(This is the fifth and final article on Housing in Hastings that I have published this week, based on a report prepared by my colleague, Sue Hennell.)
From 1st April 2017 for all new claimants aged between 18 and 21 years will not be entitled to housing costs in Hastings under Universal Credit unless they fulfil the criteria for one of the exemptions. The exemptions will include:
- someone responsible for a child or a qualifying young person,
- a person who is not able to live with their parents because either they have no parents or neither parent occupies accommodation within Great Britain,
- it is inappropriate for the person to live with their parents (possibilities have been set out for this by the Secretary of State),
- a person affected by domestic violence, a person who is working (there are clarifications for this) and
- other exemptions.
People who are in receipt of the Local Housing Allowance when they apply for Universal Credit will be protected against this change.
I believe that if there is one measure that will lead to an increase in rough sleeping amongst young people, it is denying them the automatic right to claim support for their housing costs.
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We want to make sure that 18- to 21-year-olds do not slip straight into a life on benefits, which is why we are helping young people get the training, skills and experience they need to move into a job and build a career.”
As I have written before, desperate times for young people will see them return to unsafe family situations, turn to crime and prostitution, and end up sleeping rough.
What about the finances – we always hear we have to tackle the deficit. 2015 research from Heriot Watt University calculated that once exceptions and costs incurred on other public services were taken into account, the policy could save just £3.3 million a year.
If just 140 young people end up on the streets, the additional cost to other services (ambulance service, NHS, housing departments, police, etc.) then this measure will actually be a drain on public finances!
It makes no sense in economic terms. It makes no sense in human terms. It is the wrong policy and goes totally against recent positive moves by government, now least through the Homelessness Bill, to tackle homelessness.
If you are facing eviction, get advice as early as possible from one of BHT’s Advice Centres in Hastings, Eastbourne and Brighton, the CAB or another advice centre.
Here are contact details for the BHT Advice Centres: