Work Programme is not working for homeless people

26 Nov 2012 01:14 PM

Many homeless people are being failed by the government’s flagship Work Programme says a new report from Crisis, Homeless Link and St Mungo’s, with the charities calling for urgent reform.

The Programme’s Not Working draws upon surveys and interviews conducted by the three homelessness charities. It found that homeless people are being failed by the Work Programme.

Findings from the report:

  • 58 per cent of those surveyed were not asked about the barriers to work that they face, and Jobcentre Plus is not identifying homeless people eligible for additional Work Programme support

    Rory, homeless for several years said: “The action plan does not consider the problems I have with addiction issues or offending and physical health issues.”
  • 58 per cent said they were not treated with dignity or respect

    Michael, a former long-term rough sleeper said: “It has been a very patronising service. When I attended a mandatory computer course I was told off in front of the class and the tutor made me cry. I don’t expect to be treated this way.”
  • 54 per cent saw their advisor less than once a month

    Jack believes that his Work Programme provider has treated him “very poorly – meant to be helping me back to work, appalling that they are waiting four months to see me again.”
  • 22 per cent had their benefits sanctioned

    Sam, who wants to work in construction was advised to come off Job Seekers Allowance and register as self-employed: “They said I would get help and my benefits wouldn't get cut off, but that's not how it went -  it put me in jeopardy for three or four weeks. My housing benefit was cut off, my JSA stopped....I was misguided."

While the report acknowledges “occasional glimpses of hope where individual advisors are working hard to provide personalised support”, it also says there are few examples of people with an experience of homelessness who have been helped into employment by the Work Programme - “in practice this is not happening.”

The report calls for Jobcentre Plus staff to identify and assess claimants who are homeless more effectively and provide a better standard of service for them, including through working with charities that already have specialist experience and successful track records of helping homeless people back into work.

Charities “subsidising the Work Programme”

The report says homelessness charities are effectively subsidising the Work Programme, as they continue to help homeless people to move into employment because the contracted providers are not giving them the help that they need. The majority of these charities helped hundreds of homeless people into work, but received no Work Programme funding for this.

The report says: “The perverse consequence of this is that when charities support homeless people into work, without themselves being part of the Work Programme, the Prime Contractor will ultimately be paid thousands of pounds for a job outcome they did not contribute towards. This is a terrible waste of taxpayer’s money.”

One of the case studies in The Programme’s Not Working that demonstrates this is Tom. During six months on the Work Programme he saw his advisor just three times. After attending Crisis for regular job coaching sessions he started work as a painter at the charity’s Bermondsey centre. The Work Programme provider asked for confirmation of this employment so they could get paid for this ‘result’ – that Crisis and the client had worked for alone.

The government must take action now to ensure that homeless people get the correct support to move towards sustainable employment and that the work that homelessness organisations deliver is recognised and rewarded.

Leslie Morphy, Crisis Chief Executive, says: “We know that work is an effective route out of homelessness and that homeless people do want to work. Our biggest concern is that in its current form the Work Programme is not reaching people who are furthest from the job market. We urge the Government to find ways to make sure thousands of people whose lives have already been devastated by homelessness are not written off for good.”

Charles Fraser, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, says: “Too many of the people who we work with are being failed badly and, without immediate action, that will continue to happen. We know from experience that many homeless people need a second chance to get skills and a job. As charitable agencies, we want the Work Programme to work for homeless people. Specialist, individual support is what will make the difference.”

Rick Henderson, Homeless Link Chief Executive, says: “Charities should not be subsidising the Work Programme. There must be a different approach for those who want to work but face the most severe barriers to finding and staying in employment. Things need to change and our members want to help the Work Programme to provide a service that truly meets the needs of homeless people.”