A CHARITY is calling for changes to postal services to prevent homeless people from being caught in a 'catch-22' situation.

Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire wants Royal Mail to introduce a free PO Box-type system for the homeless, enabling them to receive important letters regarding banking, healthcare and housing.

The organisation estimates there are 450 homeless people in Oxfordshire each year, who it says are unable to access essential services because they lack a fixed address.

It also wants relaxed ID requirements for the Poste Restante, which allows post to be sent and collected from a post office branch.

Homeless people, support workers and several MPs have backed the recommendations.

Teresa Archer, chief executive of Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire, said: “If you’re homeless, receiving your post can be the difference between sleeping rough or receiving long-awaited accommodation. Our recommendations provide a simple solution to this unnecessary and damaging cycle, and homeless people, their support staff, and MPs agree addressing it is important.

"We’d like to see Royal Mail and Post Office trial our recommendations and work with them to end this catch-22 and help homeless people get back on their feet.”

The West Oxfordshire branch is echoing a national Citizens Advice campaign, which discovered eight in 10 homeless people find it difficult to access benefits because they lack a fixed address, according to their advisors.

A PO Box-type system would give homeless people an address to put on applications and collect post from delivery offices, the charity said. Meanwhile, the Post Office currently requires proof of address to sign up to the Poste Restante, but Citizens Advice believes this should be different for the homeless.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said the organisation had 'proactively discussed' the idea with Citizens Advice, but it needed to establish whether this would be 'a legitimate form of authentication and verification' for organisations.

They added: "Our view is that a concerted effort across a range of public and private bodies would be needed to address this issue.”

Minister for Housing and Homelessness Heather Wheeler MP said: “We will continue to engage with Citizens Advice on this work and it is encouraging to see Royal Mail and the Post Office have committed to playing their role in supporting those without a fixed address.”

In November, West Oxfordshire District Council estimated the number of rough sleepers in the district fell from seven to two in the last year.