The government is conducting a scheme aimed at preventing vulnerable homeless people having benefit sanctions.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been running a scheme in Sussex with local housing providers including Brighton Housing Trust and Riverside, under which ‘vulnerability markers’ are placed on the case files of homeless people. The scheme is an attempt to address concerns that job centre advisors are sometimes unable to recognise when claimants are homeless and need to be given extra flexibility. Brighton Housing Trust stated that under the scheme, none of its residents had been sanctioned.
These markers on the files enable the homeless claimants to get Jobcentre support so penalties for not finding work can be avoided.
Research by the Homeless Link revealed that last year a third of homeless people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) were sanctioned between May and July 2013. Figures from the DWP show JSA sanctions rose to 91, 457 in October 2013 under the coalition government; the highest figure in any month since 2000.
The scheme in Sussex, supported by Homeless Link, is aimed at helping Jobcentre staff support homeless jobseekers according to personal need.
Benefit sanctions which reduce a claimant’s JSA or employment and support allowance are distributed if claimants commit an ‘offence’ such as failing to attend an appointment at the job centre.
Gary Messenger from the Homeless Link explained, ‘This pilot shows that identifying this early can improve the way Jobcentre Plus and homelessness agencies work together, and allow the extra flexibility homeless people need when accessing benefits’.
Furthermore, the government have set legislation excepting homeless people from sanctions for four week whilst they sort out their accommodation.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘Jobcentre Plus has established a new system that helps staff to tailor their support to homeless jobseekers based on their personal situation’.
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