Employment Support for Housing Associations

Social housing providers have recently been increasing the support they provide to their tenants to help them into sustainable employment.

Helping tenants into work is critical not just financially but also socially. Gaining employment will give tenants a sense of place in the world, reduce the negative impact of inter-generational worklessness on communities (which can be a case of anti-social behaviour), increase motivation and confidence, and encourage them to make positive contributions to the environment that they live in.

Social housing providers, however, are facing other issues which make employment support a top priority. These include the under-occupancy penalty (‘Bedroom Tax’) and Universal Credit.

The under-occupancy penalty applies to tenants in the social rental sector who are of working age. Any of these tenants who are deemed to be under-occupying their home will have their benefits reduced.

It is estimated that 20% of social housing tenants will be affected by this new penalty which came into effect in April 2013.

Tenants who have a spare bedroom will have a 14% reduction in their benefits and those with two spare rooms will have a 25% reduction in their benefits.

The government has introduced the under-occupancy penalty in order to decrease the expenditure on housing benefits. “Currently we are now spending as a country £23bn on housing benefit and we have to get that budget back under control”. David Cameron.

However, with large waiting lists for one to two bedroom houses, tenants are forced to pay for these additional rooms whilst they are waiting for smaller houses. Some tenants are therefore struggling to pay their bills and rent, increasing rent arrears for many social housing providers.

Another factor which is likely to increase rent arrears and which will strengthen the need for employment support is Universal Credit. Universal Credit is a new single payment for people who are looking for work or are on a low income.

Universal Credit will replace benefits including Jobseekers’ Allowance, income support and housing benefit. Claimants will now receive one monthly payment, the same as a monthly salary.

The idea behind Universal Credit is that it will make work pay, as benefits won’t stop completely once a claimant gains employment. Universal Credit is also designed to help make families more independent and will prepare them for the world of work as their payment scheme is aligned to how people receive their monthly salary.

Universal Credit will affect housing associations directly, as previously housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord. Now, with Universal Credit, housing benefit in most cases will go straight to the claimant who will have to save and budget each month in order to pay their rent.

Pensioners, residents of ‘exempt’ supported houses and ‘vulnerable’ tenants will still have their housing benefit paid direct to their landlord. However, ministers are yet to announce what types of tenants will fall into this ‘vulnerable’ category.

However, many social housing tenants may have a lack of budgeting experience or they may have different priorities which could mean that rent arrears build up, creating debt for the tenant and a loss of income for the housing provider.

Employment can help to reduce rent arrears by giving tenants more disposable income.

Unemployment is also a big issue in many housing associations, with many experiencing generations of unemployed families. The report “Home-work: Helping London’s social tenants into employment” states that London has one the lowest employment rates of any English region and most of this “worklessness” is concentrated amongst the quarter of Londoners who live in council or housing association homes. The report also found that overall only 44% of working age adults in these homes have a job, compared with 69% of those who rent privately.

Targeted and effective support can help break this cycle of unemployment, reduce rent arrears and support the local community.

Our new tool, WorkTrack, is an online program to help jobseekers find suitable and sustainable employment.

WorkTrack contains a client management portal which allows advisers to see an overview of their clients’ activities. This allows them to monitor and prioritise their clients, in order to provide targeted guidance to support jobseekers into employment.

For jobseekers, WorkTrack will provide live vacancies based on their interests, experiences or search criteria in their location of choice.

Jobseekers will also be able to link their Universal Jobmatch account with WorkTrack. This means that all activity in WorkTrack, e.g. logins and applications, will be shown in Universal Jobmatch -vital if your tenants need to evidence their job-seeking activities.

To find out more about WorkTrack and to view our demonstration videos, please visit www.worktrack.co.uk. Additionally, if you would like to register for a free 30 minute WorkTrack webinar, please email worktrack@cascaid.co.uk for more details.

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