Home News Breaking barriers into rented accommodation with Freedom2Work
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Ben Phillips-Farmer

Ben Phillips-Farmer is Head of Community Engagement at Rentstart.

Breaking barriers into rented accommodation with Freedom2Work

It’s been an exciting time for us at Rentstart to have been nominated alongside Commonweal for three awards over the last few months. Even to receive the finalist nominations felt affirming for a project that we have put so much effort into over the last five years: one that we hope will grow and replicate. And so, we were even-more delighted to win one of these awards: the Homelessness Partnership of the Year at the UK Housing Awards.

It feels like fantastic timing for us particularly as we celebrate 20 years of being a charity, having come from operating our Elmbridge-based services out of a port-o-cabin to last year moving into a former estate agency on the high street of Walton-on-Thames.

We have spent these 20 years crafting services for people facing homelessness that are designed to support them into housing with dignity and help get their lives back on track. People experiencing homelessness are held back from finding work due to several barriers in their way. Unstable temporary housing, a lack of a permanent address, fluctuating benefits paid in arrears, as well as a lack of access to training and advice on how to re-enter the job market can all prevent someone finding work and subsequently accommodation. Our joint project with Commonweal, Freedom2Work, came out of this with its focus on wrap-around support which was designed to empower clients to find stable work, save towards their futures, and build resilient tenancies

Freedom2Work ran for an initial five years, the first three being evaluated by DeMontfort University. The study found that the project created £2 million in savings which would otherwise have been spent by public services, and if adopted at a national scale, the model could in theory support three-quarters (53,000) of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness into employment, saving more than £600m to the public purse.

As those initial five years come to a close, and we gratefully receive recognition for the work in the form of awards, we look towards building the project into a scalable, replicable model that can work across the country. We’ve already begun to look at how to do that well, we’ve commenced the work around building a structure, and are working with multiple sectors to make this happen.

We’ve found wonderful people in the tech sector, property sector, developers, land owners, residential lettings, and long-time partners in the third sector, all of whom are excited to help us make real change in the private rented sector. We’re drawing all of these strands together to challenge three big barriers that vulnerable people face in breaking into rented accommodation: availability, affordability, and financial inclusion.

We’re so excited to be closing in on a structure that we feel can make a huge impact while being a simple setup that organisations across the country can bolt on to their work. We’re actively looking for partners to take on Freedom2Work in its next phase. If you are reading this and want to help people who have experienced homelessness or other forms of exclusion access housing, we would love to hear from you.

To speak with Rentstart about Freedom2Work, please email: hello@rentstart.org

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