Homeless jobseekers, and those in supported accommodation, are to be granted exemptions from benefit sanctions in new legislation being brought before parliament today (20 June 2014), Inside Housing has reported.
Under the new legislation, which comes into force from 21 July 2014, homeless jobseekers found to be in ‘domestic emergency’ will not be required to look for work or partake in work related activity, such as the Work Programme, while they attempt to find somewhere to live.
The temporary reprieve from being required to ‘actively’ look for work, and the ever-present looming threat of having their benefits docked if they fail to do so, is expected to last for up to four weeks, during which time rough sleepers must be able to demonstrate that they are taking reasonable actions to find new accommodation.
Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications at the charity Homeless Link, said that the new regulations “recognise additional needs and barriers homeless people face and the importance of easing the pressure people face when trying to find a suitable place to live”.
St Mungo’s Broadway’s director of work, skills and advice, Kyla Kirkpatrick added:
“We know from talking to our clients that the majority want to work but being homeless is an obstacle to job-hunting.
“These changes could help temporarily ease the pressure to find a home and a job at the same time for people who are often struggling with health problems and a lack of basic skills, as well as homelessness.”
The new legislation comes less than a year after research by Homeless Link discovered that as many as 31% of homeless Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants had been affected by benefit sanctions, compared to just 3% of ‘typical claimants’.
According to the research, the loss of benefit resulted in 87% being forced to turn to food banks and 62% turned to crime in order to survive.
Today’s news will be welcomed by many. However, it remains unclear as to whether four weeks will be sufficient enough time for many homeless jobseekers to find a place to live, or what effect it may have on their future benefit payments if they are unsuccessful.