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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Revealed: Housing associations invest £70 million a year to help their hard-pressed tenants into work

Government should recognise role of key social housing provider and devolve power to help long-term unemployed, says leading think tank

New IPPR research has revealed for the first time the extent of housing associations’ spending on helping long-term unemployed back into work.

Housing associations – which provide most of the country’s social housing – plough more than £70 million a year into efforts to support out-of-work tenants to rejoin the jobs market and then to progress within it, according to the think tank.

In comparison, the Government’s flagship Work and Health Programme, rolled-out earlier this year, is projected to spend £130 million next year.

While the employment rate stands at a record high, analysis by IPPR shows continuing high levels of unemployment among adults living in housing association properties:

  • Only four in 10 housing association tenants are in work

  • Unemployment is twice the national average and economic inactivity is three times higher

  • One in three struggle to pay their rent and more than half rely on housing benefit

IPPR also found that central government and its agencies have failed to work adequately with housing associations in England to design and deliver back-to-work and skills programmes. Instead, government programmes have mainly been delivered by large, privately-owned service providers, and have struggled to support the hardest to help.

The report calls for housing associations to be recognised as key partners in supporting people back to work. It recommends that the Government devolve further power to local authorities, so that they can work with housing associations and other partners to build more effective local employment and skills services.

Joe Dromey, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR, said:

As our new figures show, housing associations play a crucial role in supporting their tenants to access work and in tackling poverty in their local communities. But nationally commissioned employment and skills services have failed to work with them, and have failed to support people who face the greatest barriers to work.

“Government needs to rethink this approach. Power and funding should be devolved to our towns, cities and rural areas, so that they can build back-to-work services that really meet the needs of local communities and local economies. Housing associations should be key partners in this, working to help their tenants to access decent jobs.

The IPPR report, Building Communities that Work, also recommends:

  • Local areas should create Work and Health Partnerships – including housing associations – to oversee the Work and Health Programme

  • Employment and skills support should in future be commissioned locally, with housing associations involved in shaping and delivering services

  • If the Government proceeds with the roll-out of Universal Credit, housing associations should be seen as key partners in supporting their tenants through the transition, and preventing them from falling into rent arrears

  • Local authorities, housing associations and other local public sector partners should together use their procurement power to maximise investment in local communities, creating more high quality jobs and training opportunities

  • The Government should urgently establish its proposed Shared Prosperity Fund, designed to replace the European Social Fund after Brexit, and ensure that housing associations can draw on it to support their work on employment and skills


Building Communities that Work by Joe Dromey, Charlotte Snelling and Darren Baxter is available at



David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 020 7470 6146 / 07921 403651  

Joe Dromey, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, is available for interview


IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. Our mission is to open up opportunity, power and prosperity to everyone through conducting rigorous research and generating big ideas. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.