Top tips: helping residents find employment


HACT's Network Coordinator John Coburn joined the Guardian's panel of experts to discuss why and how housing providers should help tenants to find work. Read the key points from the discussion.

(This article was published on the Guardian website on Saturday 3 November 2012)

John Coburn is HACT's Network Coordinator

The need for more data: 88% of housing providers are offering help, advice, services or work opportunities to residents; we found that only 42% of housing providers know the employment status of their tenants or residents

Not just a moral mission: The introduction of the universal credit, and the end to direct payment [of rent], will mean that getting your tenants into work is not just about moral mission. It will also be about protecting your business from risk.

Only 28% of housing providers are engaged in the Work Programme: We know about 35 housing providers involved in supply chains, but that amounts to only 2% of the sector.

Matt Bayliss is community investment manager at London & Quadrant (L&Q)

Identify areas of need: We're doing a lot of work at the moment on mapping our neighbourhoods and identifying areas of higher unemployment. Welfare reform will probably also lead to us having more awareness of people's circumstances, particularly if residents are struggling.

James Walsh is opportunities manager at Bromford Group

The quality of social housing has improved: However the aspirations of tenants living in those houses hasnt always followed suit.

Don't focus just be on the lead tenant: We can, and should, be interested in all of the individuals in a household. Housing providers have a responsibility to provide a way out of out of dependancy.

Make it informal: Rather than completing applications we ask people to "express an interest". See everyone who does – don't shortlist. Don't hold interviews, have informal chats. Most of all agree to provide constuctive feedback and support for everyone.

Lynsey Boother is senior employment and skills adviser at the National Housing Federation

The work doesn't stop when someone gets a job: We need to provide pre-employment support, with realistic expectations and goal setting, and keep people in work once they've secured it. There is a history of programmes that ignored people once they were in work, only to find them back on jobseeker's allowance in less than three months from a job start. That pattern of short-term, low-hope jobs must also be addressed.

Employers' advice: Providing some support and taster days, having mentors in place, and sessions on motivation, planning, understanding yourself and your job are all proving useful according to employers I speak to.

Tim Edwards is head of regeneration at the Aspire Group

Regeneration has often failed by addressing only the physical issues: To transform communities we need to address social economic and environmental issues in a co-ordinated way, we have the means to address a range of these at a neighbourhood level.

Have a far-reaching approach: Addressing other issues through integrated services such as money advice, tenancy support are also important to enable people to achieve.

Opportunities for self employment are good: People can use their skills in a time and way to suit their lifestyle.

Bernadette O'Shea is the chief executive of Hounslow Homes

We recently did an audit of our own staff: About 40% live in the borough and about 10% are tenants. In the next year we are going to concentrate on how we can increase this. One place we have started is by extending our apprentice programme and really focusing on recruiting local young people and increasing the number of girls.

Suggestions from an apprenticeship group: Don't make it easy for people on benefits; target placement opportunities for tenants in the company; make doing some kind of work compulsory even a few hours a day; support them to improve their CVs; and provide child care to enable parents to work.

Gabrielle Tierney is head of community initiatives at the Octavia Foundation

No Work Programme: We did not want to align ourselves with programmes which had any element of compulsion (such as the work programme) or penalty (in the form of stopping benefits for example), as this did not sit comfortably within our philosophy. Many of our referrals come from word of mouth. This is an indicator that the service is valued and useful.

Nothing really beats word of mouth: We work with a lot of resident champions – people who are well-known and trusted faces in the local community, who have their finger on the pulse and like to talk to others. This has proven to be very sucessful for us.

Confidence can sometimes be the biggest barrier: We believe that volunteer work placements can really help overcome this as it slowly builds up someone's confidence in a supportive environment.

Juliet Shand is an employment advisor for Golding Homes

Employer engagement: With direct links to employers, we are able to match these to residents and give the residents a far better chance of success.

Peter Rayner is an employment support co-ordinator at Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association (BPHA)

Don't be a threat: The DWP is the policeman as well as the giver of benefits and training. Residents often feel unable to be totally open an honest with the DWP for fear to losing their benefit. The best thing about what I do is that I am no threat to their benefits. I help them to get a job that is on their terms, not just any job to get them off the register. That way, I find that they are much more motivated to engage with me.

Word of mouth is the best recruitment tool: Ensuring all frontline customer facing staff are aware of the employment support on offer is key.

Helping younger people: Facebook, smart phones, texting etc are all methods used to engage with young people. Also, keeps things short and full of activity. Where you might normally set up a two hour training session on interview skills, make your sessions with young people short and sharp to maintain their attention.

Chris Hall is associate and trainer with GoalsUK CIC

I think the penny is dropping among providers: It's no longer just a nice thing to do to help residents in to work.

Links to the community: Many landlords do not realise the advantage they have in terms of already having that dialogue and trust with vulnerable residents. Interventions are far more likely to succeed than external providers.

"Learned helplessness" is a product of second or third generation unemployment: A change in attitude is the only way to effect change in the culture of a community. The only solution is to help individuals to challenge their beliefs about themselves and also what they believe they can achieve.


Find out more about the HACT Worklessness action-learning programme.

Read this article on the Guardian website.



The sign of Job Centre.  Copyright HelenCobain