People in social housing find their housing associations more help than job centres at putting them on the first step of the career ladder, a new study signals.
With people living in social housing twice as likely to be jobless, sweeping housing welfare reforms are looking to social landlords to help fix long-term unemployment.
Researchers from Brunel University London studied three London Housing Associations’ pioneering training-for-work programmes.
Unlike Job Centre Plus, they found Housing Associations have good staff availability, give friendly, personalised, constructive advice and ‘offer hope’.
“There was a strong sense that Government is not offering opportunities,” said Dr Emma Wainwright. “There is a sense that job centres don’t have the time, interest or understanding of local areas, and are more concerned with processing people and ticking boxes.”
Housing Associations are taking on welfare service provision as new state regulation demands they spur tenants towards independent living and away from welfare dependence. Aimed at hard-to-reach groups such as long term unemployed and young people not in education, employment of training (NEETs), Housing Association employment services have a variety of funders including government.
“Residents find Housing Associations supportive by providing training programmes and helping with job searches,” said Dr Wainwright. “Clearly, housing associations are well placed to work at local level, with ‘hard-to-reach’ communities and fill gaps left by government.”
The findings shed light on barriers tenants face in considering work and make recommendations, which will help steer future employment schemes.
Depression, anxiety, low confidence and addictions are tenants’ biggest obstacles to seeking work, while the best way to improve training programmes is to tell more people they are available. ‘A lack of local, entry-level jobs that pay enough to live on’ is another major obstacle revealed the study on Ealing-based A2Dominion, Catalyst Housing and East Thames in Stratford.
“Key to success”, Dr Wainwright sums up, “…is approachable, friendly staff who give a sense of hope.”