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In this year’s Spring Budget a Cameron and Osbourne-era policy, that had been a key plank in their Tory Manifesto, was released which withdrew housing benefits to unemployed 18-21-year-olds.
This forces young people who are jobless to live either with their parents or find a way to pay their rent. For many this will result in homelessness, charities fear.
The policy will apply only to claims made after April 1, 2017. Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State of Housing, John Healey, commented that those affected are old enough to fight for their country, but not old enough to receive housing benefits. He also mentioned the doubling of rough sleeping since 2010 as a “direct result of decisions [ministers] have made”.
Effects of the cuts
Arguments have been made to the validity of the cuts, as only around 11,000 young people are expected to be affected by 2020, meaning the cuts can be seen as punishment to an age group the Tories continuously seem to be prosecuting.
Exceptions to the policy will be people with children, or those whose continued residence with their parents would cause a “serious risk” to either their physical or mental health. But it isn’t known how the latter half can always be proved, leaving the high risk of many young people to begin sleeping rough.
The National Landlord’s Association (NLA) predict that many landlords will be less likely to house people under these circumstances as they will not be liable for housing benefits.
Several homelessness charities created a policy paper in 2015 when they policy was originally created, citing research from Heriot Watt University, calculating that the policy could save around £3.3m a year. Yet, if the policy leads to 140 more young people becoming homeless, it would incur a net drain on public finances.
Homelessness in the UK
In 2016, the Government estimated around 4,134 people sleep rough per night across England, which is a 16% rise on the previous year, and more than double the amount since 2010. However, it is suspected that Government figures are inaccurate and that figures are much higher.
Statutory homelessness figures show that 57,750 households were accepted as homeless in 2015/16, which is a 6% increase from 2014/15. Yet, the latest report from the Homelessness Monitor shows that 275,000 households approached their local authority for homelessness assistance. With this are people who don’t qualify for local authority housing assistance, and could therefore be staying in a hostel, or with family or friends, or another form of insecure accommodation – the hidden homeless.
In the last four years, funding cuts to homelessness services have seen 4,000 bed spaces reduced in hostels for single homeless people in England, leaving just over 35,000.
It seems the UK is in a homelessness crisis, and the government is doing nothing to counter this, instead they appear to be exacerbating the situation. All of this happens to families that Theresa May describes as “just managing”, but doesn’t stop her government from continuing their tirade against what they believe are lazy and scrounging claimants on the benefits system.