Charity groups heard how homelessness across Norfolk is increasing while around 18,000 people now earn below the living wage.

Norwich Evening News: Sue Whitaker, who spoke at the meeting. Picture: Matthew Usher.Sue Whitaker, who spoke at the meeting. Picture: Matthew Usher. (Image: © Archant Norfolk 2014)

Representatives from a variety of organisations spoke at the social justice conference in Norwich on Monday about the challenges faced by those experiencing social depravation.

The event, held at the King's Centre on King Street, aimed to examine the major issues facing communities and encourage greater co-operation between local charities.

Jan Sheldon, chief executive officer of the homeless charity St Martins Housing Trust, said more than 20,000 people are homeless in the East of England.

She told the audience that Norwich and King's Lynn saw the biggest increase in rough sleepers between 2015/16 and 2016/17 where the figures increased from 13 to 34 and five to 42, respectively.

She said a 20pc reduction in social housing since 2011, combined with benefit reforms and a lack of affordable rents had created a 'perfect storm'.

Meanwhile, Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council, spoke about deprivation and social mobility.

He said Norwich was the 47th most deprived area out of 326 in the UK, and ranked the 30th lowest for social mobility.

His figures also revealed Norwich is above the England average (14.4pc) for child poverty at 29pc.

In regard to healthy life expectancy - the period lived without serious ill health - Mr Waters said it ranged from 55 years in the Mancroft area of the city to 71 years in Eaton.

Other speakers included Future Projects' chief executive officer, Daniel Childerhouse, who spoke about the living wage.

He said: 'In Norwich, we have a particular situation with low pay. 25pc of workers earn below the living wage, which is around 18,000 people.'

Meanwhile, Sue Whitaker, former chair of Norfolk County Council's adult social care committee, talked about the lack of funding in social care.

She said the three main reasons why people requested help from social services were loneliness, dementia and loss of mobility.

She said according to a report, the health impact of loneliness is the equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Local charities were asked to carry out follow-up activities following the conference to strengthen future collaboration.

Click here for a programme and delegates' directory from the conference.