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Baroness Stedman-Scott’s blog

Baroness Stedman-Scott is Chief Executive of the employment charity Tomorrow’s People. She is a founding member of the organisation, which was established in 1984, and was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to the unemployed. You can read her full profile here. She is the expert lead for the Skills and Employment theme, and in her blog she talks about the challenges faced by many homeless women seeking work.

‘Looking back now, it is by far the best move I could have made. St Mungo’s has changed my life and given me hope for the future. I love my job and I love my life. I’m an adult now.’

Jazmin is a St Mungo’s apprentice, completing her first year of work in a hostel. Read her story here.

The potential for meaningful occupation, training and employment to boost self esteem and help women’s recovery from homelessness cannot be underestimated. We, therefore, need to get it right.

Around one in 10 people sleeping rough are women, according to recent figures, and about a third of those in contact with homelessness services are women. Understandably then, the homelessness sector has traditionally catered more for men than women when it comes to services.

This means that training programmes for people experiencing homelessness can often be male dominated, or designed and tailored towards male applicants in more ‘male’ sectors such as construction, for example.

Mainstream employment and training providers may also have little awareness of homelessness and complex needs generally, let alone the specific challenges that might be faced by homeless women.

For the many homeless women who have experienced sexual or domestic violence in particular, an environment in which they might be the only woman, or one of a few, can be intimidating and even prohibitive.

Issues around childcare also remain a barrier to training and work, and for those that have children, or have lost and regained contact with children following homelessness, it can be a struggle too far to arrange childcare for work on top of moving into appropriate housing.

This should not be the case.

It is important not to buy into stereotypes about what work and training ambitions men and women might have, however courses set up, based on demand from men, might not necessarily be of interest to all women.

As part of St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy, a survey was conducted with 53 women residents from different projects on their ambitions. The most popular work area was creative professions (70% of women), followed by support professions (55%) then business (50%) – service industry and manual professions came out much lower.

Throughout the Rebuilding Shattered Lives Campaign so far, the debate about women only versus mixed services has been evident in every theme. Within the employment and skills sector we know there are good women only support services out there, as well as mixed programmes that are gender aware and recognise the particular needs and ambitions of their female clients. We need to gather this evidence together to influence policy and practice and improve the training and employment support available to homeless women.

Baroness Stedman-Scott, Chief Executive, Tomorrow’s People