The hostel and benefits systems can make it difficult for homeless people to move into employment despite a strong motivation to do so, early research findings have shown.

The research team at Broadway Homelessness and Support has been following 50 people making the difficult move from homelessness into work. The research showed many of them were strongly motivated to work, despite often minimal or no financial gains: Money was not a main motivator to move into work.

The reasons for wanting to move into work ranged from a greater feeling of self worth, contributing to society and building relationships. Work also acted as a crucial stage on the journey away from homelessness.

However, the research’s interim findings also showed homeless and recently homeless people needed more support when starting work, particularly around benefits, tensions at home and in hostels and debt management.

It also found “better off in work” calculations could be misleading for people moving off benefits. Neither historical debt nor travel-to-work costs were included in calculations, meaning people could be worse off working than when remaining on benefits.
Helen Giles, HR director at Broadway, said: “These early findings prove what we have always known at Broadway; that homeless people want to work and want to contribute to society.

“The challenge now is to support people in this position when they find a job to ensure they remain in employment.
“Moving off benefits and into work requires strong money management and budgeting skills, something that some vulnerable people may need support with.”

Among Broadway’s findings are:

  • People commonly accrued debts after moving into work, with gaps between final benefits payments and wages, or (for some of those on low wages) problems securing the benefits to which they were entitled.
  • Research also uncovered situations such as people working fourteen-hour working days, being worse off in work than they were on benefits and inconsistent and inadequate advice from Work Programme providers, Job Centre Plus and support workers.
  • Homeless people benefit from support when they move into work, particularly around benefits and debt management, dealing with noise and anti-social behaviour in hostels, and moving on into their own tenancies.

The report, entitled Keeping Work, was conducted by Broadway’s specialist research team in partnership with the Business in the Community charity. It was funded by Trust for London and the Department for Work and Pensions. The report published on Thursday contains interim findings, with the final report due to be published in June 2013.

Of the 50 people interviewed for the research, 35 were currently homeless and living in hostels or supported housing while 15 were recently homeless.

The participants had started working in a range of jobs, most commonly in catering, caretaking and construction, but they also included a specialist engineer, a football coach and an accountant.

Twenty had been out of work for more than three years, and three had never worked. Of the 50 participants, 12 have already fallen out of work, most commonly because they were on short term contracts or in agency work.

Helen Giles added: “It is important to learn from these findings and realise that more can be done to support homeless and recently homeless people moving into employment.

“For them, it is a time of real change in their lives and extra services are needed to ensure they flourish in the workplace.”