Further welfare cuts 'would increase homelessness'
Removing housing benefit for under 25s would increase homelessness, senior housing sector figures have warned.
In a speech today prime minister David Cameron said benefits could be cut for under 25s. Mr Cameron stressed the measure was not coalition government policy, but a question ‘the country needs to ask’.
The suggestion has sparked criticism from the housing sector.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said an increase in homelessness would be ‘inevitable’ if the policy was implemented.
He said: ‘We know that many young people simply don’t have the family and friends to fall back on if they lose their job and they rely on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head.
‘At a time when many young people are already facing tough times finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere to go and also hit vulnerable young people such as care leavers or those who have experienced family breakdown.’
Matt Harrison, interim chief executive of the umbrella body for 500 homelessness charities, Homeless Link, said: ‘Many young people just don’t have the option of living with their parents.’
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘Preventing those under-25 from getting help for housing costs may increase homelessness and make it harder for young people to move to where they can find work.
‘There could also be a huge impact on young working families relying on housing benefit to help pay their rent, or disabled people unable to work.’
Mr Cameron said a ‘welfare gap’ exists in the United Kingdom between those in the welfare system and those outside it.
He said: ‘This has sent out some incredibly damaging signals, that it pays not to work that you are owed something for nothing.’
Mr Cameron said welfare should be a ‘genuine safety net’.
He said: ‘If it is a real safety net then clearly it is principally for people who have no means of support, or who have fallen on hard times.
‘But there are many receiving today who do not necessarily fall into these camps.
‘For example the state spends almost £2 billion a year on housing benefit for under 25s. There are currently 210,000 people aged 16 to 24 who are social housing tenants.’
Mr Cameron contrasted the millions who live in their childhood bedroom as they save enough money to move out, with others who get housing benefit ‘even if they are not actively seeking work’.
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions earlier this month show nearly one in five housing benefit claimants are in employment. A total of 882,890 housing benefit claimants were in work in March 2012 out of five million. The number of claimants in employment has increased by nearly 300,000 since January 2010, accounting for most of the 363,550 overall increase in claimants.