The salary level of trainees needed to allow them to come off state benefits and be financially better off, though moving from benefits to a monthly salary can still be a difficult transition.
In relation to the wider employment market, well-paid opportunities for the target group, such as these traineeships, are relatively rare, even at times of high employment.
Thames Reach’s aim was that the salary for the traineeship would mean trainees would no longer need to draw on state benefits and would be considerably better off. The initial assessment of the trainee salary confirmed that the income did remunerate trainees well enough to enable them to withdraw from claiming welfare benefits, and to become financially independent.
Thames Reach benchmarked traineeships and similar activity across the sector to ensure that our salary was comparable.
The final salary for traineeships was set at £15,500 per year. This is in line with those of other, non-service user trainees at Thames Reach.
The aim is that this salary is a comfortable stepping-stone. Those who complete the programme will be able to apply for permanent posts at Support Worker level (£20,334 pa) or Project Worker level (£23,295).
Managing the transition from benefits to a monthly salary
Some trainees struggled more than others to manage on their salary. The factors affecting this were:
The level of rent they were paying
The type of benefit they were on before
The amount of savings they had – some trainees had been saving in advance of their traineeship in order to provide a safety net during the transition period
The individual trainee’s ability to budget, and their spending habits
The amount of debt repayments they had
Financial support from other sources such as the trainees’ families or church
Rent varies from £60 to £120 per week
The cost of rent paid by the Thames Reach trainees varies from £60 for council accommodation to double this (£120) for supported housing, or independent accommodation with support attached via a resettlement or tenancy sustainment worker. This support is added to the cost of rent, and trainees cannot opt out of it.
Those people paying higher rents found it harder to manage on their salary.
Coming off benefits
Some of the trainees who had been on benefits that are higher than Unemployment Benefit, such as Disability Living Allowance, weren’t used to budgeting their income. However, other trainees on DLA had saved a nest egg to prepare, and others were just particularly good at budgeting.
Three trainees asked for loans from the organisation when they struggled. It was decided that these should not be made available after the first six weeks.