Homeless people living in the UK should be given free access to PO boxes to ensure they receive vital communications, such as issues related to benefits and healthcare, a leading advice charity has said.
New research by Citizens Advice found that 8 out of 10 of their advisers say homeless people are finding it difficult accessing the benefits system, due to their circumstances.
The research also warns that homeless people are more succeptible to benefit sanctions because of difficulty in receiving important Jobcentre letters, such as notifications about Jobcentre meeting.
Citizens Advice is calling on Royal Mail and Post Office to allow an estimated 320,000 homeless people in Britain access to postal services through dedicated PO boxes.
The charity’s advisers also reported problems faced by homeless people in opening a bank account, as well as receiving correspondence from courts, health care services, and housing providers.
More than half of MPs surveyed by Citizens Advice (54%) said homeless people in their constituency have struggled to access essential services because they don’t have a fixed address.
Citizens Advice says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, should carry out a review of homeless people’s access to post and how it can be improved.
Citizens Advice is recommending two potential solutions:
- A free PO box-type system should be established for homeless people. This would give them an address to put on applications and allow them to pick up their post from one of Royal Mail’s 1,350 delivery offices.
- An adjusted form of Poste Restante – a system that allows you to have your post sent to and collected from one of the country’s 11,500 post office branches – for homeless people. At the moment, the Post Office requires proof of address to sign up, but Citizens Advice is calling for the ID requirements to be relaxed for homeless people.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “With Christmas almost upon us, many people will be eagerly awaiting post and presents from loved ones.
“However, if you’re homeless receiving your post can mean much more – it can be the difference between sleeping rough or receiving long-awaited accommodation.
“Our recommendations provide a simple solution to this unnecessary and damaging cycle, and homeless people, their support staff, and 4 in 5 MPs agree addressing it is important.
“We’d like to see Royal Mail and Post Office trial our recommendations and work with them to end this catch-22 and help homeless people get back on their feet.”