Monday, January 20, 2020

Jobcentre staff to target homeless people in new £3m government scheme

Charities say government should focus on the root causes of homelessness and invest in the benefits system.

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Jobcentre staff are to take to the streets in a new government scheme designed to provide proactive employment support for homeless people and rough sleepers, the minister for welfare delivery Will Quince has announced.

Teams will work together with charities to locate homeless people who are currently not receiving back to work support from the Jobcentre and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Sunday Observer reports that new £3 million scheme aims to help homeless people and rough sleepers find and keep secure employment, but it is not without its critics.

Official Government statistics published in December 2019 revealed that the number of households in England who are recognised as being homeless or at risk of becoming homeless rose by 11.4% over the last 12 months.

It is also estimated that around 84,740 households were living in temporary accomodation at the end of March 2019.

This includes families housed in B&B’s, homeless hostels, and other temporary housing, and includes more than 126,000 children.

According to the homelessness charity Shelter, there are at least 320,000 homeless people in England and close to 5,000 rough sleepers.

Will Quince, the minister for welfare delivery, said: “We are determined to help anyone experiencing homelessness, and if this means getting staff out of the jobcentre to speak to people on the street directly then we will do that.

“There’s a huge amount of support available to help people who are homeless, but they often don’t know about the support they can access.

“So we’re going out and taking the help to them through outreach programmes and working more closely with homelessness charities.”

Photo credit: Pixel whippersnapper edwewwewqew via photopin (license)

Minister for Homelessness, Luke Hall said: “As Minister for Homelessness, it’s my priority to ensure that we reduce all forms of homelessness and rough sleeping.

“And while our interventions are working there is still more to do. Today’s announcement will mean homeless people get the support they need to get back on their feet and find new work.”

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, told inews: “The DWP has an important role in preventing and ending homelessness.

“It’s essential that people forced to live on our streets and in temporary accommodation face no barriers to accessing benefits that can help them into a stable and secure home. We would welcome working with the government on this.

However, he also called on government to tackle the “root causes” of homelessness by investing in housing benefit and in building more affordable homes.

“Without these people will continue to have to choose between food and rent and end up being forced into homelessness”, he said.

Photo: Alexander Baxevanis via Flickr (CC-BY)

He added that the Government’s flagship new benefit Universal Credit is making life more difficult for homeless people.

“It is paid a month in arrears meaning if people experiencing homelessness need financial support in the first month they have to pay it back.

“People also need to have a bank account and be able to use a computer.

“Those who already have somewhere to live and are not used to paying rent from a monthly budget are getting behind on their rent. We are worried about this leading to eviction and homelessness.”

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