[Hpn] UK tells homeless people to Work for Shelter (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 7 Jan 2001 12:09:51 -0800 (PST)


FWD - UK NEW DEAL TO SCOUR STREETS AND SET HOMELESS TO WORK Hardcore underclass will be targeted in purge on welfare claimants Gaby Hinsliff, chief political correspondent Sunday November 26, 2000 The Observer (London) Drug addicts and the homeless will be rounded up by benefits advisers for the most radical expansion yet of Labour's programme to drive welfare claimants into work. Hostel places for rough sleepers could even be made conditional on joining job-preparation schemes, under plans being considered for Labour's second term. But the proposal to target homeless people living in hostels was last night condemned by Louise Casey, the Government's homelessness tsar. 'You have to get people away from drugs and their problems before trying to get them to work. Forcing them on to the New Deal will not necessarily achieve this.' New Deal personal advisers would be sent to shelters and on to the streets to find rough sleepers, alcoholics and others currently overlooked by the flagship welfare-to-work programme, in an effort to reach the hard core of Britain's underclass. Initially, they would be offered benefits and help with housing, medical problems or illiteracy on voluntary grounds, before entering the New Deal proper. 'What we need to look at for this group is something like a pre-New Deal programme to address their needs, in order that they can get enough of their lives sorted to start even thinking about work,' said a senior source. It will be about personal advisers going out to people, rather than waiting for people to come to them. 'People who might be on incapacity benefit because of problems, or on no benefit at all, don't qualify for the New Deal, and that is another issue we have got to face.' Tony Blair will this week announce that the election pledge to get 250,000 unemployed young people into work has officially been met. Meanwhile, Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling will trumpet savings of 8 billion on unemployment benefits, thanks to the New Deal and fraud crackdowns. But amid criticism that the Government has only skimmed off the 'easier' cases of relatively employable young people, Ministers are looking for ways to crack problems at the bottom of the pile. Benefits advisers are already due to be sent into GPs' surgeries to target those on long-term sick leave. And in future Ministers want personal advisers to find other hard-to-reach cases. The New Deal currently identifies those claiming jobseekers' allowance, but the chaotic lives of the most marginalised groups means they may not even be able to claim and so fall through the net. A report from Labour's influential Social Exclusion Unit argues that, once a New Deal for the homeless is established, Ministers could eventually make hostel places dependent on participation. Six ground-breaking pilot projects were set up in London last month offering help with housing, addiction treatment and careers advice to homeless people. They then pass on to the full New Deal, with options for the 18-24 age group of a job, training, voluntary work or benefit sanctions if they won't co-operate. The first phase will target people attending job centres, but in future it is likely to use volunteer outreach workers to find rough sleepers. If the pilots work, they are expected to be extended nationally. The charity Shelter gave a warning last night that, while it welcomed attempts to get the homeless back on their feet, compulsion would backfire. 'Our view is that compulsion can be counter-productive. We would want New Deal advisers to work in such a way that actually supports people and encourages them,' said a spokeswoman. 'Just saying to people "well, here's a job" will not necessarily be helpful.' Research from the United States shows that its welfare-to-work schemes miss a hard core of about 10 per cent of their target audience - including lone parents who refuse to buckle under US benefit sanctions, drug addicts and rough sleepers. But programmes teaching the so-called 'four Rs' - not just reading, writing and arithmetic, but 'readiness for work' skills like communication or punctuality - before entering work have had some success in the US, offering a model for the UK. The standard New Deal will also emphasise 'work-readiness' skills to help candidates get better jobs with promotion prospects. A key theme for Labour's next term will be not just getting people into work regardless, but creating 'good' jobs where employees are trained and treated well. 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