The Government is considering plans to trigger a surge in employment among social renters in a move that could save the taxpayer up to £3 billion.
The proposal, put forward by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), would see housing associations incentivised to help their residents off benefits and into work.
Households living in social housing are four times more likely to be workless than those living in private housing, the CSJ report has found. Often this is due to a lack of skills training suitably tailored to the needs of the individuals and suitable work placements.
Housing associations, with their established personal relationships with tenants, are best placed to support individuals facing barriers to work, the report argues.
Housing associations stand to gain significantly from an upturn in employed tenants. In areas where housing associations help their tenants back into work, rent arrears fall by up to 75 per cent.
Despite the prospect of receiving more reliable rent payments, only 40 per cent of housing associations offer skills training and organise work placements. The CSJ would like to see this rise much higher.
The potential saving to the taxpayer of moving jobseekers in social housing into work is estimated at £3 billion.
The plan is the first of a set of CSJ proposals presented to the Government to tackle a range of housing problems suffered by society’s most disadvantaged.
Andy Cook, chief executive of the CSJ, commented:
“This scheme is a win for everyone. The housing associations get their rents paid on time. The taxpayer saves thousands of pounds – millions of pounds in the long term. And most importantly for us, people are helped out of poverty and back into work.
“The fact that so many social renters are out of work is a great social injustice. Children in workless households are five times more likely to be living in poverty than children in working families. They are almost twice as likely as children in working families to fail at every stage of their education.
“At the moment housing associations are incentivised to boost supply, which is absolutely right, but they have the potential to be the catalysts for change too.
“The vast majority of those currently unemployed want to take control of their own lives. They want the sense of purpose and responsibility and the workplace community a job provides.
“People in work are mentally and physically healthier and well as wealthier. It’s the Government’s duty to build on their strong record for employment by supporting more of the most deprived back into work.”
A spokesperson for the DWP commented:
“Across our national network of jobcentres work is taking place with Housing Associations to support people into employment.
“We welcome the encouragement of this initiative, and will continue to work with housing partners to help people overcome the employment barriers they face so they get the same opportunity as others to fulfil their potential.”
Many housing associations already offer skills training, work clubs and debt advice, the CSJ report found. They also arrange apprenticeships and work placements for tenants with local companies, including retailers, construction and catering firms.
In a case cited by the report, Inspired To Achieve, part of Yarlington Housing Group based in Somerset, has helped 800 people back into work in three years, saving the taxpayer almost £10,000 (£9,800) per welfare claimant as well as giving a £4 million boost to the local economy.
The Centre for Social Justice would like to see more housing associations follow their lead. The think tank says boosting employment should be added to housing associations’ list of objectives.
The CSJ also urges housing associations to collaborate better with job centres. At the moment, under a third (27 per cent) coordinate with local job centre staff. The think tank would also like to see them bid for government contracts tendered as part of the Work and Health Programme.