Landlords lose faith in £5bn work programme

Housing associations are setting up their own employment schemes after becoming disillusioned with the government’s £5 billion work programme.

Under the scheme 18 prime contractors, mainly private firms, subcontract to specialist providers, including housing associations, to provide unemployed people with skills and job training.

To date, just 35 housing associations have become involved in the scheme. Some are now setting up alternative schemes after stepping back from the work programme because there are no guarantees of funding or referrals.

Inside Housing revealed last month that homelessness charities are worried about the progress of the scheme. The programme requires prime contractors to use third sector organisations, but does not specify a minimum amount of work they should be given.

Harvest Housing, which owns or manages 18,000 homes, was hoping for a small amount of work from prime contractor A4E, but it has not received any referrals to date.

A spokesperson for Harvest said: ‘We have reviewed our approach and have now chosen a different path for our worklessness and into-work initiatives.’

Gordon Keenan, head of funding and partnerships at the National Housing Federation, said he didn’t think ‘any of the housing associations are particularly happy with the number of referrals’.

He said hundreds of landlords had been interested in the scheme initially, but there had been very little engagement with the housing sector by the prime contractors.

Neal Hopkins, head of business development at 900-home association Epic Housing, said: ‘We decided not to get involved because the risk was greater than the reward.’

Epic Housing is instead investing £10,000 in its own pilot scheme to coach unemployed tenants how to get a job. Mr Hopkins said he hopes the scheme will help 35 people.

The Social Market Foundation last week published a report which said work programme contractors will miss performance targets, potentially leading to contract terminations.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘The payment model has been designed so if a voluntary or community-based organisation can boost a prime’s performance it will be in the prime’s interest to involve them.’