PEOPLE have been warned to look out for aggressive begging by drug users at this year's Victorian Christmas Fayre.

Worcester Cares, which brings together groups such as Maggs Day Centre, St Paul's Hostel, Worcester BID and West Mercia Police, is advising business owners and the public to be smarter when approached by beggars in the hope they can give help to the people who really need it.

They stress most people begging are not homeless but drug users, some of whom come to the city by train for the fayre, which starts tomorrow.

Homeless charities in the city say the "overwhelming majority" of people who beg on the streets do so in order to buy hard drugs, particularly crack cocaine and heroin, and super-strength alcoholic beers and ciders.

They are calling on business owners and the police to coordinate to identify people who really need help, alert the relevant groups who can help, deter those who enter the city to beg and provide an opportunity for the public to respond in other ways.

Jonathan Sutton, CEO of St Paul's Hostel, said: “Put simply we are asking the public to give wisely.

"The link is between begging and drug and alcohol misuse, not homelessness and begging, nor even homelessness and drugs.

"We must not demonise people who are addicted yet we must strengthen the message that these highly addictive drugs cause an extreme deterioration in people’s health and even death."

Worcester Cares say most people begging are not individuals in temporary difficulties, but people who are dependent on a begging income. This is almost certainly to fund a serious drug habit.

A report from the group, which brings together St Paul’s Hostel and Maggs Day Centre, police, businesses, churches, Worcester BID and Worcester City Council, said: "There is no need to beg on the streets of Worcester in 2019.

"It is an urban myth that if you have no address, you cannot claim benefits.

"This simply isn’t true.

"Meanwhile, there are services where homeless people can get food, clothing and support such as St Paul’s Hostel, Maggs Day Centre and a soup kitchen nearly every night.

"Many people asking for your money are caught up in a desperate cycle of begging from the public, ‘scoring’ drugs from a dealer and then taking these drugs.

"There are many services seeking to help people sleeping rough. Please work with them, not against them."

Inspector Dave Troth from West Mercia Police said: "We want Worcester to be a safe place for everyone and will work with our partners to identify those in genuine need, offer them help to get off the street but we will not tolerate aggressive begging.

"Last year we saw an increase in people begging and some came from far afield outside the county, often by train."

Worcester Cares' research comes from national police data including Thames Reach’s outreach teams, who estimate that 80 per cent of people begging do so to support a drug habit, and secondly, when the Metropolitan Police did drug testing of people arrested for begging, the figures indicated that between 70 and 80 per cent tested positive for Class A drugs.

Most recently, in a police crackdown in Birmingham on begging in autumn 2013, every single one of the 40 people arrested failed a drug test.

The most recent evidence, published in July 2015, showed that fewer than one in five people arrested for begging in England and Wales in 2014 were homeless, according to police figures obtained by BBC Breakfast.

Freedom of information figures from 34 of 43 police forces showed 1,002 people arrested for begging in 2014, of whom only 199 were legally defined as homeless.

Most people begging have accommodation of sorts, either a hostel place or a flat or bed-sit.