THE Salvation Army, council workers and the police have joined forces in a drive to stop begging on the streets in York.

Representatives from all three will be on patrol as part of a new scheme launched yesterday to combat what they call intimidating illegal begging.

The Salvation Army is accredited to give housing advice and will be offering that to people begging on the streets, while police and council staff, who will be reminding people that begging is against the law.

Charles Malarkey, who works at York Citadel Salvation Army, said the church wanted to be there for people in need.

He said: "We are, and always have been, committed to caring for people who are vulnerable or in need. As such we are well placed to offer compassionate support, as well as practical help."

The Salvation Army members will also help people begging on the street get the right benefits advice, he added.

But City of York Council is warning that its officers will work with the Department of Work and Pensions if people caught begging are found to be already receiving social security benefits.

The scheme follows the example of Humberside police, who have seen similar projects halve the number of beggars on the streets.

North Yorkshire's Inspector Charlotte Bloxham said: “There is no reason for anyone to be begging on the streets of York. There are a number of avenues of support for these individuals should they be in true need of help.

"Begging creates an atmosphere of intimidation and those involved in this illegal activity may not portray an accurate reflection of their circumstances and your kind gesture could unwittingly support a drink or drugs habit."

Sgt Andy Godfrey add: "We are speaking to residents about donating to registered charities rather than the person on the street who is probably going to spend it on drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. We get calls about beggars daily, and the ones we have spoken to don't want to go to some place that gives out food."

City of York Council cabinet member Cllr Tracey Simpson-Laing called on people not to give to beggars but to donate to charities instead.

She said: "I understand people want to be kind and give to those begging, but there are specialist organisations who can help people off the streets and any loose change is better going to them.”