Apr 3rd 2017, 11:09
Blog 3rd April 2017
The Department for Work & Pensions published its guidance for the removal of entitlement to housing benefit for people aged under-21 last Friday and this guidance is now in force. It means that under-21s on Universal Credit will no longer be eligible for housing support.
The policy has been criticised for assuming that people aged under-21 always have the option of living with their parents. In fact, there are many reasons why this may not always be the case. It has been calculated by ‘Inside Housing’ that 11,400 claimants could be affected.
The guidelines therefore detail a series of exemptions, including young people for whom it is inappropriate to live with their parents or have responsibility for children. However, young people will be required to prove these circumstances to qualify for the exemption.
The guidelines only apply to new claimants. Current claimants will not be affected. The changes apply across the United Kingdom.
Many in the sector have warned that the benefit cut will increase homelessness and make it difficult for young people to find landlords. It will have implications for young people and for local authority and housing association landlords that provide accommodation for young people.
Angela Constance MSP, Scotland’s Secretary for Social Security told ‘The Herald’ that:
"It is very disappointing… that the UK Government has insisted on pushing through these… changes to housing benefit. This is hugely dismissive of the difficulties young people in Scotland face in obtaining and keeping a tenancy. We have been steadfast in our commitment to retain housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds and despite our repeated attempts to agree a solution with the Department for Work and Pensions and our calls for a delay, the UK Government's change in policy will clearly lead to a rise in the level of homelessness among that age group.
"We are absolutely committed to ensuring that every young person can access the support they need. We are working with Cosla to extend the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide a safety net to young people because we don't want to see anyone without a roof over their head. However, this is not a long-term solution."
It is also becoming clear that the government’s decision to freeze certain benefits will have a more significant impact than was first expected. With inflation increasing mainly due to the falling value of sterling the real reduction in the value of benefits becomes greater with serious implications for claimants.
Last Thursday the ‘Guardian’ reported that the poorest families in the United Kingdom are already struggling to put food on the table; while the Chartered Institute of Housing published research that showed that housing is ‘almost totally out of reach’ for young single people. Poverty is becoming more widespread.
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