Council Pilots Combined Employment & Housing Scheme

Offering employment help for young tenants

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A select group of unemployed young people on the housing waiting list will be given help finding work along with the keys to their own council home as part of Wandsworth’s radical pilot scheme entitled ‘Housing into Work’.

The pilot – the first instance of a council prioritising housing not just on the basis of housing need but on a tenant’s willingness to actively seek work – will utilise up to 20 social housing lets when it begins later this year.

It will also be the first time that a council lets such accommodation on fixed term tenancies of two years, with a progress review at the end of the tenancy.

Expected to be up and running by the autumn, the Housing into Work pilot will be prioritised for local residents aged between 18 and 24, registered unemployed and who are registered and accepted as a priority applicant for social housing in Wandsworth.

Wandsworth’s housing spokesman, Councillor Paul Ellis, described the pilot scheme as “a wonderful opportunity” for unemployed young people to receive help accessing training and employment opportunities at the same time as being given somewhere to live.

As part of their tenancy agreement, those residents chosen for the pilot scheme would move into a studio or one bedroom council home on the condition they take steps that make them work ready and find work. Those failing to stick to their side of the bargain would face the prospect of losing their home.

Over the course of their tenancy, residents will attend meetings with a council liaison officer, engage in training/voluntary work/placements and interviews and generally become “work prepared” and gain employment.

They will undergo periodic reviews with their designated liaison officer in order to make sure they are on the right track and address any concerns or problems they might be experiencing.

Cllr Ellis said:
“We want to make social housing a route through which people are given help to gain new skills and employment.

“This pilot is a wonderful opportunity for some of our unemployed young people, who are looking for somewhere to live while they seek out employment opportunities, to get help moving onwards and upwards in life. I sincerely believe this pilot will act as a launch pad from which they will have more housing choices to buy or rent, freeing up social housing for people who really need it.

Cllr Ellis added that the pilot will not be punishing people who are made redundant or cannot find a job, it will be helping those willing to get into employment and penalising those who can't be bothered to make the effort.

He continued:
“The council’s wider aim is to give a higher priority to working families when it comes to allocating council properties. It should be fairer and easier for low income working families to be given council accommodation. In addition, having more and more families on our estates that are in work acts as a positive example for the neighbourhood.”

Nearly 30 per cent of working age households on the council’s housing estates are in receipt of full housing benefit while the borough’s unemployment rate is 2.9%.

Research has traditionally shown that unless people in these circumstances are given help getting off benefits and into work, they run a much greater risk of developing health problems and suffering other social problems associated with living in poverty.

The rules of the pilot will only apply to selected new tenancies - current tenants would not be affected.

Tenants on the pilot who demonstrate they are actively seeking work – but who struggle to secure employment – would continue to receive support and not face losing their home.

The pilot scheme will be evaluated further down the line to assess whether it has a wider application.

The policy draws on new powers contained in the Localism Bill which will give local authorities greater freedoms when it comes to determining who is given a taxpayer-subsidised home.

July 31, 2012