New initiatives helping homeless people into work
Authors: Katy Jones
15 January 2013
Getting the right support is crucial for those who are furthest away from the labour market. When the government’s Work Programme appears to be failing homeless people, the importance of local third sector organisations is clear, as last night’s (Jan 14) feature on BBC One’s Inside Out programme showed. It featured two initiatives, Thames Reach Employment Academy in South London, and Clean Slate, a recruitment agency specialising in getting long term unemployed people into work, both working to improve the prospects of homeless and other long term job seekers.
The barriers to work for homeless and other long term unemployed people are varied and complex. Unstable housing situations, low skill levels and histories of unemployment are common, and for some, these are often compounded by other support needs and barriers to work including mental health issues, substance use and criminal records. Yet work (and/or related training) can play a key role in overcoming homelessness and other forms of exclusion associated with being out of work for long periods of time. Not only can skills and learning help in accessing employment opportunities, increasing confidence and self-esteem and widening social networks are also hugely important benefits.
An albeit brief snapshot of the work of these two organisations highlights how a tailored approach combined with patience and support can help long term unemployed people into work. Particularly striking was the time taken to work with individual clients: to understand their aspirations and support needs, to build up CVs, prepare them for interviews and offer them opportunities to develop their employability through meaningful training and volunteer opportunities. Getting employers on board also seems to be key - some can be deterred by long gaps on a CV but can be reassured by a trusted brokerage service.
Thames Reach Employment Academy and Clean Slate are great examples of the support needed to get homeless and other long term jobseekers into work. But this is a challenging time for the homelessness sector. At the same time as demand for services is increasing, an upcoming report from Homeless Link will show that nearly half of homeless services have had their funding cut by an average of 17 per cent this year (and this varies enormously across the country). It is vital that government and local authorities recognise the value of initiatives like these and ensure that support is available for them to continue.
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