The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a £3m project that will see Jobcentre staff providing homeless people with advice on finding work.
The scheme will involve Jobcentre staff joining outreach teams to go out onto the streets to help rough sleepers access benefits, open bank accounts and get into work.
The DWP said the funding, which will be delivered in 2020-21, will also allow Jobcentre employees to spend more time working with charities and other organisations that work with homeless people, with some of the money going towards existing projects with homelessness charities.
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The announcement was welcomed by Robyn Casey, senior policy and public affairs officer at homelessness charity St Mungos, who said sleeping on the streets can make it difficult for people to access services vital to securing work. “As well as not having a safe place to stay, some people may also not have a bank account or ID to help them access welfare and job opportunities,” she said.
“In addition, many people who are sleeping rough have faced some trauma in their lives to reach that point, so could be experiencing mental or physical health problems.”
Finding work is a “very positive step” for many homeless people, Casey said. But other factors – such as securing affordable housing and long-term support for any health issues – needed addressing before an individual could access stable work, she added.
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Figures released at the end of last year showed there were 263,720 households in England given support from local authorities because they were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the year to April 2019.
Of these, some 71,210 (27 per cent) households included one or more individual who was in work. This prompted calls for employers to better support those at risk of in-work poverty and homelessness.
“As people face mounting pressures such as housing costs and financial insecurity, responsible employers can play a role in preventing these pressures from turning into a crisis,” said Jessica Rose, employment campaign manager at Business in the Community.
Commenting on the DWP announcement, Will Quince, minister for welfare delivery, said the funding would help homeless people: “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 closer working with homelessness charities.”