Work programme 'failing homeless'
The government’s £5 billion work programme is not reaching the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed including homeless people, according to a committee of MPs.
The work and pensions committee today published a report, Can the work programme work for all user groups?, looking at the progress of the programme since its launch in June 2011.
The report concluded that the scheme’s pricing structure is not preventing disadvantaged groups from being ‘parked’ and they were given little or no support with providers ‘creaming off’ easier cases.
Under the work programme, private firms are paid by results. People are divided into nine groups based on the benefit they claim and providers are paid more for helping those considered to be further from the job market.
Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions committee, said there are signs that the performance of the programme is improving for ‘mainstream’ claimants.
But she said: ‘The work programme has proved much less successful to date in addressing the problems faced by jobseekers who face more serious obstacles to finding a job – people with disabilities, homeless people, and those with a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
‘It is clear that the differential pricing structure is not a panacea for tackling creaming and parking.
‘The government must do more to ensure that the work programme provides effective support for all jobseekers, not just the ones who are easiest to help.’
The report found homeless people were being sanctioned – with benefits reduced or stopped for a period of time – rather than being given support for their difficulties.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: ‘The work programme has been a huge disappointment for too many homeless people. It has taken them no closer to what they really want: a better life through work. The support they’ve received has been minimal and at worst clients have been hit with sanctions rather than offered support.’
The committee calls for the Department for Work and Pensions to look at ways of supporting jobseekers with the most serious barriers to work, such as those who are homeless or have drug and alcohol addictions, to ensure they are ready for the work programme. It also calls for the government to spend £248 million of unspent work programme cash on provision for disadvantaged jobseekers.
The MPs recommended a move away from pricing based on benefit type towards a ‘needs-based’ structure. It also called for a requirement for providers to meet ‘minimum service standards’ to ensure jobseekers are not ‘parked’.
Homeless Link, an umbrella group of homelessness charities, said the committee’s report backed up its own research showing the programme is failing many people who need the most help. Homeless Link, St Mungo’s and Crisis jointly published a report last November called The programme’s not working.
Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications at Homeless Link, said: ‘There is simply a lack of consistency in the support provided by the work programme.
‘The government must act to address this issue so that effective, individually tailored support for the most vulnerable individuals is the norm, not the exception.’
Charles Fraser, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said: ‘We know from experience that many homeless people need a second chance to get skills and a job, and we want the work programme to work for homeless people.’