As stated elsewhere we would welcome a simplified system that was accessible, easily comprehended by all, and less likely to result in error. Homeless people are often poorly served by the current system wherein benefits staffs often have no understanding of the impact of housing need, a perceived inability to deal positively with additional need factors or simply find the system difficult to navigate due to literacy or skills issues; life experiences or negative attitudes towards them.
The ethos of work and personal responsibility being at the heart of the new benefits system must be backed up by a commitment to a personalised, localised and graduated approach to support this.
We would question the merit in enshrining buying your own home as a positive behaviour in itself when the large scale sell off of social housing served not only to exacerbate homelessness but to further create an underclass of even more socially and economically marginalised people – one could argue the very people that the proposed new system would be attempting to include. We consider owner occupation to indeed be at times a barrier to social mobility and hence enhancement of employability.
Question 1 – What steps should the government consider to reduce the cost of the welfare system and reduce welfare dependency and poverty?
Employers could be incentivised to pay more than the minimum wage through tax breaks rather than having to give tax credits. Homeless people often re-enter the market at a low level jobs in terms of pay and skills base which can undermine their housing situation also.
The general lack of knowledge around entitlements to benefits needs to be addressed within the context of a simplified system – this would lead to savings in terms of efficiency and positive engagement with the system.
The physical machinations of the system need to be underpinned by a philosophical strategy relating to a cultural shift from “loss” of benefits to the “gain” of the labour market. We believe that stronger conditionality will not serve to lessen but widen this current perceptual gap.
An upfront investment in the up-skilling of people employed within the welfare system to enable them to perform in a specialised way within a uniform function would pay long term dividends in both human and financial terms.
More localised support with JCP staff feeling empowered to make decisions would increase efficiency and reduce cost.
The introduction of target led work within the welfare system has impacted negatively on those engaged with the benefits system and a return to an individualised, human approach would particularly benefit those homeless people presenting with complex needs and histories.
A solid commitment to the system introduced is needed as the piecemeal approaches prior to now have created confusion, financial inefficiencies, for example, in appraising and up-skilling teams on now defunct programmes and have led to lack of motivation particularly amongst those hardest to engage in moving towards the labour market. For example, the Future Jobs Fund anecdotally proved to be a relatively successful programme in terms of