Dashed hopes, lives on hold (2013)

Crisis undertook qualitative interviews with twenty-seven people who use Crisis' own education, training and employment services in four areas across the UK to capture their experiences of participating in the Work Programme.

Key findings

  • Homeless people want to work but often face multiple and complex barriers to finding and staying in employment.
  • The Work Programme was designed to help some of the most marginalised people in society. Yet, homeless people on the Programme are being forgotten and excluded, just as they are marginalised in society.
  • Many of the homeless people interviewed recalled feeling more positive about their employment prospects and the future when they were referred to the
  • Work Programme. But their initial hopes turned into disappointment as it became apparent that it would not help them to find the right job and transform their lives as originally promised.
  • Courses and training intended to improve participants’ opportunities in the job market are often too generic and not specific to the particular needs of participants to be beneficial.
  • The lack of personally tailored support combined with over-stretched advisors meant participants felt increasingly marginalised to the point at which they had ‘slipped through the net’. Participants’ experiences support growing evidence that those facing greater disadvantages in the labour market are being ‘parked’ by contractors, so that they may focus on people who are more ready to engage with work.
  • Communication problems (e.g. appointment letters not arriving on time) appear to be endemic in all aspects of the Work Programme experience and can result in homeless people being unjustly sanctioned.
  • A number of the people interviewed have been sanctioned. Yet, upon learning the news, many had not been told the reason why and had to wait several days before finding out (thus causing further distress and anxiety). Leaving the Work Programme
  • The Work Programme contractors are not motivated to risk spending on homeless people and/or those who appear hard to help. But even though these people cost more to help, they are also the ones that deliver a greater return in reduced long-term benefit savings. Therefore, if the Work Programme fails to help unemployed people with complex and multiple needs it will also fail to help reduce the benefit bill in the long-term (one of the Government’s original objectives).


Sanders, B., Teixeira, L. & Truder, J. (2013) Dashed hopes, lives on hold Single homeless people’s experiences of the Work Programme. London: Crisis.