Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Charity begins at home - new action to get homeless into work

Charity begins at home - new action to get homeless into work

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (222) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 11 September 2008

A major new initiative to help give the chance of a job to more people who have experienced homelessness is being announced today by Housing Minister Caroline Flint.

Homeless charities, led by Thames Reach, are joining forces with the Government to deliver a new ambition to employ at least 10 per cent of their workforce from ex-homeless people.

The new plan, backed by £200,000 of investment, will help around 800 people to find work in the voluntary sector over the next 2 years. The initiative will focus on the 46 biggest homeless organisations before moving on to other smaller charities across England.

Under the scheme homeless charities will be given a bespoke consultancy service to help them employ ex-homeless people. The charities will get support to set up training courses across many areas of their business, including IT, finance and client counselling.

Often ex-homeless people are best placed to support homeless people, through drawing on their own experiences. This can help end the revolving door of homelessness and avoid a return to the streets.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said:

"Finding a job after a period of inactivity and without a permanent address can be one of the hardest things for any of us to do and for the homeless this can prove to be a daunting task.

"I want to see homelessness organisations across the country taking up the challenge and unlocking the skills and talents of people to the benefit of all. " Thames Reach Director of Operations John Crowther said;

"The homelessness sector must put its money where its mouth is. If we are saying that homeless people shouldn't be left to rot, and that many people have the potential to get back into work, let's lead the way by employing them in our own organisations.

"The business case is clear and we've proved that cost-savings and improvements in quality of service can be made. This is more than getting numbers down, this is about raising homeless people's aspirations, showing them first-hand that financial independence, and the opportunities this brings, is achievable. Everybody wins from this and no one ends up back on the street."

This programme will be one of the measures that will form part of the Government's updated rough sleeping strategy to be released later this year, aiming to drive down rough sleeping further to as close to zero as possible. New annual figures show a continued fall in the number of rough sleepers to 483, on any given night - a 74 per cent reduction from the 1,850 figure in 1998, and sustaining the Government's commitment to reduce rough sleeping by two thirds.

Jessica was sleeping rough before she came to Thames Reach where she now works as a learning assistant.

Jessica said:

"I am now back at Thames Reach on a permanent contract as a Learning and Development Assistant and have just passed my probationary review. I have applied for a mentor in order to explore my long-term career goals. After over two years back in the workplace, I finally feel that I am recovering from the shock of my homeless experience and am beginning to believe in myself and my many abilities. I love where I work; I have a large circle of friends and an active social life. I am allowing myself to be me, because being me is actually okay.

Thames Reach accepted me, taught me and gave me opportunities, and emotional and practical support. In return, I try to do the best job I can."

New national statistics released today show great strides have been made in cutting homelessness with the number of those accepted as homeless having been halved since the same time five years ago. As a result of sustained investment, (which will amount to over £400million by 2011), the statistics also show the number of households living temporary accommodation has fallen by more than 10,000 since this time last year.

Background

* In 1998 the Prime Minister set the target that by 2002 the number of rough sleepers should be reduced by two thirds (from 1,850). This target was met in 2001 and has been sustained with a level of under 500 in 2008 and the Government is committed to reducing levels of rough sleeping to as close to zero as possible.

* The National Rough Sleeping Estimate for 2008 shows there are 483 people sleeping rough on the streets of England on any single night.

* An updated Rough Sleeping Strategy will be published later this year and will outline the actions the Government will take to further reduce the number of people sleeping rough on the streets.

* The aim of the National GROW Programme is to change the culture of the homelessness sector in England so that it fully embraces employing service users. It has widespread support across the sector, including Tyneside Cyrenians, St George's Crypt in Leeds, Brighton Housing Trust, Look Ahead, Salvation Army, De Paul.

* CLG is keen to support a wider roll out and will be providing £100K funding in 08/09 and 09/10 with match funding from Thames Reach.

* Over the past three years, Thames Reach has gone through a culture change as an organisation so it is able to employ current and former service users. As a result they have exceeded their target of having over 10% of its workforce having an experience of homelessness.

* Thames Reach is one of the largest homelessness charities in the UK, employing over 400 people.

                         Household acceptances (during 2nd quarter)
                                            2003       2008
      ENGLAND                              34,090     15,680 



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