Homeless get jobless benefit boost

Newly-homeless unemployed people may no longer be stripped of jobless benefits if they stop seeking work while they look for a new place to live, under new rules announced by the Government.

Homeless people are nearly six times more likely than other claimants to have unemployment payments stopped, campaigners say
Homeless people are nearly six times more likely than other claimants to have unemployment payments stopped, campaigners say

Losing the roof over your head is being added to a list of "domestic emergencies" which give job centre staff freedom to relax the usual requirements.

It means rough sleepers and those in shelters may keep receiving payments for up to around four weeks while they seek alternative accommodation even if they are not actively looking for work.

The move, which comes into force from July 21, was welcomed by campaigners who said research had shown homeless people were nearly six times more likely than other claimants to have unemployment payments stopped.

Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for the Homeless Link charity, said: "We welcome these new regulations as they recognise additional needs and barriers homeless people face and the importance of easing the pressure people face when trying to find a suitable place to live.

"Having a place to call home is a vital step in the route of homelessness and can provide the stability people need to rebuild their lives.

"We have been working hard with the support of our members to get a fairer deal for homeless people seeking work, and today's announcement shows progress that can be made."

Kyla Kirkpatrick, of another charity St Mungo's Broadway, said: "We know from talking to our clients that the majority want to work but being homeless is an obstacle to job-hunting.

"These changes could help temporarily ease the pressure to find a home and a job at the same time for people who are often struggling with health problems and a lack of basic skills, as well as homelessness.

"We know that with support, homeless people can and do return to work. We hope that the Government will build on this and take action to improve the employment support available to people who are homeless."

Benefits staff will assess on a case-by-case basis whether to grant an temporary "easement" of the usual JSA requirements such as being available for work or actively seeking work.

The easement is not expected to last for more than four weeks as it would be unusual for a domestic emergency to last longer than this period, though Work Coaches can extend the duration if considered appropriate " taking reasonable action to find accommodation".

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Becoming homeless can be an incredibly difficult time for jobseekers, and these changes will give them a short breathing space to focus on putting a roof above their head before we expect them to actively search for work.

"Once they've got the stability of somewhere to live, we'll give homeless people all the support they need to prepare for a job and get back on their feet."