Homeless people are being handed one-way train tickets by local councils in England in a bid to move them out of their area.

Some local authorities spent more than £1,000 a year on train fares to shift rough sleepers away from their areas, according to BBC TV's Victoria Derbyshire Show.

Councils say the aim of the one way tickets is to reunite homeless people with their families, but some charities claim the real purpose is to move on the costly problem of getting rough sleepers back on their feet. This policy is known as 'reconnection'.

At least one man the programme interviewed said he was offered a ticket to a city he had never been to before.

This comes as the government said it is investing £550m ($726m) to tackle homelessness.

There were 4,134 people sleeping on the streets in England in 2016 - a 130% rise in six years, according to government data. But the charity Crisis says this is a significant underestimate.

Twenty councils with the highest number of rough sleepers in England were asked by the BBC how many homeless people had been offered 'reconnection' tickets between 2012 and 2017.

Of the 11 that responded, 10 said they had bought such tickets.

Bournemouth Borough Council, which registered 39 rough sleepers in 2016, said it had organised 144 'reconnections' in three-and-a-half years.

One homeless man from Bournemouth, Gareth Glendall-Pickton, was offered a ticket to Manchester where he did not know anyone and had never been to.

He said: "It made me feel sick. I've lived here all my life... it's soul-destroying.

"I think what they want to do is to get the homeless people out of Bournemouth, because all the new people coming to the area are seeing all those homeless people sitting there.

"[The council] see it as making Bournemouth a bad place."

Claire Matthews, who runs the local soup kitchen Hope for Food, told the BBC that the practice represented "social cleansing, and an abdication of any responsibility on [the council's] part".

Worrying findings

Manchester City Council - which had 78 rough sleepers in 2016 - said it had spent £9,928 on reconnecting homeless people in six years, but did not keep a record of how many people this involved.

In other parts of the country, Bristol City Council said it had offered 167 homeless people a one-way bus, train or plane ticket since 2014 - saying the option was only suggested if accommodation had been confirmed in the new area.

Exeter City Council spent £4,651 reconnecting 107 rough sleepers in two-and-a-half years. It added: "As a minimum a housing options appointment is set up with the local authority in the area".

The charity Homeless Link described the findings as "worrying".

Its chief executive Rick Henderson said that if "a person has a support network in a different area, then helping them reconnect can help to end their rough sleeping".

But he added: "Simply displacing rough sleepers without offering support is not solving the issue, and at worst can exacerbate their situation, leaving them more isolated and at risk of deteriorating physical and mental health."

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Even one person without a roof over their head is too many.

"That's why this government is investing £550 million to 2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, as well as implementing the Homelessness Reduction Act, which will require councils to provide early support to people at risk of becoming homeless."