the streets.

“There are clearly, and both the council and St Mungo's were open about this, ongoing challenges and it’s important we in central government talk to authorities like Bournemouth, to charities like St Mungo's, establish what things work, what things don’t work so well, so we give national policy support to the things that are going to work at the sharp end.”

Mr Lidington chairs the government’s rough sleeping and homelessness reduction taskforce, with the target of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it by 2027.

“What I have seen and heard today is accounts from the voluntary organisations who have been working with homeless people and rough sleepers for many years, about good cooperation with the local authority and I think it is important local authorities, not just in Bournemouth, really work with voluntary organisations who have got this experience,” Mr Lidington said.

“It takes a special man or woman to commit their working lives to going out and helping people who are rough sleepers,” Mr Lidington added.

“With the best will in the world, as the lady who had been sleeping rough told me today, sometimes these are people who have a lot of anger about them, who don’t trust any sort of authority or official body at all and are difficult to get to know and to get to trust you.

“I think working through St Mungo's and through other homelessness charities is a good way in which to give effective support.”

Bournemouth council recently secured £387,000 to aid rough sleeping support services. Cllr John Beesley, leader of the council, said dealing with rough sleeping is a “very big challenge”.

He said: “What I would like to emphasise is it is in part seasonal, but also that we have some very dedicated people, a number of them are Bournemouth council officers, but plenty of others from St Mungo's, Shelter and elsewhere.”

He added: “I think the comparison with what the town would be like if they weren’t so successful with the work they do would be stark indeed.”