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Statement on housing benefit policy
March 10th, 2017
DEPAUL UK STATEMENT ON HOUSING BENEFIT POLICY FOR 18-TO-21-YEAR-OLDS
Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive of homelessness charity Depaul UK, said today (Friday, 10 March 2017): “We are shocked the Government is pressing ahead with its plan to remove 18-to-21-year-olds’ entitlement to housing benefit from 1 April 2017.
“This will mean far more young people will need emergency accommodation services such as Depaul UK’s Nightstop. It will also make it harder for these services, many of which are already short of volunteer hosts, to meet the increased demand and support young people to live independently.
“The Government has justified this policy by saying young people should not be allowed to opt into the benefit system, but, instead, should live with their parents. The problem is that family breakdown is the biggest reason why young people staying with Depaul need housing benefit in the first place.
“This poorly thought-through policy will have a major impact on young people who simply cannot live with their parents. This might be because they have been orphaned or have suffered physical or sexual abuse at home, or have serious issues with a parent’s partner or others living in the family home.”
Mr Houghton-Brown said that the exemptions proposed by the Government would not work for most young people.
He said: “The reason is that young people will need to find a landlord willing to rent to them before they can apply for these exemptions. Crucially, this means landlords will have to agree to let their properties to a person without knowing whether they will qualify for these exemptions. So if a landlord lets their property to a young person who goes on to fail to meet the criteria for exemptions, they will be stuck with a tenant who cannot pay the rent.
“In the face of this inherent uncertainty, it is highly likely that many landlords will not let property to anyone aged under 22 who has to claim benefits to help with housing costs.
"Therefore, more young people will be forced to sleep in unsafe places.”
He added: “It is for these reasons that we are urgently calling on the Government to rethink this policy that will make more young people homeless.”