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Why the right housing support is important

7 October 2015

Homeless Link research manager Francesca Albanese talks about why the right housing support is important for improving employment outcomes

Loss of employment is not only one of the triggers of homelessness, but once someone loses their home it is difficult for them to access suitable, accessible and sustainable work. Employment can act as a catalyst for improving wellbeing and self-esteem but a stable home is critically important for achieving this. Levels of employment among homeless people are low. Research undertaken by Homeless Link, the national membership body working for organisations working directly with people who experience homelessness in England, found that only 14% of clients reported being in paid employment and a further 34% were in education or training.

Scrabble letters spelling out employment linked wordsWhen someone has no home or is living in unstable or temporary accommodation, maintaining or looking for work and training can be very difficult.  Homelessness can also create or exacerbate a broad range of other issues which act as barriers to employment. These include mental and physical ill health, substance misuse, learning difficulties, offending and being a victim of violent crime. In a recent audit of the health needs among single homeless people, 45% said they were prevented from taking part in training, volunteering or working due to ill health.

There are also issues with the type of work that people re-entering the labour market are able to access – often low paid and temporary or zero contract hours. A longitudinal study of homeless people’s experience of finding and staying in work found that the end of temporary/casual contracts was one of the biggest reasons for falling out of work. Further, the lack of affordable accommodation available to people trying to move out of homelessness often makes it difficult for them to enter low paid jobs without risking getting into debt and financial insecurity.

Despite the barriers, many people experiencing homelessness want to work and there are a number of positive ways in which people can be supported to do this. Whilst employment support provided by many homelessness agencies is a relatively recent addition to the range of support provision available, we see a number of practical ways our members help people make the transition back into employment. These include one to one career planning and coaching sessions, job brokering directly with employers, vocational and skills training, business start-up help and mentoring and confidence building.

Though there are a number of effective ways the homelessness sector is supporting their clients back into work, more needs to be done to accompany this. Building better links between employers, services and clients to develop post-employment support is one area that would help promote more sustainable work outcomes. More tailored support from mainstream employment schemes like the Work Programme should recognise that people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness may require housing support including tenancy sustainment, resettlement into secure accommodation and disclosing housing circumstances to potential employers. In addition, many people within homelessness services experience multiple and complex needs. Specialist provision for jobseekers with these needs should be commissioned and better integrated with housing agencies to best support people often called the ‘hardest to help’. Making these changes could enable more people with acute housing needs to find and sustain employment and prevent a rise in homelessness.

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