Posted by: Emily Twinch05/06/2012
You might have thought when the government was drawing up a test to see if ill or disabled people claiming benefits were fit for work they might have thought homelessness a consideration.
People claiming employment and support allowance might well be homeless. Homelessness often means people have chaotic lives and multiple needs – such as drug and alcohol dependency issues – and while deemed physically fit to work, their life circumstances might mean they are in no way ready to hold down a job.
Homelessness charity Crisis research last month found the tests were ‘inhumane’ for homeless people and 80 per cent of the homeless people they spoke to for the study did not have a positive view of their experience of the assessments. Ninety seven per cent of individuals were stressed their claims would be turned down.
Professor Malcolm Harrington is now in his third year of reviewing the work capability assessment, but it took a recent submission from charities Crisis, St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Broadway for homelessness to be recognised as an important consideration.
He has now agreed the assessment should consider homelessness and the charities are coming up with ways to do that.
This might mean homelessness is now flagged up on questionnaires, and Department for Work and Pensions employees trained to recognise homelessness.
But does this reflect the attitudes of the people in power to homeless people? Do many of them think homeless people should just go out and get a job, and be stopped from getting the benefits they skank from the British taxpayer?
Hopefully this is not an attitude reflected in the strategy from the inter-departmental ministerial working group set up to tackle homelessness, expected to come out this month.
Homelessness charities have already criticised a draft they have seen because they say the strategy – aimed at preventing homelessness – provides few sticks to ensure councils comply.
Maybe the ministerial working group will show the government really can come up with something that understands the problems of homelessness, and that it cares. It will be interesting to see if the group really is more than the talking shop people thought it might be. Or perhaps it will miss out vital considerations, just like the WCA.
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From Who cares?
Analysis of the latest developments in supported housing, homelessness and work with vulnerable people