MORE than 6,000 approaches have been made to Worcester City Council from people at risk of homelessness over the last five years, it has emerged.

The number of people claiming they are at risk of rough sleeping is running at around 1,200 a year in the city, shock stats have revealed.

Under-pressure council officials have taken the step of putting some of the blame on private landlords, saying too many of them are not flexible enough for tenants getting into money problems.

Since April 2011 to the end of March last year there were 6,054 approaches to the council's housing advisors from people worried about being homeless.

Even more worryingly more than half of them - some 3,359 - were from families rather than single people.

Most of them end up finding alternative help from family or friends after getting advice but last year 135 were formally accepted as being 'statutory homeless', meaning taxpayers had to fork out for expensive temporary accommodation like B&Bs.

Since 2013 493 people have had to be found emergency accommodation, the figures reveal.

It comes at a time when homelessness campaigners have voiced serious concern over people sleeping out in the city.

Last July one homeless man, Cardon Banfield, was found dead in a tent along the riverside after a cricket club steward found his decomposed body.

The plight of rough sleeping was debated during a city council scrutiny meeting where councillors voiced concern about it.

Rosey Badham, from the housing advice team, said: "We are using a range of different prevention methods when people approach us and it really is done on a case-by-case basis.

"Officers sit down and think 'how can I help this person', often it's about thinking outside the box, sometimes it may be seeing if family and friends can help, or it may be talking to private landlords and negotiating them.

"The biggest issue for us in recent years has been an unwillingness by private landlords to do that, at a time when reforms have been made to welfare."

Cllr Pat Agar told them she was concerned about anecdotal evidence on increasing numbers of rough sleepers around Worcester during Christmas.

Cllr Lucy Hodgson insisted she was not being "flippant", and asked: "Do you feel there might be an attraction, that we do homelessness almost 'too well' in the city?"

She cited the city being a magnet for rough sleepers in the county because of services like St Paul's Hostel.

Officers replied by saying they have done research with rough sleepers in Worcester coming from outside the city and nobody cited the services being a factor - but all of them pointed to it being a nice place to live.

Ben Bradley, another homelessness prevention worker, told the committee the last 'rough sleeper count' in the autumn found 10 people out in the city centre.