PM calls for end of housing benefit for under-25s
David Cameron will call for housing benefit for the under 25s to be scrapped as part of a major overhaul of the welfare system.
In a speech today, the prime minister will ignite the debate on welfare by proposing a range of measure likely to be included in the Conservative manifesto for the next general election, rather than as part of the coalition government’s policy agenda.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Mr Cameron said the current system was ‘sending out strange signals on working, housing and families’, adding that some families are discouraged from working or looking for work.
The scrapping of housing benefit for under-25s would affect around 380,000 people and save almost £2 billion.
A report from the Building and Social Housing Foundation in March this year found that more than 90 per cent of new housing benefit claims made in the two years to the end of December 2011 came from households containing at least one working adult.
Other ideas being considered by the prime minister include stopping the £70-a-week benefit payments for unemployed people deemed not to be trying hard enough to find work and forcing claimants to undertake community work after two years on the dole.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne has attacked the plans as ‘the wrong approach for the long term’, while homelessness charity Shelter has warned that they could lead to more people losing their homes.
Campbell Robb, chief executive at Shelter, said: ‘At a time when many young people are facing significant difficulties in finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere else to go. They would also present serious problems for vulnerable young people, for example care leavers and those who have experienced family breakdown. Currently over half of young people who rely on housing benefit to pay a private landlord will be on benefits for less than six months while they are unemployed and look for work.
‘And since previous changes to housing benefit will force people with spare rooms to downsize and penalise those with adult children living at home, these policies appear completely contradictory.
’It’s outrageous that the government is considering undermining the housing safety net yet again. Sadly it seems inevitable that we’ll see an increase in homelessness as a result.’
The speech comes after the government’s wide-ranging Welfare Reform Act, which introduced an annual benefit cap for families, received royal assent in March. It is likely to kick-start a new debate on the welfare system.