Joanne Drew, Nacro’s Director of Housing and Wellbeing, chaired the Preventing Further Poverty in the UK conference which was organised by Public Policy Exchange. She outlined the initiatives that Nacro has developed to help “just about managing” families access affordable and secure housing including the innovative Stockport Targeted Prevention Alliance, Nacro Homes Agency and our work in partnership with Resonance to deliver the National Homelessness Property Fund.
Key messages from the conference:
- Real median family incomes are projected to fall significantly between now and 2020 due to the continued roll out of welfare reform and the rising cost of inflation.
- Working families on low incomes will be most affected, specifically young families, those with children who have disabilities, larger families above the two child limit – the larger the family size, the greater the income loss.
- The percentage of children in the UK that are classed as poor is at its highest level since the start of the decade. Official figures show that about 4 million children, or around 30%, are now classed as poor. About 67% of the UK’s poor children are from working families.
- The welfare reform agenda aims to stimulate behaviour change and we wait to see whether this picture will result in, for example, an increase in two parent households working or whether it reduces family size.
- Supporting families to be resilient should be a key priority as well as investment in poverty proofing initiatives such as the School Day.
- JRF research shows that those on low incomes and who are under stress can make short term decisions about spending. Society feels it can comment on the spending patterns of those in receipt of benefits without recognising the changing norms around participation in modern culture.
- In work pay progression is key to reducing poverty – the current employment support system is broken and focuses only on getting people into work without considering wider related issues. The groups that have become stuck in low pay employment include those who are qualified but lack experience, those that have been in the same role in an organisation without progression, those with priority family needs, and those with a lack of vocational direction or skills.
- Solutions include providing information, advice and guidance to low paid workers and their employers and initiatives to improve to sector skills investment.
- Stable and affordable housing is essential and those in the private rented sector face greater challenges including accessing a reducing supply of homes at the frozen LHA rates for families reliant on housing benefit to top up low wages.
- Nacro housing initiatives for families include the early intervention and prevention schemes such as the Stockport Targeted Prevention Alliance, and the National Homes Agency which work with private landlords to make accommodation available to vulnerable people. In addition, Nacro’s partnership with Resonance social investment fund, aims to increase the supply of accommodation to local authorities with families that are homeless.
- A national housing strategy for vulnerable people which includes the “Just About Managing” is urgently needed.
- Combined authorities and broader partnerships should join up to ensure inclusive growth plans in localities.