The Government intends to withdraw Housing Benefit entitlement from some 18-21 year olds from April 2017. This briefing considers evidence on the potential impact of withdrawal and provides comment from organisations and those working with young homeless people.Jump to full report >>
The Prime Minister set out a number of ideas for future benefit reforms during a speech at Bluewater, Kent on 25 June 2012. One of the proposals included removing access to Housing Benefit for people aged 16-24. This was followed by references to the need to find an additional £10bn in savings from welfare expenditure in the Chancellor’s speech to the 2012 Conservative Party Conference during which he questioned whether young people who have never worked should have access to independent housing.
The Prime Minister returned to this theme during his speech to the 2013 Conservative Party Conference where he called for everyone under 25 to be “earning or learning.”
In an interview during the 2014 Conservative Party Conference, the Prime Minister pledged to remove entitlement to Housing Benefit for unemployed people aged 18 to 21.
As part of the Sumner Budget 2015 the Chancellor announced the removal of entitlement to the housing element of Universal Credit (currently Housing Benefit) from young people aged 18-21, with some exceptions, from April 2017. It is expected that this measure will be implemented by regulations. The stated rationale is to “ensure young people in the benefits system face the same choices as young people who work and who may not be able to afford to leave home.” The measure is forecast to save £40m by 2020/21.
A related Budget announcement set out plans to introduce a Youth Obligation for 18 to 21 year olds on Universal Credit from April 2017. Young people will be expected to participate in an “intensive regime of support from day 1 of their benefit claim, and after 6 months they will be expected to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a mandatory work placement.”
Certain categories of young people will be exempt from the removal of Housing Benefit, including vulnerable young people; those who may not be able to return home to live with their parents; parents; and those who have been in work for 6 months prior to making a claim. At this point there is no additional information on how vulnerability will be defined.
Organisations such as Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint welcomed the limitation of the impact to 18-21 year olds, as opposed to the wider age group of 16-24 year olds, but are still actively lobbying against the removal what they describe as an “essential safety net” which can offer a lifeline to young people faced with homelessness.
Information on how the tax-benefit system currently treats claimants between the ages of 18-24 can be found in Library Briefing Paper 03793.
Commons Briefing papers SN06473
Author: Wendy Wilson