The Scottish Homelessness & Employability Network is the national membership body in Scotland for organisations and individuals tackling homelessness via an emphasis on employability. Our members include voluntary sector providers, housing associations, local authorities, employability providers, academics and other professionals involved in homelessness prevention and the promotion of employability as a means by which to address homelessness.
SHEN welcomes the opportunity to comment on the DWP consultation paper – 21st Century Welfare, particularly as those experiencing homelessness are often furthest from the labour market and therefore significantly affected by the ethos, principles and configuration of the welfare system as it stands now and in any new incarnation.
Following on from consultation with a broad range of members working in homelessness and/or employability we would like to respond as follows, and would hope that the needs and specific circumstances of an often marginalised group be considered when deciding upon the way forward in terms of welfare reform.
In addition to Iain Duncan Smith’s assertion in the foreword that “we are going to end the culture of weakness and dependency that has done so much harm to individuals, families, and whole communities” we would expect that an aim would also be to address the poverty, marginalisation and systemic barriers that have precluded such dependency where it exists.
We endorse the assertion of the aim “that we do not aim to reduce the levels of support for people in the most vulnerable circumstances” but would welcome explicit definition of who is deemed to be vulnerable and in what circumstances. We would argue that those experiencing homelessness, or who are recovering from this experience should be considered vulnerable.
Whilst we would welcome any system of delivery in principle that would offer improved efficacy we would have some reservations around a fully automated system of payment, given the difficulties that many homeless people have both in terms of setting up and servicing bank accounts, for example, and in terms of the high levels of literacy issues, and lower skills base relative to the housed population which may make a fully automated service less accessible. People experiencing homelessness often have prior debt relating to their housing or other support needs and we would be concerned that a fully automated