HOMELESSNESS figures in Burnley have shot up by 60 per cent in the past 12 months as scores of young people struggle to keep a roof over their head.

Rising youth unemployment and an increase in the number of parents who cannot afford to let children live rent-free at home after finishing school have been blamed for the growing problem.

Worried homeless workers said the situation was leading to a new generation of teenage ‘sofa surfers’ forced to stay with friends or relatives on a temporary basis.

Case workers in Pendle and Rossendale say they are also dealing with more young homeless And with belts being tightened across East Lancashire, the number of parents who can afford to provide a roof over the heads of teenage sons and daughters is dropping.

In Burnley there were 224 cases, across all age groups, recorded in 2010-11 but this had leapt to 368 by 2011-12.

In the same period youth unemployment in Burnley and Pendle has risen by around 15 per cent.

Benefit rule changes, being pushed through by the government, would also withdraw housing payments to hundreds of under-25s.

And last month a report by homeless charity Shelter named Rossendale and Burnley in the top 10 areas in England most at risk of house repossessions.

Shana Clarke, the co-ordinator of Calico’s Elizabeth Street project, Burnley’s front-line homelessness service, has seen an increase in referrals over the past year.

She said: “Relationship breakdowns has always been a big reason for homelessness, but there has been an increase recently, especially surround parental evictions.

“Families are feeling the economic strain, and young people who cannot afford to contribute, and who cannot find work, are being asked to leave.

Claire Bennett, from Safe Space, a supported housing scheme in Nelson for young people, has also witnessed a steady rise in referrals.

She said: “I think the main reason for the general increase is the economic climate. More and more families are finding that they can’t afford to keep their children living at home once they leave school.

“They have to find work or they can’t afford to keep them. Overcrowding in homes is also a problem, which can lead to tension and family break-ups.

“There are lots of social issues around homelessness as well but financial pressures on the family is a major contributor.

“A lot of young people don’t realise how close they are to being homeless. They see it as a city problem, which is why we go into schools and raise awareness.

“They don’t recognise the issues, we see a lot of problems around sofa-surfing and people don’t realise that really they are homeless.

“They could be getting help but they don’t realise the situation they are in.”

An increased allocation of £127,000 in government cash was given to Burnley at the start of this year to help tackle the problem with £99,000 given to Pendle and £85,000 to Rossendale.

And an extra £48,000 has been awarded to Burnley by the Department of Communities and Local Government for further work, including the provision of an advice desk, to be located at the town’s county court.

Wilma Waddingham. Burnley Council’s housing advice manager, said: “Due to the current financial climate, many more households are currently at risk of losing their homes than in previously years.”

Supporters of Safe Space also said that by offering counselling in schools they have managed to reduce the number of 16 and 17-year-olds they are dealing with.

The Elizabeth Street shelter has also had some success as one of the few providers of supported accommodation for over-25s in the North West.

Kevin Brown, 20, who has been supported by East Lancashire homeless charity Nightsafe, said: “When I left home I just wanted to stand on my own two feet but I soon found I had nowhere else to go.

“Over the years I have suffered from depression and I know I have involved myself with the wrong people but now I am getting my life in order and the support of the charity has been brilliant.”