The charity Crisis wants to end homelessness in the UK. They work directly with thousands of homeless people every year, providing support and advice so that people can rebuild their lives and move out of homelessness for good. They offer one to one support, advice, and courses for homeless people in 12 areas across England, Scotland, and Wales.

Crisis’ Impact:

  • In 2017/19 more than 11,700 volunteers gave their time to help homeless people
  • In 2021, they helped more than 11,300 people end their journey out of homelessness

Crisis is a service-based organisation, they have 12 service centres around the UK. Their presence on the ground means that they work closely with other service providers in the community to help those suffering homelessness to work.

Jobcentres are a service that Crisis has a partnership with. Jobcentres are government-funded employment agencies and social security offices that can be found in most towns and cities, their aim is to help people of working age find employment.

Jobcentres were formed when the Employment Service merged with the Benefits Agency and was renamed Jobcentre Plus in 2002. They are a part of the Department for Work and Pensions.

Integrating Housing and Employment Support

“Everyone has a housing need coming into the Jobcentre, whether its met or not”

“There is a real need to integrate hoousing support into the way we look at employment support”


Saskia Neibig, Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Crisis


Crisis strongly believes that their engagement with Jobcentres can make a difference when helping someone keep a roof over their head.

They have stated that there is no point in helping somebody get into work and expecting them to maintain a job when they don’t have a secure home.

The introduction of Universal Credit has made it even more important for Jobcentres to work closely with local authorities. A lot of responsibilities that were previously held by those working in the housing sector have been assumed by Jobcentres, but the staff are not always knowledgeable about offering the correct housing advice.

This poses a challenge to work coaches who are already busy. They are expected to identify housing needs in clients. It is now important that local authorities ensure staff in Jobcentres are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to help people in a housing crisis. Crisis wants to prevent homelessness through early interventions that can be spotted during moments like a Jobcentre consultation.

Tailoring Support for People Facing Homelessness

There is a range of things that can already be done by work coaches and other public services to prevent people from slipping into homelessness.

One of the main things is knowing about domestic emergency easements. Crisis research found that people experiencing homelessness are significantly more likely to face sanctions. Easements exist for people experiencing homelessness in case they miss appointments due to issues like digital exclusion.

Easements can also be expanded and used for people who are at risk of homelessness. Even if somebody currently has a roof over their head, a sanction shouldn’t be the basis for them being unable to pay their rent and face eviction.

Universal Credit claimant commitment statements that are recorded in Jobcentres can be tailored to reflect work that is being done with external partners. For example, claimants can state that they are working with Crisis to acquire the skills needed to rent. This statement of intent should therefore make them more attractive to prospective employers.

“I think it would be unfair for us to ask them to do 35-hours’-worth of work search when they’ve possibly not…got a roof over their head or some secure place to live, So, you generally say, “Get your housing sorted first


Focus group participant, Birmingham Jobcentre.

There is also a statutory duty to refer under the Homelessness Reduction Act. Local authorities should be informed by public bodies such as Jobcentres when someone is either experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness.

Alternative payment arrangements can be important for helping people maintain housing. For instance, direct payments to landlords can be vital to helping someone stay in a tenancy. Jobcentres should be equipped to advise claimants on these matters.

Work Coach Tools

The DWP has got a range of tools to help work coaches support clients who are experiencing or are at risk of homelessness:

Housing and Homelessness Toolkit: This is an internal resource for DWP staff, with content shared from Crisis and Shelter. It helps staff navigate guidance and access training and news. It also has blogs, podcasts, and examples of best practices.

Homelessness Conversation Tool: This was developed by Crisis staff for DWP work coaches. It includes suggested questions to build staff confidence in asking important, but sensitive questions. Suggested questions include:

“What is your current address?”

“How long do you intend to live at that address?”

District Provision Tool: This is an internal DWP tool to navigate all partnerships and referrals, not just housing-related.

Crisis Pilots with Jobcentres

Crisis works with Jobcentres all over the country, but there are some centres that have received more in-depth training from the charity.

Promoting information-sharing on cases is the priority in this training. The goal of the pilots is to help Jobcentre work coaches identify who is at risk of homelessness, offering the clients more tailored support and improving the referral processes.

Newcastle

One of the best examples of this is in Newcastle. A partnership involving Crisis, the Jobcentre and an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) was instigated by Crisis.

134 Jobcentre Plus work coaches were trained on homelessness issues, referral pathways and easements. As a result, work coaches identified 729 residents as being at potential risk of homelessness, referring them to specialist advice and support (between the period of 5th June 2017 to 31st March 2019).

Birmingham

In Birmingham, a partnership between Crisis, the local authority and the Jobcentres was formed to promote staff training, co-located support, and referral pathways.

Staff experiences of the training included:

“I think it probably highlighted areas of homelessness that I wouldn’t have previously judged as being homeless”

“…just to see the difference in that for him; he’s just absolutely amazing…to see them coming back to me flourishing, and their confidence growing because of the provisions and events that you put alongside it, it’s just fantastic”

Merseyside

Crisis sent a member of their staff to work on a full-time secondment in a Merseyside Jobcentre. They facilitated 7 networking events with 32 partners and 259 staff in a 3-month window.

They worked with 6 Housing Options teams and 2 Housing Benefit teams, as well as Housing First pilots, sector stakeholders and bank branches. This ensured that basic bank accounts were being set up for people as they entered work from homelessness.

20 training sessions were offered to Jobcentre staff on homelessness and the Health Reimbursement Agreement.

Recommendations

Crisis has three main recommendations for public services to follow when supporting people facing or experiencing homelessness:

Embed effective partnership working: The right partnerships between the DWP and external service providers should be formed. When they are formed, data-sharing is key to providing fluid and tailored support.

Enable staff to deliver meaningful support to people with acute housing needs: Staff that are offering services to people experiencing or facing homelessness must be equipped with the skills and knowledge to advise them properly.

Embed processes to actively prevent homelessness: Housing circumstances and support needs should form part of the work assessments and universal credit applications.

Crisis has firmly stated that the DWP should invest in resourcing Regional Housing and Homelessness Managers. These individuals would be based in Jobcentres to provide support and advice for those seeking jobs and Universal Credit, that also need housing support.

These managers would ensure that Jobcentre services are consistently joined up with other service providers in the community. This would make a huge difference to individuals seeking financial and domestic stability.

[1] Neibig, Saskia, 2022. Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Crisis

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Homelessness charity Crisis has called for better partnership working between Jobcentres and Housing Services. This case study looks at the work Crisis have done to train Jobcentre staff to be better equipped to help those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

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