The Ministry of Justice will open a dynamic purchasing system during the summer to facilitate the purchase of services in prisons that will complement the core curriculum offers through the Prison Education Framework. The DPS is an opportunity for providers to offer a range of interventions, such as mentoring and employability training. 3SC will be seeking to get a range of offers that it can subcontract onto this DPS that we would seek to subcontract out to delivery organisations.
Social Enterprise UK has launched a quarterly newsletter to keep people abreast of developments in its Places Programme, which aims to promote, raise awareness, and build the markets for social enterprise at a local and national level. Hotspots of social enterprise activity can be awarded the Social Enterprise Place badge, which celebrates their achievements and supports their growth. There are currently 25 accredited Places across the UK; to become one you can find out more here.
The VCSE Review group, which is supported by the Government, has published an “action plan” for “sustainable and effective voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in health and care”. A copy is available here.
This action plan contains an on-line survey that readers are asked to respond to by close of business on 29 June. The action plan says that “achieving the goal of equal, early access to enabling community-based support, looks increasingly central to the sustainability of our NHS and councils. Yet, despite this consensus, the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations who responded to the Joint VCSE Review (2016) consultation described a constant battle between their missions set by their communities, and their need to chase funding priorities set elsewhere.”
The VCSE Review of 2016 suggested there was a shift towards “co-designing health and care systems” to make them more community-based, and another shift towards “a bigger, strategically-resourced role” for VCSEs within health and care. The new plan notes progress in various areas but on some key recommendations movement has been slower.
It’s thus made a further nine recommendations, the first of which is to “define and measure wellbeing”, which will be extremely challenging, and the co-designing of health, care and public health systems with local people, which will be more easily achievable. The action plan has been jointly agreed between NHS England, Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and has been adopted by the Health and Wellbeing Alliance, the partnership programme between those bodies and the voluntary sector.
3SC launched a Position Paper at the House of Commons on 22 May, at a reception hosted by Alex Sobel, the Labour Co-op MP for Leeds North West. There was a very good attendance, including 3SC’s delivery organisations, government departments, MPs and representatives from various think thanks. Chris White, the former Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington, and the man who steered the Social Value Act (2012) through Parliament as a private members’ Bill, said that one of the neglected advantages of leaving the European Union was that “we can now look for developing our own domestic procurement policies, and this is an area which requires not only parliamentarians to work on, but also other organisations” such as those who gathered for the launch in the House of Commons.
The Position Paper, available on 3SC’s website as a pdf here, argues that in the wake of the collapse of Carillion, public procurement faces significant challenges. It states: “What we are pushing for is more sensitivity in how services are procured and, within that, an explicit commitment, from Government, for third sector and smaller organisations to secure a reasonable share of the public procurement pie.”
The Paper calls for providing “teeth” to the Social Value Act to make it work effectively. According to National Voices, a coalition of health and social care charities in England, from research it carried out in 2017 it found that just 13% of Clinical Commissioning Groups were making “highly committed, evidenced and active” use of the Act. 3SC’s report makes several proposals including the creation of a Public, Private and Third Sector Enterprise Board, to drive “best practice, inclusivity across and between the sectors, and a world class procurement framework.” It also emphasises the need to focus on the quality of outcomes, not just price, when it comes to procurement. Parliamentary Select Committee reports into the collapse of Carillion lent support to our paper; one commented: “The government’s drive for cost savings can itself come at a price: the cheapest bid is not always the best”.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, published a damning report on an announced inspection in January this year of HMP &YOI Nottingham, which held 964 adult and young adult prisoners at the time of inspection. The January inspection followed one in 2014 and another in 2016; that inspection made 48 recommendations. In his introduction Clarke said: “Most concerning of all was that at all three inspections we judged outcomes in safety to be poor, our lowest assessment, and at this inspection we found that only two out of 13 recommendations made in 2016 in the area of safety had been fully achieved. We can recall only one other occasion when we have judged safety in a prison to be poor following three consecutive inspections.”
Since 1999 the Inspectorate has operated on the basis of four tests of a healthy prison: Safety – prisoners, particularly the most vulnerable, are held safely; Respect – prisoners are treated with respect for their human dignity; Purposeful Activity – prisoners are able, and expected, to engage in activity that is likely to benefit them; Rehabilitation and release planning – prisoners are supported to maintain and develop relationships with their family and friends. Prisoners are helped to reduce their likelihood of reoffending and their risk of harm is managed effectively; they are prepared for their release into the community. On three of these tests the prison was found “not sufficiently good”; on the safety test it was judged “poor”.
The conditions discovered during January’s inspection led to Clarke to issue an urgent notification, for the first time, to warn David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, about the prison’s particularly poor state. Said Clarke, referring to the eight apparent suicides at the prison between February 2016 and January 2018: “For too long prisoners have been held in a dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail. My fear, which may prove to be unfounded, is that some could face it no longer and took their own lives.”
Following on from the appointment in February of Claire Dove (pictured above) as the VCSE sector’s Crown Commercial Service (CCS) representative, the CCS issued a new Procurement Policy Note (PPN) on supply chain visibility, prompted by Government’s desire “to level the playing field and increase the visibility of supply chain opportunities to assist suppliers, including SMEs, in bidding for work in its supply chains.” From 1 May central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies must update their terms and conditions of contract with prime contractors to include the following obligations: a requirement to advertise, on Contracts Finder, any subcontract opportunities valued at £25,000 or above; and frequent submission of reports to provide detail of spend on sub-contracting, in addition to how much of that spend relates to SME or VCSE organisations. These obligations only apply to public contracts with a value of £5 million or more a year and only need to be factored into procurements which commence on/after 1 May 2018. In-scope organisations have the ability to increase the £25,000 threshold up to a maximum of £100,000, if they consider the minimum threshold of £25,000 to be ‘overly burdensome’ to suppliers on a particular procurement. Sub-contractors may lodge complaints if they feel that they are missing out on significant sub-contracting opportunities. Contracting authorities may therefore wish to consider inclusion of the above clauses within their terms and conditions on a voluntary basis to maximise competition and increase SME participation. The PPN does not dictate how sub-contracts are to be procured. There is a requirement to allow a reasonable and proportionate amount of time for sub-contractor bidders to respond. This development is welcome provided it is enforced and it also offers public sector commissioners a way of ensuring that the Social Value Act is more consistently rolled out across public procurement.
Government figures proudly blazoned the latest employment statistics, showing that for January-March 2018 there were 32.34 million people in work, meaning the employment rate – the number of people aged 16-64 and in work – was 75.6%, “the highest since comparable records began in 1971.” The unemployment rate is 4.2% currently, the lowest since 1975.
While this is obviously cheering news, the rate of real term average weekly earnings rose by just 0.4% excluding bonuses, but was unchanged including bonuses, compared with a year earlier. In other words, while the overall job market appears to be booming, individuals are not feeling much better off.
The true employment picture across the UK is very complex and the government’s latest figures only tell half the story; the picture is more ambiguous than first appears, not least because it conceals the recent years of growth in zero-hours contracts. The government has hailed a record employment rate and any rise in the number of people in work is a welcome step in the right direction. Across the country 3SC works in partnership with many organisations which deliver employability programmes and witness the issues faced by individuals. We know that the freezing of working-age benefits and tax credits are hitting pockets hard. According to recent research, it means a couple with two children will be £380 worse off than if Universal Credit had risen in line with price rises.
So there’s some heartening news here. But concerns remain and there’s a lot more that could be done. The Government is freezing most working-age benefits and tax credits. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commented that “whilst it is welcome that more people are in work than ever before, the combination of low pay, stagnating wages and a lack of progression opportunities is locking more people in poverty. One in 8 workers is living in poverty and once inflation is taken into account, average workers are still earning £25 per week less than 10 years ago.”
At the end of 2017 the Foundation published a report on poverty in the UK, asserting that 14 million people – more than one in five of the population – currently lives in poverty. It suggested that there are three factors behind this: state support for many of those on low incomes is falling in real terms, rents are increasing, and rising employment is no longer reducing poverty. The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) is holding the third annual Employability Day on 29 June. To find out how you can take part in this UK-wide event, click here.
Photo: Joseph Rowntree Foundation
The government is currently procuring a new service to replace both the accommodation and the support services provided for asylum seekers. The asylum process can take many months to complete; many of the people claiming asylum have no money and because they do not have the right to work until they are granted refugee status and leave to remain, many are effectively destitute. The accommodation and advice service offered is primarily targeted at meeting the needs of this group of people. At any given time there are roughly 45,000 people whose claims are bring assessed within the system. The accommodation service offers “initial accommodation” and “dispersed accommodation”. Initial accommodation is hostel type accommodation for people when they first make their claim for asylum, whereas dispersed accommodation is self-contained property (often shared houses) that people move to, once they have got through the first part of the claim process. This new service is currently been tendered in seven regional lots to cover the whole of the UK.
The support service consists of an Advice and Guidance service, which helps people make their asylum claim, provides them with information about the range of services offered and helps them access health provision and other community services that they are entitled to engage with. For families, the advice and guidance service will help ensure that children get access to schooling and other children’s services as required. The service also offers a single point of contact for asylum seekers to log issues that they face, and has a role in ensuring that these issues are reported and resolved as appropriate, including raising maintenance problems or other issues with the accommodation provider. The final aspect of the advice and guidance service is to help with arrangements once a decision on the asylum claim has been made. For those who are given leave to remain, this will include helping them find accommodation and to register for welfare benefits and or find work. For those not granted leave to remain this will include helping make arrangements for repatriation. This service is currently being tendered as a single national lot. 3SC is expecting to have a role in the delivery of Advice and Guidance service, and aims to seek expressions of interest from delivery organisations in the near future.
It was ironic that in the same week as it became known that more than 6,000 non-EU nationals were refused a UK visa in the first quarter of 2018 – 3,500 of those applications being from scientists, engineers, health and technology specialists – Tech Nation, which is Government-backed, published a study arguing that while the UK has cemented “its position as a global tech leader” it remains the case that “access to talent and investment continue to challenge tech communities across the UK”. In the tech world more than 80% of employers surveyed by Tech Nation say the biggest problem they have is locating and hiring talented individuals.
The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) said 6,080 applications from skilled overseas workers living outside the EU and wanting to take up UK jobs were refused visas, because the ceiling on the number of tier 2 visas ( based on a points system designed to measure qualifications) had been reached. According to the executive director of CaSE, Sarah Main, “businesses and public services are being blocked at the last hurdle from recruiting the people they need, including in health, engineering and tech, due to the visa cap.”
Although employment in the digital tech sector rose by 13.2% between 2014 and 2017 according to the Tech Nation report, diversity and inclusiveness remain “a challenge”. While the UK workforce is 49% female, only 19% of digital tech jobs are done by women. Nevertheless the tech sector is geographically spreading around the country, making the overall economy less dependent on the south-east. The report argues that there exists a “productivity power path” from London to the river Severn and so-called ‘tech towns’ – with a higher than average number of digital businesses – can be found in unexpected places such as Burnley in Lancashire, Livingston in Scotland, and Enniskillen in Northern Ireland.
The cost to the UK economy of barriers to disabled people came under scrutiny this month from several sources, including a new report from KPMG, the audit, tax and advisory services firm. It argues that just 17% of people are born with a disability, and that disability is a life-long phenomenon – it develops as people get older – and it therefore makes economic sense to be more inclusive. “With an ageing population and the age of retirement increasing, this is likely to become even more common. Businesses that don’t address this trend risk losing valuable skills and knowledge from their workforces,” it says. KPMG’s study calls for company Boards to table disability as an agenda item at least once a year; tasking one Board member with the role of “disability champion”; to sign the Government’s Disability Confident scheme (as has 3SC); to become a “disability advocate” by sharing the experience of employing people with disabilities; and to consider forming “external partnerships”. Optimistically, KPMG says: “It’s not hard to picture a future in which disability is part of every company’s customer service training programme; the vast majority of disabled employees share their disability status with their employer; working alongside disabled colleagues has become so normal it’s unremarkable; [and] most people can name a chief executive with a known disability.” 3SC manages an Access to Work contract, which helps disabled people to find and stay in work. Our recent position paper, available here,
From KPMG’s publicly prominence to more local group initiatives – The Sisters of Frida, a collective of disabled women, has launched a new fundraising effort to help finance disabled women to attend events. The inspiration behind the new fund came about by the effort needed to finance a visit to Geneva in 2013, to present evidence from the UK about the impact of austerity on disabled women to the UN’s CEDAW, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Michelle Daley, a co-founder of Sisters of Friday, said “we are testing the waters, doing something new and different, but it is also being done by disabled women for disabled women and with no resources.”
The London borough of Islington is following in the steps of Westminster borough council by drawing up plans for a “voluntary council tax supplement”. Westminster council’s plans for a voluntary supplement was first aired in October 2017 when Nickie Aiken (pictured above), the council leader, said that the voluntary supplement of £1,376 a year would be suggested to the estimated 2,000 owners of £10m-plus properties within band H. The supplement would double what they already pay in council tax, and would raise an extra £2.75m a year if they all made the payment. Richard Watts, the leader of Islington council, said the additional money raised by Islington “would be used to support the Fairer Islington Fund, a charitable body, and will provide additional early intervention and prevention services to local people.” As with Westminster, whose volunteer council tax payments scheme was introduced in April this year, Islington plans to aim its scheme at band H homes, for which residents currently pay £2,270 a year.
The success of voluntary additional payments appears patchy so far; just 2% of those eligible in Westminster council have so far signed up to the extra payments. The amount of money available to local councils has fallen by almost 30% since 2010-11, according to some estimates. Councils have seen their spending power substantially reduced in the post-2008 period and, according to the Local Government Association, are facing a further 54% reduction in 2018-20 and by then could face a £5.8 billion funding ‘gap’. The Institute for Public Policy Research in March published a report in which it called for reform of council tax in London and said the tax “is still based on property values from 1 April 1991, which means the charges levied on many properties bear little relation to their actual value…The system is also widely considered to be unfair, inefficient and unpopular. Yet the memory of the failure of the poll tax remains so potent, politicians daren’t touch the council tax system for fear of the political consequences and the perceived lack of an acceptable alternative.”
Photo: Jeremy Selwyn, Evening Standard
Purple Futures is a partnership between third sector organisations 3SC, P3, and Shelter and its leading partner Interserve.
The partnership is responsible for providing probation and rehabilitation services on behalf of the Ministry of Justice in five Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) across the UK: Cheshire and Greater Manchester; Merseyside; Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire; West Yorkshire; and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The CRCs manage services for about 40,000 offenders – up to 25% of low and medium risk ex-offenders in England and Wales – and Purple Futures is contracted to do this for seven years, having started in 2015. The collective contract is worth around £600 million.
Yvonne Thomas, who at that date was Managing Director of Justice at Interserve, said at the establishment of Purple Futures: “We recognise that offenders have the potential to change, and we will work together to help them realise this.” Three years into the contract we caught up with Thomas, now Managing Director of Citizen Services (which means she oversees all Interserve’s justice, employment, learning and health services), to learn how things are progressing.
“We have just over 60 third sector organisations working on these contracts with us,” says Thomas, “and they range from tiny charities like the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy, to the big guys like Shelter. We’re generally pleased with the quality of service of the third sector partners. We hold them to professional contract management standards – in fact 3SC do that contract management on our behalf, and they do that well. Interserve as the private sector partner has operational responsibility for delivery. What we wanted from our third sector partners is to have a slightly arms’ length view, holding us to account for things like inspections, and of course each of them is a delivery partner in their own right for the contract.”
Thomas said about a year ago that “our work is going up and our pay is going down”. Does that still hold today? “Nobody is planning on walking away from these contracts but we are in quite a lengthy set of negotiations with the Ministry of Justice, as I think all providers are. I’m still hopeful that we will get a good set of resolutions from those discussions. There’s a willingness on all sides to find solutions, but they involve difficult problems. I would expect all of us to know where we stand by around June this year.”
Purple Futures has had its fair share of criticisms but Thomas is confident that Interserve knew “exactly what we were taking on.” Operationally, “the quality of what we do is perceived to be pretty good. We are reducing re-offending ahead of the binary rate predicted, and I think that’s why on the whole the third sector is comfortable working with us, and we are very comfortable with them. The very fabric of how we have designed our service – the Interchange model as it’s called – is a very positive experience for the offenders who come to us.”
How much of the criticism Purple Futures has faced is simply an inevitable consequence of doing something new? “An awful lot of it”, says Thomas. She adds: “It’s always been a political hot potato and that probably will never stop. It’s not fashionable to find things to praise. Fantastic as probation is, it’s not a service that the public is particularly interested in, putting it bluntly. It’s a little disappointing that there are not more advocates for this service, which in some parts is very good and in some parts is not. It’s a very sensitive service. But I know what probation used to be like, and I know how we run probation; I have a very clear conscience about the service that we are providing.”
The cost of reoffending is staggeringly high, both in the devastation to individual lives and also to the overall economy. In 2015 the government said the “cost to the taxpayer of reoffending is estimated to be £9.5 to £13 billion per year”, and that about half of all crimes committed are by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. Historically we have been good at locking people up for their crimes but very poor at rehabilitation. The social and economic costs are truly vast. The public sector never made a great job of diverting offenders from returning to crime and prison; is the private/third sector collaboration having better luck?
Says Thomas: “We know what the binary rate of re-offending is within our CRCs, as calculated by the Ministry of Justice; we know what the predicted outcome is, and what the actual outcome is. The first years’ results, from the beginning of the contracts, are now through, and you can see from that we are doing better than predicted. In most of our CRCs, every single percentage point means there are fewer victims, fewer crimes, and that it must therefore mean that the cost to society is less. But re-offending rates are still too high.” The figures from Purple Futures, from October 2015 to the end of June 2016 – the data available – show that it’s having pretty dramatic success in reducing re-offending rates in some of its CRCs, less so in West Yorkshire. Figuring out why different CRCs are having different results is high on Purple Futures’ agenda.
In the end, rehabilitation “is not rocket science” says Thomas. It’s a matter of “treating people how you would like to be treated,” she says. It’s about painting a picture for individuals about what their life could be like, and then helping them through that process. It’s also the case that such a massive undertaking as turning around the lives of some 40,000 people is neither fast nor simple, particularly with ever-increasing pressures on accommodation and drug treatment services. Over decades the public sector showed itself largely indifferent to involving the third sector in the work of rehabilitation; three years into its job, the private sector is using the third sector and changing lives for the better – and cutting into that £9.5 billion cost, slowly and surely.
May saw the launch of 3SC’s first Position Paper on the terrace of the House of Commons. We were doubly fortunate: the weather was excellent, and the attendance was splendid and tremendously supportive of what we are doing. Getting this high-profile exposure is vital to the future of 3SC and its growing network of collaborators – it puts us on the public landscape as never before, and knits the network closer together. In that paper we push for “more sensitivity in how services are procured and, within that, an explicit commitment, from Government, for third sector and smaller organisations to secure a reasonable share of the public procurement pie.” Our report’s publication coincided with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committees report on the fall of Carillion – 105 pages but worth reading cover to cover – which called the episode a “story of recklessness, hubris and greed.” We believe it was also an unnecessary failure; had Government decided to give the Social Value Act some real teeth, the third sector could have been more involved from the start, and perhaps the hubris and greed would have had less room to dominate.
This month 3SC Impact has an interview with Yvonne Thomas of Interserve, one of the key people involved in the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which is all about reducing rates of re-offending. Cutting recidivism rates is both a social and individual matter: the cost to society of re-offending is vast, at least £9.5 billion a year, but within that overall figure many individuals are struggling to escape a cycle of despair – a cost that no-one can put a figure on. Yvonne Thomas is a refreshing voice in this debate; transforming rehabilitation is, she says, a matter of “treating people how you would like to be treated.”
We hope that you enjoy the contents and do let us know what you like – or dislike – and what more we can be doing.
John Swinney, 3SC Chair
29 June is Employability Day, organised by the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), which campaigns for better services for jobseekers and learners. This is the third such annual event; a key messaging pdf is available here.
The Welsh Government have launched their Working Wales tender, which will replace a number of existing programmes, including Jobs Growth Wales, ReAct, Traineeships and the Employability Skills Programme. The service aims to support people of all ages to overcome barriers and gain the skills to achieve and maintain good quality, sustainable employment. The provision will be funded for a period of up to seven years, will have an expected value in the first year of £56 million, and will be let in seven lots. 3SC are talking to a number of bidders and hope to be in a position to develop a delivery partnership as the bid progresses.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) have just released a prior information notice confirming their intention to open a procurement event for providers to register and prequalify for delivery through the Prison Education Dynamic Procurement System (DPS). The idea is that required provision can then be commissioned through call offs from the DPS. The MoJ have indicated that up to £100 million of provision will be commissioned via this approach; the tender event is planned to open on 6 August this year.
Andy Schofield sits on the Executive Committee of 3SC, but he also runs Cocreate, which has a Partnership agreement with 3SC, providing services relating to impact. According to Schofield, “we help organisations think clearly about the difference they make. Context really matters. It’s pretty much impossible to have a ‘one-size fits all approach’. Let’s take a good example. A bunch of people gets together to try to solve a challenge that they believe is worth solving. They bring their experience, some assumptions, and some knowledge about their area. It could be youth work in an east London borough. Youth work in an east London borough won’t necessarily operate in the ways that youth work might work in Liverpool. What we do is help organisations think about those differing contexts.”
Taking a more structured approach to getting people and organisations to think about what they are doing, and what impact they might have, is at the heart of Cocreate’s methods.
So why join in a Partnership with 3SC? Says Schofield: “It’s partly about reach – 3SC is working with a lot of different organisations, and we probably would not be able to work with them otherwise. While there’s obviously a financial driver there, there’s also an impact one. Cocreate is like a lot of other entities – we are relatively small but we have got a lot of good materials and people. Finding other groups and organisations that we can work with has tended to be by word of mouth and network effects. Partnering with an organisation like 3SC, which is already working with people we would like to work with, makes obvious good sense and is exciting.”
Schofield adds that he is “excited by what 3SC is doing. I’ve kept an eye on it for quite a long time. I like the idea of ecologies of scale and I’ve got enough experience of public sector markets to see that the big solutions don’t work. The evidence is there, that we need something else. But equally, to expect small organisations to go through all the hoops you need to operate at scale is very tricky. Having something that brings those things together, like 3SC, is very exciting.”
He is particularly invigorated by the idea of impact-as-loop; organisations want to effect social change, they try various strategies and see what works, and feed back into their practices both successful and unsuccessful results. “3SC has the potential to act as an ‘ecosystem’ for solving interesting problems in concert with other organisations. As you try to solve one problem you uncover others – the idea that any one organisation has a monopoly on good ideas is naïve,” he says.
Becoming a partner with 3SC “was a much more personal experience” than Schofield was anticipating. “I’ve seen plenty of PQQ’s [pre-qualification questionnaires] in my time and it was nothing like that. Most small organisations in my experience have a compliance ‘lag’ – they’re focused on getting the work in. They lag behind on the systems and processes, their data, their compliance. Those things will generally come back to haunt them, especially if they want to work with a significant local authority – some of those questions will get asked. I think the 3SC membership offer can help solve quite a lot of those ‘lag’ problems that smaller organisations simply don’t have time to cope with, but to which they need to pay attention. Think of the amount of work involved with GDPR at the moment. If you can remove that kind of obstacle, it’s a kind of insurance policy as well as showing your robustness and capability. Combining that with new services that 3SC can offer – like impact – should make smaller social sector organisations even stronger and more appealing.”
This month sees another milestone on the path of 3SC’s regeneration, in the form of the publication of a thought leadership document – our Position Paper #1 – which questions the way in which public sector procurement currently works. This paper is to be launched at a House of Commons event on 22 May; places are now scarce but if you would like to attend please get in touch. To question is easy; to suggest practicable solutions is tough; but Position Paper #1 throws into the mix some ideas which we believe are sensible.
This month’s 3SC Impact carries an interview with one of our Executive Committee members, Andy Schofield, on why his company has formed a Partnership with 3SC; we hope that it goes some way to inspire others to do the same.
Among the issues touched on in this edition is that of 3SC’s new membership offer – get in touch with us and learn how our expertise can clear the distracting clutter and can help you grow. It is hard to slog away at worthwhile change, particularly if your organisation is already running at full speed, as Andy Schofield suggests. Collaboration and the pooling of ideas and resources is the way forward.
John Swinney, Chair of 3SC.
The charity Homeless published a report which claimed, among other matters, that welfare reforms are contributing to homelessness among people aged between 16 and 24. They find themselves facing landlords who often prefer older, more settled tenants, and have lower rates of housing benefit entitlements; young people’s Housing Benefit entitlement is restricted to the cost of a renting a single room in a shared house, and young people also receive a lower rate of income support within Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit. It says that life in the private rented sector is especially tough for young people, who “face higher risks of poverty, lower security of tenure and increasing rent levels.” Finding reliably accurate and comprehensive data for youth homelessness is difficult – nobody knows how many young people are without a home in the UK. Many may well be ‘hidden homeless’, i.e. sleeping on someone’s floor, remaining out of sight in squats, or similar situations that elude statistical reports.
According to the report, being homeless is far from the only problem. Being unemployed and with low skill-levels compound matters and, in turn, the isolation and sense of hopelessness can create mental health difficulties. Other problems include substance misuse, a lack of social integration, and the collapse of family ties. One factor that might ease the situation is that the Government said (on 29 March this year) that all 18-21 year-olds would be entitled to housing costs within universal credit; but longer-term, more integrated solutions are required, ones that help restore young people’s sense of purpose and belief in a positive future.
The Trussell Trust – the charity that runs two-thirds of the UK’s foodbanks, 428 in total – says that for the past year (up to the end of March) the number of people seeking help from its foodbanks rose by a record 13% compared to the previous year. The Trust requires a referral from a job centre or similar body, such as a housing association or GP.
Most disturbing is that 28% of all referrals to its foodbanks were because the individuals’ benefits were insufficient to cover the cost of essentials; 24% of referrals were due to delays in receiving benefits, while 18% were due to changes in benefits. Foodbanks that have been in full universal credit rollout areas for a year or more shows that they experienced an average increase of 52% of referrals in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full universal credit areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%. Half to two thirds of food bank users who took part in the report ended up using a foodbank due to problems with the benefits system.
The charity calls for benefit levels to be uprated in line with inflation and for “an urgent enquiry into poor administration within universal credit.” Emma Revie, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “For too many people, staying above water is a daily struggle.” The number of parcels handed out at Trussell Trust foodbanks has risen from fewer than 3,000 to 1.2 million today. A report in 2014 argued that many food bank users faced multiple challenges, including ill-health, relationship breakdown, mental health problems or substantial caring responsibilities, and that many were unable to work or had recently lost their job. 3SC’s contract delivery includes third sector organisations who help find work for the unemployed, the disadvantaged, and those who are struggling with the multiplicity of problems faced by many people today – including having sufficient resources to adequately feed a family.