Any opinions represented within this blog are the authors and do not represent the views of ERSA.

When his flat mate suddenly moved out, Richard was left unable to pay the rent. Richard’s employer wouldn’t offer him any more hours to make up the shortfall. Richard ended up homeless, sleeping rough.
Determined to be able to send money to his family, Richard continued to work while living on the streets. The hardship of sleeping rough meant that Richard struggled to maintain the state of mind he needed to work. After an altercation with a colleague he was sacked and started to drink heavily.

Richard was attending Jobcentre Plus at this time, but the Jobcentre didn’t offer him the help he needed to address his ever increasing number of problems. Jobcentre Plus sometimes does not realise or record that a person is homeless.

Eventually Richard was found by a St Mungo’s Broadway street outreach team and moved into one of our hostels. St Mungo’s Broadway supported Richard to overcome problems with alcohol and poor mental health that were preventing him from working. We also helped him to update his CV and start a catering training course.

Richard is now on a paid work placement, has a secure roof over his head and hopes to be offered a permanent job soon.

Richard’s story is inspiring, it is also unusual. Few people who are homeless are in paid work, a recent survey of 1,904 St Mungo’s Broadway clients found that just eight percent have a job.

This isn’t good enough. Far more St Mungo’s Broadway clients could and would work if they had effective support to overcome the problems and skills gaps that are holding them back. Sanctioning ever more homeless people for failing to meet strict conditions, while ignoring their personal issues, isn’t solving the problem.

Richard was lucky to be supported by St Mungo’s Broadway’s employment team but the number of people this team can work with is limited as it relies on increasingly stretched fundraised income.

St Mungo’s Broadway, Homeless Link and Crisis have come together with the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) to create a joint briefing on supporting homeless people into work.

The recommendations in the briefing focus on vital improvements to assessment processes, programme design and the conditionality regime. These recommendations could make a real impact on the lives of people who have experienced homelessness if adopted across the next round of Department of Work and Pensions employment support contracts.

Over the coming weeks and months we aim to discuss the briefing with ministers, officials and providers. Richard’s story will remain inspiring, we want to make sure that it doesn’t remain so unusual.

Supporting homeless people into work – summary of recommendations
Better initial assessment of jobseekers’ housing needs
• Homelessness should be incorporated into the assessment framework and guidance used by Jobcentre Plus and employment support providers. This must identify an individual’s support needs in relation to housing, as well as their employability and capability to work.

Housing support offered within employment support programmes
• Housing support should be a priority area within mainstream employment support provision. This might include support around tenancy sustainment, resettlement into secure accommodation, support with disclosing housing circumstances to potential employers. This must be reflected within the commissioning process and pricing structures of employment support programmes.

• Specialist provision for jobseekers with multiple, complex barriers to employment should be commissioned.

Conditionality and sanctions better tailored to individual circumstances
• The activities and support that homeless people are required to do as part of their conditionality should be meaningful and tailored to their individual circumstances.

• The application of sanctions should be thoroughly reviewed with greater clarity about which jobseekers are classified as ‘vulnerable’.

By Dan Dumoulin, Senior Policy and Research Officer at St Mungo’s Broadway.