With the Homelessness Reduction Act aiming to re-focus Local Housing Authority (LHA) work to preventing homelessness, effective multi-agency partnerships will become more important than ever.
Hardship payments to be available immediately to JSA claimants who are homeless
Universal Credit claimants who are homeless and have received a sanction already have immediate access to hardship payments. However, JSA claimants currently have to wait two weeks.
New regulations will bring parity between Universal Credit claimants and JSA claimants. The regulations will cover eligible claimants who are homeless, suffering from a mental impairment, including a mental health condition, and their partners. People who are pregnant, lone parents, and people with long term physical health conditions can already access hardship payments immediately. Citizens Advice has developed information for Universal Credit and JSA claimants on how to apply for a hardship loan, the amount that individuals can claim, and how payments are repaid.
Our previous research A High Cost to Pay found that nine in ten people had experienced food poverty as a result of being sanctioned, with the impact of sanctions actually contributing to their homelessness. Rather than motivating people to find work, sanctions were, in fact, alienating many people from engaging with job centres.
Homeless Link has been working with ministers to bring about changes to the way that sanctions are applied to people who are homeless. We welcome that these new changes have the potential to decrease the number of people experiencing severe hardship.
However, it remains important that people who are homeless are not inappropriately sanctioned in the first place. Work coaches can temporarily put job seeking requirements on hold while a person who is homeless finds accommodation (an “Easement” of conditionality). However, Homeless Link is concerned that not all work coaches are aware of this regulation or are identifying whether people are homeless.
We recommend that Government work with Job Centre Plus to ensure that staff are appropriately trained to develop their understanding of homelessness, and the issues that some of their customers face, to ensure that this “easement” is applied effectively across the country.
Given that many claimants are not aware of the existence of hardship payments, it will be important for Government and homelessness services to promote their availability, alongside the “easements” that are available to homeless people. Government should also ensure that they have mechanisms in place to monitor the impact of these changes and ensure there is the appropriate take-up.
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Chris is our policy manager with particular responsibility for a number of areas including welfare and migration.