Preventing benefit sanctions together

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 - 10:31am

Can a good relationship with Job Centre Plus prevent benefit sanctions? We are running events to help find out.

With so many changes brought about by welfare reform, it is becoming increasingly challenging for homelessness organisations and the clients they serve to navigate through benefits systems. Welfare reform aims to simplify the benefits systems - but things are likely to get worse before they get better.

People experiencing homelessness are more likely to receive sanctions to their benefits, the consequences of which are severe with sanctions affecting housing, wellbeing and the services that work with them. Sanctions often undo the hard work of homelessness services, and staff are spending increasing amounts of time managing clients’ benefits claims with less time to spend on other aspects of support.

Where homelessness services work together with Job Centre Plus (JCP), sanctions can be prevented as there is an increased understanding of the barriers faced by people experiencing homelessness. Some services do work well with JCP - but joint working is often dependent on personal relationships with individual JCP advisors.

Building stronger relationships

In partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Homeless Link piloted a Working Together event which brought together JCP and homelessness service staff with the aim of facilitating networking and increasing joint working between organisations. The event, which took place last at a London  Job Centre, and was attended by 35 JCP staff and 35 Homelessness sector staff.

The event included speakers - from both the DWP and the homelessness sector - who broached difficult subjects such as sanctions and the work programme and ensured that everyone in the room understood both side’s priorities and perspectives. As one attendee put it, “It was good to get the elephant out of the room”. Real common ground was found by everybody when David Ford, former Chair of Homeless Link’s expert panel, talked about his experience of claiming Job Seekers Allowance while homeless and his journey into employment.

The event also included table discussions on joint working, and plenty of opportunities for networking. By meeting one another in person, JCP and homelessness sector staff were able to understand each other’s priorities, make personal contacts and build trust. By working together in group discussion sessions, attendees came up with potential solutions and actions to take forward. They also discussed ways to develop joint working practices  and form stronger bonds - such as having a single point of contact and reciprocal training.

As one JCP attendee said: “I will raise the consequences of sanctions and the issues faced by homeless claimants among JCP front line advisers. I will encourage them to forge relationships with local homelessness organisations. I will also encourage JCP advisers to take into account issues faced by claimants when signing commitments.”

The event concluded with commitments from both the DWP and homelessness services to develop better joint working between the homelessness sector and JCP. 

More events across England

Homeless Link will be running more Working Together events across England, to help homelessness services recognise the opportunities as well as the consequences of welfare reform by working collaboratively and preventatively with JCP.

Changes such as the claimant commitment offer more personalised support to claimants, and JCP staff are able and willing to work together and recognise the support of homelessness services. Now is the time to develop these relationships, and to help JCP understand the barriers experienced by homeless people.

To sign-up, visit our events page

Welfare Aware: resources for you and your clients

We've collected these resources to help you prepare - including information about the changes, practical online guidance for you and your clients, and examples of how other organisations are preparing.Resources from DWP can be found here


A high cost to pay 2013: Impact of benefit sanctions

Our 2013 research into sanctions and homeless people indicated that clients of homelessness services are at greater risk of being sanctioned. It found a third of homeless people on Job Seekers Allowance had had benefits reduced or stopped, which is disproportionately higher than the general population.


Talk To Us

Lucy Fraser-Macnamara

South East London Partnership Homelessness Coordinator

Lucy worked alongside Homeless Link's Strategy and Partnerships team until December 2014. She is now Homelessness Coordinator for South East London Housing Partnership.