Benefits and employment

It is common for homeless people to have problems with benefits and employment. Government support to access employment programmes, such as the Work Programme, often do not account for homeless people's circumstances or provide housing support.

Homeless claimants are twice as likely to be sanctioned and have their allowances and housing benefits cut which can lead directly to further impoverishment. These issues can lead to homeless people dropping out of the system or turning to charities for support with employment and benefits.

Changes brought into the benefits system have impacted on particular groups of people. Combined with economic trends and higher housing costs welfare reforms have put some people at greater risk of homelessness.

Employment and the Work Programme

88% of homeless people have previously had a job (source: Dashed hopes, lives on hold, 2013)

The vast majority of homeless people want to work but often face complex barriers to finding and staying in employment. Schemes like the Work Programme while providing some support and training opportunities rarely lead to jobs for homeless people far from the labour market. Homeless claimants can instead often feel unheard and unsupported (Dashed hopes, lives on hold, 2013). 

Universal Credit and Housing Benefit

Only 20% of private landlords are willing to rent to homeless people (source: Home No less will do, 2016)

Private landlords can be reluctant to rent to homeless people and those on Housing Benefit. Universal Credit requires the benefit to be paid directly to claimants rather than to landlords. Direct payments can add to the stress of people living already complex lives and makes landlords see them as high risk tenants. Welfare changes have impacted some groups more than others.

Young people and large families have been particularly impacted by the restrictions to Local Housing Allowance, and the benefit cap. The cumulative impact of the welfare reforms combined with economic trends and higher housing costs in the private rented sector have increased poverty among working families. (Home: No less will do, 2016, The Homelessness Monitor and The withdrawal of support for housing costs under Universal Credit for young people, 2015).


39% of homeless people have experienced being sanctioned (source: Homeless people’s experiences of welfare conditionality and benefit sanctions, 2015)

Homeless people are twice as likely to be sanctioned than other benefit claimants. Vulnerable claimants are more likely to be sanctioned due to mental health and dependency issues. There are also issues with receiving, understanding and managing paperwork. Sanctions can push people away from the labour market, lead to debt, hunger, strained relationships and exacerbate mental and physical health problems. In this research, 21% of respondents said they became homeless as a result of being sanctioned (Homeless people’s experiences of welfare conditionality and benefit sanctions, 2015).


‘I was all on my own’ (2015)

Experiences of loneliness and isolation amongst homeless people.

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The withdrawal of support for housing costs under Universal Credit for young people: more pain for little gain? (2015)

Explores the likely impact of the Government's plan to remove automatic entitlement to the housing costs element of Universal Credit from some new 18 to 21 year old claimants.

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Benefit sanctions and homelessness: a scoping report (2015)

A new, harsher system of welfare conditionality and sanctions was introduced in 2012 and there has been increasing concern in the homelessness sector about the impact on homeless people.

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Sharing in Scotland (2015)

Supporting young people who are homeless on the Shared Accommodation Rate.

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