system would potentially recoup this debt at source at a level that would not be beneficial to either the ongoing recovery of the claimant or their entry to the labour market.
Whilst we would agree that there are considerable disincentives to work inherent in the current system and would positively welcome any system that ensures that being in work meant being better off, we would also argue that the fiscal underpinning of this should extend to a greater network of physical in-work support provision. Homeless people have been shown to better sustain EET opportunities when offered support and advice by a worker – funding for this area of work should be recognised as a necessary part of the longer term view of the better off in work equation.
Further to this we would welcome changes to the system that allowed for acknowledgement and addressing of the many additional barriers that people experiencing homelessness can face when attempting to move towards or into the labour market. A robust system that takes in to account specific barriers such as lack of suitable jobs; lack of access due to additional support needs; stigma and employer discrimination; enhanced fear over impact on housing security, low skills base, marginalisation of aspirations, and that then combines this with the opportunity for a personalised, graduated and holistic approach is key.
Although acknowledging the current economic climate and need to have a more efficient and streamlined welfare system in relation to this, we would argue that blanket conditionality for all does not necessarily help all move into and sustain paid work. An individualised, tailored approach to employability is key to working with homeless people and the emphasis throughout the paper on strengthened and extended conditionality would suggest that mitigating personal circumstances in relation to homelessness would not be taken into account when assessing someone’s journey to work. Previous initiatives such as the New Futures Fund pilot in Scotland demonstrate that is not always that conditionality is negative but that how it is applied that is telling. This was an initiative that took a holistic approach based on conditionality that led to positive outcomes, and we would welcome a similar tailored and holistic approach.
We would like to register concern that conditionality is potentially to be extended to those currently in work and receiving benefits, and would question the probability of the economic context that would be needed to find both extra jobs for jobseekers and additional hours for part-time workers. In the context of homelessness the opportunity to have a gradual return to the workplace in terms of timescales and intensity of hours is often the difference between someone returning to the labour market or not, as often time outside of work is needed to engage with support services or work on other factors to increase confidence, esteem and longer term employability. Part-time work is a choice made by some to balance short term circumstances with long term aims, for example, quality of early years family life, recovery from traumatic experiences, of which homelessness is one; exploration of learning or interest led development all of which can and do contribute to the longer term health of general society and potentially save in the long run from a prevention perspective.
We would like to see an explicit definition of who and what would be considered vulnerable and/or in vulnerable circumstances as the basis for decision making.