SOUTH Essex MPs have welcomed multimillion pound Government plans to tackle homelessness.

A new law, as part of a £48million package, will come into effect obliging councils to step in and help people threatened with losing their home within 56 days.

Currently, the threat of homelessness is defined as 28 days before somebody loses their home.

Rebecca Harris, Tory MP for Castle Point, believes the change means that homeless people will receive help “much earlier than in the past.”

She said: “I was pleased to support Bob Blackman’s bill and I am thrilled that it has been passed in the House of Commons today.

“Unfortunately Homelessness is still a problem in this country and I believe that this change will help remove the barriers to support that many homeless people face.”

A recent street count conducted by the homelessness agencies and Southend Council estimated there to be 42 people living on the streets on one typical night, compared to 40 in 2015.

Southend-based homeless charity Harp currently provides a day service to approximately 250 people each month, and provides bed space for more than 150 people each night.

As of last month, Basildon Council estimated there were 17 rough sleepers in the town.

Labour critics have dismissed the change as “just words on a piece of paper.”

Jackie Doyle-Price, Tory MP for Thurrock, dismissed the criticism, adding: “At this time of year we should take time to think about those sleeping rough. Given the failure over decades to build enough housing, the result has been rising rents which leaves tenants vulnerable to landlords who can always let properties at ever increasing rents.

“Until we tackle the problem of under-supply, homelessness will be a challenge so we must make sure that local authorities are able to help those who fall on hard times.”