A ground-breaking scheme in Westminster has helped 125 people at risk of becoming homeless to find a job.
The news comes after homelessness experts from all over Europe came together in Westminster to discuss how employment support can help tackle the issue.
Westminster City Council’s Homelessness Employment and Learning Project (HELP) – funded by the EU – has worked across many different organisations to get 125 people into employment, helping them to avoid becoming homeless. In total 420 households have received employment support.
One of the particular innovations which has made a difference is the holding of a fortnightly ‘case conference’ where social workers, housing benefit staff and officers from the Department of Work and Pensions gather to discuss solutions for individual clients.
This speeds up the process for Westminster residents, with HELP clients being three times more likely to make a positive move out of temporary accommodation, when compared to a similar group of residents.
As a result, the project is a cost beneficial way of supporting residents, saving public bodies £450,000 during the first year.
The scheme will continue with the launch of Housing Solutions a new service from Westminster City Council for families at risk of homelessness. This service had a base at Bruckner Street and this centre will be home to employment coaches, debt and benefit advisers and specialist landlord and tenant mediation and advice.
There will also be outreach workers in the community at a variety of different locations, who will find and refer people in to the service.
Cllr Andrew Smith, Westminster City Council cabinet member for housing and customer services, said: “We’re playing a leading role on finding new ways to tackle homelessness, and have helped 125 into jobs by providing better employment support.
“There’s more to do and we are taking that challenge on with our new Housing Solutions Service, which provides expert support in areas such as employment, benefits, tenant advice and debt.
“This will give more people the chance to access help at an early stage. As well as a new base in Bruckner Street there are also outreach workers across Westminster working with people in the community.”
Professor Nicholas Pleace, Director of the Institute for Housing Policy at the University of York said: “Many statutorily homeless people are families, often lone women parents, there are specific needs here around child care, schooling, sometimes support with parenting skills. This means work has to be viable, flexible enough, pay enough and that we do need to think about their specific needs, which are very different from long-term and recurrently homeless lone adults.’
Spain, Portugal, Malta, Ireland, Norway and Finland were all represented at the event.
€1.4m of EU funding has paid for a team which includes employment coaches, a benefits officer, a job centre coach, a social worker and some private rented housing officers.
Partners in the project working with Westminster City Council included:
Vital Regeneration – part of Thamesreach, a leading housing and employment charity;
FEANTSA – a European Federation of national organisations working with the homeless;
Places for People – providing housing solutions advice as part of their contract with the council; and
Department for Work and Pensions – providing an employment coach who works as part of the team