Literacy and numeracy support for homeless adults : an exploration of third sector employment and skills provision

Jones, Katherine and Jackson, Carolyn (2018) Literacy and numeracy support for homeless adults : an exploration of third sector employment and skills provision. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This research is focused on the literacy and numeracy support offered by third sector organisations as part of their efforts to help homeless adults move into employment. Whilst homeless people are increasingly expected to move into work, many face a number of barriers to labour market participation. A small but growing evidence base suggests that one key barrier is poor literacy and numeracy, or ‘basic’ skills. However, research has found that homeless people, alongside other disadvantaged adults, are often excluded from formal opportunities to improve these skills. Third sector homelessness organisations are settings in which this exclusion might be redressed. However, whilst many offer employment and skills support, the extent and nature of literacy and numeracy education within it is largely unknown. Additionally, scant attention has been paid to the various factors shaping this support. To address this knowledge gap, this thesis presents new data from semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with 27 homelessness practitioners. The research uncovers the extent and nature of literacy and numeracy provision offered in these organisations. A range of factors shaping it are also identified. These include: the needs and demands of service users; the roles and capacity of staff working in homelessness organisations; organisational purpose and structures; national policies relating to adult education, austerity and welfare reform; support from other adult education providers; non-governmental finance; and the time and expertise of volunteers. With some modification, this is argued to be consistent with Boeren’s (2016) Comprehensive Lifelong Learning Participation Model. The thesis concludes that although organisations have demonstrated a propensity to develop literacy and numeracy support, while government policy and related funding does not recognise and support such provision, it seems likely to remain piecemeal and highly contingent on the contribution of volunteers and short term funding opportunities.

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Thesis (PhD)
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20 Apr 2018 09:04
Last Modified:
21 Mar 2024 00:01