Pioneering pilot to get more Newham people into work
October 29, 2007
Newham Council has launched a groundbreaking pilot project to help residents get off benefits and into work - even if it means assisting them with their rent.
The employment pilot is the first of its kind and aims to intensively support 100 people, who would be financially worse off if their benefits ceased and they found work.
Primarily for people who want to start work but are concerned about how they will manage their finances, the employment pilot will offer the opportunity to escape the benefits trap and overcome the psychological and physical barriers associated with returning to employment. The pilot is open to people who live in Newham and find a job through Workplace, the council's employment scheme, and other partnership organisations.
Spearheaded by Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales, the scheme will provide a Housing Benefit top up for up to a year to those who find themselves worse off by returning to work; currently legislation only allows for a Housing Benefit extension of four weeks.
The pilot works firstly by linking participants with Workcoaches, specialist staff who identify their barriers to work, provide support with employment opportunities, help develop their skills for work and calculate whether they would be better off in work.
After looking at an individual's real cost of moving into work, residents who might be worse off if they were employed are identified as potential candidates for extended Housing Benefit protection.
The scheme is not just about helping people with their rent. Workcoaches provide clients with advice and guidance on all aspects of moving off benefits like childcare provision, housing options and debt issues. The pilot service also incorporates expert advice on in-work benefits, such as tax credits.
Sir Robin said: "This scheme targets those who have never worked and the long-term unemployed . These groups often find themselves stuck in a benefits trap, which sadly, in some cases, equates to a poverty trap.
"Unfortunately there are some cases where people who are on benefits cannot afford to start work, however much they may want to. This scheme ensures that everyone is better off working - whatever their circumstances."
One of the first beneficiaries of the pilot is Ann-Marie Doherty, 43, from West Ham, who has been out of work since she became pregnant with her first child.
Whilst her children were growing up Ann-Marie undertook some casual work but her circumstances did not allow her to look for anything permanent. She found out about the pilot whilst visiting The Hub, in Canning Town. She said: "My time at home is done. My kids have grown up and now it's 'me' time."
Ann-Marie will now receive intensive support from her Workcoach to get her 'job ready'. Her preparation will include a 'better off' calculation, CV workshop and a look at her barriers to work. She added: "My last job was working for clothing company Ben Sherman, where I was training to become a supervisor. Job applications these days are very different, you have to complete an application form, go for an interview and even undertake assessments. Despite all this I am confident that with the right help and support I will find work - I just need to be given a chance."
The pilot provides a local response to the Government Green Paper, In Work, Better Off, and addresses a national concern about some barriers created by the benefits system. Sir Robin will be discussing the findings of the pilot with central Government.