THE number of people sleeping rough in Wales could be far more than figures suggest, the head of a homelessness charity has said.

Chief executive of Llamau Frances Beecher was speaking as part of an inquiry into rough sleeping in Wales by the Welsh Assembly's Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, which is chaired by Newport East AM John Griffiths, earlier today.

Earlier this week it was revealed there were 188 people on the streets in Wales when a count was carried out in November last year, up 33 per cent on the previous year. In Newport there were 18 rough sleepers, up from 12 the year before.

But Ms Beecher said she was "not as confident as others" about the usefulness of the figures.

"I think they give us a good idea of trends, but if we actually want to look at the level of rough sleeping which is not just on the streets, but a slightly wider definition, multiply it by more than tens," she said.

"There are a heck of a lot more people who haven't got to the services yet."

She added she believed welfare reform and government spending cuts were playing a key role in an increase in the numbers of people sleeping rough

"We are at the point where providers are being asked to do more when the funding for services and assistance is being diluted," she said.

She added: "We have to acknowledge we are causing this as a society, and when I say we I put it firmly back in London.

"I really think we've got to look at these issues and take them seriously."

Chief executive of Cardiff day centre The Huggard Centre Richard Edwards also spoke at the inquiry, and said "there is no silver bullet" to solve problems with homelessness and rough sleeping.

"We need to make sure the services are there," he said.

"The life expectancy of someone on the street is 47.

"If someone gives them a fiver their life expectancy is still 47.

"We need to make sure they can access services and we need to stop making it lucrative to be on the streets."

Other concerns raised at today's evidence sessions included the definition of "priority need" in housing legislation, which some said has led to some rough sleepers being disadvantaged, as well as support for people leaving prison with nowhere to live.

Earlier this week the Welsh Government unveiled a new two-year action plan focused on getting homeless people and rough sleepers into housing, as well as to support them with underlying issues such as debt.