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Covid-19 has changed the face of redundancy and homelessness

Radical Recruit helps people who have experienced homelessness to get back into work. Founder Emma Freivogel explains how the pandemic has seen more people needing urgent support 
Image credit: Tim Gouw/Pexels

This year of the pandemic has seen more change than most of us cared to witness in such a short time. Some good, most bad. The lessening of the stigma around redundancy has been a welcome change, but when there simply aren’t enough vacancies to ensure those without work can regain employment, the stigma around homelessness needs to change too. For many, no work equals no home.

The furlough scheme staved off many redundancies, yet Office for National Statistics figures show almost 800,000 people dropped off payrolls from March to October with younger people bearing the brunt.

Younger people have also been the hardest hit section of society when it comes to an increase in homelessness. According to Centrepoint, since the start of the pandemic, there has been a massive 36 per cent increase in young people up to 25 years of age being made homeless.

Get support and advice for getting back into work by registering for RORA Jobs & Training

At Radical Recruit, we work with people from disadvantaged backgrounds, predominately homeless people, to get them closer to the labour market and into permanent employment. We’ve only been trading for one year, but we’ve already seen the shift amongst our own candidate demographic.

Right up to the pandemic, we were supporting more people who were long-term homeless, from reasons as wide-ranging as escaping an abusive home to being an ex-offender.

Since the summer, 70 per cent of our new candidate registrations have been made homeless or are at risk of homelessness as a by-product of losing their job due to Covid-19.

And 38 per cent had worked in hospitality: some had lost homes that were attached to their employment; many had zero-hours or casual contracts that were terminated overnight. All were either living in unstable accommodation or were unable to pay rent and evicted despite the government’s eviction ban.

Hospitality, the arts and recreation have been by far the hardest hit sectors when it comes to redundancies, but with the imminent demise of retail giants Arcadia and Debenhams, our future registrations will no doubt be dominated by people from the retail sector. The UK’s retail sector employs 2.8 million people, 58 per cent of them are female.

With so many people now struggling to pay their rent or mortgage as well as other household bills, the risk of homelessness is hanging over even more people, people who, just one year ago, would never have fathomed losing their livelihoods, their homes and everything they’ve worked for are now living in limbo due to the knock-on effect of the pandemic. Research done by Herriot-Watt University and Crisis shows that 200,000 households face homelessness this Christmas.

Although redundancy, and therefore homelessness, have become commonplace in 2020, many of our candidates are still marginalised by employers, despite 90 per cent of them having previous work experience.

This only increases the shame and stigma they themselves attach to their identity of ‘homeless person’. A YouGov poll back in February found that two in five employers didn’t know that hiring homeless people was legal; this is aside from the fact that many employers view homeless people through a lens of mistrust, perceiving them to be lazy and troublesome. We’re working with ever more progressive employers on their diversity, inclusion and hiring strategies, introducing them to people who they would’ve automatically rejected until recently. We work with candidates to build their confidence as well as their CVs and interview techniques.

2020 has shown us that no-one is immune from becoming jobless or homeless. It could quite literally be you or me. For the country to truly begin to recover, and for people to move out of poverty, we implore businesses to challenge their misconceptions and truly embrace diversity and inclusion in their hiring strategy.

Radical Recruit is a member of the Ride Out Recession Alliance – The Big Issue’s campaign bringing together charities, businesses and campaigners to protect jobs and prevent homelessness.

The new RORA Jobs & Training programme, people who are struggling for work get a three-month digital subscription, weekly advice on how to get your next job, access to free or discounted training courses, and the ability to search The Big Issue jobs board with hundreds of thousands of jobs.