Would more help with getting a job make the biggest difference to homeless people in 2015?

Monday, 18 August 2014 - 10:40am

With only 1 in 10 homeless clients in paid employment, one strong theme in our manifesto consultation is the need for more support to find and keep a job.

Six weeks ago we launched our ‘Make the Difference 2015’ campaign, asking our members and people with experience of homelessness what their top ask would be for the next Government to help end homelessness. 

Since then we’ve had hundreds of ideas from our members and our champions’ network. Some controversial, many challenging, and all setting an ambitious commitment for whoever assumes power in May 2015.

It’s perhaps not surprising that more effective support around employment is the top of many people’s list. 

Employment has long been seen as a key route out of homelessness but while we know many people experiencing homelessness want to work, we are still a way off from making this a reality. In recent research we found less than 10% people in homelessness services are in employment.

Some of the ideas you’ve provided so far show the sorts of things which could make a difference. Ideas have focussed both on the action needed to help people into work in the first place, but also steps needed to make those jobs sustainable. 

Ideas you’ve suggested:

  • more investment in pre-employment training schemes for homeless people which recognise the distance many individuals are from the labour market; 
  • a stronger focus on employment options for young homeless people;
  • an end to benefit sanctions and; 
  • tackling some of the underlying problems with today’s employment market such as zero hours contracts and ensuring all employers pay a living wage. 

Employment has also been a major theme from our workshops with our champions groups. Individuals have shared the frustrations of pre-employment programmes which have failed to take into account both their homelessness situation but also the skills and strengths they do have.

They spoke of having to attend schemes with the ‘promise of a job’ only to find those jobs are non- existent or 50 miles away from their accommodation – a particular issue in some of the more rural areas we went to. They said things like travel costs were never considered but put many opportunities out of reach. 

Those who have been homeless were keen to see more apprenticeships and training courses which equipped them with more useful skills for work.  They wanted to see more personalised support from Job Centres which they felt had been cut back. One young person suggested a fast track pathway into accommodation for those finding work whilst in living in a hostel, as their wages cannot meet the rent.

This month, we hosted a workshop with colleagues from the Government, alongside those from frontline services, to discuss what needs to be in place to help more homeless people successfully find and maintain a job. 

Many of the ideas we discussed chimed with those coming through from our consultation so far.  Greater investment both in pre-employment programmes, and ‘in-work’ support for those who’ve newly entered it, were two of the issues people felt were currently missing. 

What was also clear was that any future political commitments around employment have to come had in hand with other changes to welfare, housing affordability, health and all the other issues which will impact on whether someone can find and maintain a job.

As we look towards the 2015 election we can be sure that there will be a strong focus on jobs from all parties. If you think action around employment should be among our key asks, please tell us your ideas online, tweet using #thedifference2015 or if you’re a Homeless Link member come to one of the remaining local events which are running until September. 

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Helen Mathie

Helen Mathie

Head of policy and communications

Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.