The Alliance found that there was a mismatch in the area between high-skilled job vacancies and a low-skilled workforce. At the same time, a high proportion of residents receiving housing benefit were in work. In February 2014, over 35,000 households in work were receiving housing benefit in the seven boroughs. Furthermore, of the almost 10,000 cases of households in temporary accommodation, over a third had people in part- or full-time employment. Finally, it found a significant mismatch between skills provision and housing benefit claimants – or, in simpler terms, people who needed help to improve their skills and move off benefits weren’t receiving that help.
Addressing these two challenges together, the Alliance developed the Skills Escalator to upskill residents on housing benefit and thereby help them reduce their need for welfare support. It published a detailed business case for the scheme in March 2014.
The Skills Escalator brings together employment advisors with housing teams, offers personal advisors to users, increases access to adult training opportunities, channels users to the National Careers Service so they can develop tailored action plans, and uses existing links with businesses to broker relationships between employers and potential employees. Much of the service is delivered online through the Alliance’s CarePlace website.
Beginning in April 2015, the programme hopes to eventually help 6,900 employed people on housing benefits and 450 employed people housed in Temporary Accommodation over five years. It also predicts that, as people improve their skills and ascend the career ladder, more entry-level positions will open up which can be filled by local unemployed people.