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Social landlords should provide nurseries to help single parents into work - report

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Social landlords should provide nurseries to help single parents into work - report

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities

Social landlords should provide nurseries to help single parents into work - report Social landlords should provide nurseries to help single parents into work - report

Around one in three of all households living in London council and housing association homes are headed by a single parent and only a third of those are in employment, according to new research published today.

The Centre for London's 'Home-Work: Helping London’s Social Tenants into Employment' report argues that a key factor explaining the low rate of employment is the difficulty of finding flexible and affordable childcare in the capital. It argues that those responsible for housing associations and local authorities could do more to help parents who want to work secure affordable childcare – by, for instance, setting up nurseries themselves. Single mothers make up 94% of London’s single parent social tenants.

The report argues that:

  • Social tenants whose income goes up should pay progressively more rent, until they are paying a near open market rent. But the increase should be gradual and social tenants should be guaranteed a home for life – government proposals to impose a dramatic hike in rents for households earning more than £60,000 and end life-time tenancies could act as perverse incentives, discouraging work;
  • Local authorities and housing associations should do more to help manage the risks of leaving benefits, going into work, and then going back on benefits, by creating a special fund on which tenants who lose work can draw;
  • Social landlords should take a more rigorous approach to designing and evaluating into work services that they run. The large majority of social landlords now fund into-work services for their tenants – 80% provide training and skills development for their residents. But very few evaluate these in a systematic way.

Though the report focuses on London, its findings and recommendations have application across the country.

The findings of the research argue against the idea that providing needy people with a subsidised social home creates a culture of dependency.

The report also finds that:

  • 40 percent of working-age Londoners who live in council or housing associations homes don't work, and that at least 1 in 4 London social tenants don’t work and could, with the right support, be expected to work.
  • Around 45% of working age social tenants in London are working compared with around 70% of private renters and around 80% of home-owners.
  • When it comes to employment, London’s social tenants are, in most respects, not doing any worse than social tenants elsewhere in the UK and in some respects they are doing better. So London’s ethnic minority social tenants are more likely to work than those elsewhere. But there are many more single parent households in London than elsewhere (32% compared 25%) and single parents are significantly less likely to be employed (33% compared to 36%).
  • This is part of a larger pattern. 60% of UK mothers work compared with only 43% of London mothers.
  • Childcare is up to a third more expensive in London than elsewhere in the UK, with parents paying on average of £119 per week for a child under two.
  • While all council and social housing association homes are subsidised, London homes are particularly heavily subsidised – rents on social homes are on average at least 50% lower than rents on equivalent private homes.
  • Charging higher earning social tenants a higher rent, as proposed by the report, could, on a very conservative estimate, bring at least £200 million a year in additional revenue across England – money that could be used to build new homes and help social tenants into work.
  • A recent national survey showed that while 80% of housing associations now offer tenants services aimed at developing their skills, only 12% offer help with childcare.

Ben Rogers, Director of the Centre for London said: "The best route out of poverty for those who can work is a well-paid job. It’s no surprise that unemployment is higher among people who live in council or housing association homes when these homes go to the most vulnerable and needy people, including disabled people, and people in poor health. But London has a very large number of parents – especially single parents – in social housing who don’t work. This is in part because of the very high costs of childcare in the capital – costs that have got higher over the last few years.

"Social landlords should explore ways of helping their tenants with childcare, by, for instance, running nurseries and youth clubs from their own premises."

James Gregory, one of the report’s authors, said: "Social tenants benefit from highly subsidised rents, especially in London so it's not surprising that there are growing calls for higher earning social tenants to pay more. But we need to make sure that higher rents and end to life-time tenancies don’t work to discourage tenants from working.

"At the same time, social landlords should look at ways of using some of the rent that working tenants pay to cushion the blow if they fall out of work and have to go back on benefits. Many low income people are put off looking for work by worries about coming off benefits and then losing their job, and finding themselves without job or benefits."

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