Housing benefit cuts for young people may be scaled back
Controversial plans to strip young people aged 18 to 21 of housing benefit are being reconsidered by ministers amid fears in Whitehall that they would add to the homelessness bill and run contrary to Theresa May’s pledge to govern for the most needy in society.
The Observer understands that the policy, announced by David Cameron and George Osborne and due to be introduced in April, is being looked at again, as housing and homeless organisations warn it will cause grave hardship and force cash-strapped councils to meet higher costs for emergency accommodation.
Sources who have been involved in discussions with senior civil servants and ministers say the plans, which would affect an estimated 10,000 young people, are regarded as an unfortunate legacy of the austerity of the Cameron and Osborne years and will send out the wrong messages and fail to achieve their objective of saving £95m by the end of this parliament.
Meanwhile in Scotland:
The Department of Work and Pensions is pressing ahead with plans to remove entitlement for this vital benefit for young people, something the Scottish Government has constantly opposed.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green, Ms Constance expressed her anger at the UK Government’s short timescale for change despite assurances that options for Scotland would be considered further. The current timetable makes it impossible for alternative arrangements to be put in place.
The issue was specifically raised at the Joint Ministerial Working Group on Welfare on Monday 20th February but UK Government Ministers were unable to provide an answer on when the regulations will be laid, only to confirm just two days later they would be laid on 2 March.
Universal credit regs out today:
Summary in rightsnet news:
I notice that Specified Accommodation is not included as an exempted category from the restriction to claim housing costs for under 22s. On the face of it this is significant.
However, am I correct in saying that the new restriction applies only to the housing cost element of UC, and not to Housing Benefit (and specifically not to HB in Specified Accommodation)?
Yes you are correct. It won’t even apply in UC unless it’s a full service area.
Of course, the problem is that the media clearly see no distinction between “housing benefit” and “universal credit housing cost element” - so convincing prospective landlords could be a problem….....
The way I read it (my stated bias as that that I focus on the homeless). Err…. Happily we have all the advantages of Full Service…..in my area.
(c) the renter meets the occupation condition in respect of temporary accommodation (within the meaning of paragraph 21);
Which implies that all the age group accommodated via partvii Homelessness Act 1996 are exempt if you place them via this mechanism??
Welcome your views Netters…........... because I am confused.
Thanks for the responses.
MartinB - I think there is a distinction to be made here - temporary accommodation and specified accommodation are not interchangeable terms but neither are they mutually exclusive. We have had discussions in the past where a Local Authority insisted on treating accommodation as EITHER specified OR temporary. These terms are important to establish exemption from certain elements of welfare reform.
Within this new rule for under 22s, the exemption within the regulation is for Temporary Accommodation, with Specified Accommodation not mentioned.
Andy – where within the regulation would you point to in order to argue that HB (and therefore Specified Accommodation) is not included?
We have received some advice backing up the assertion (from DWP) that this only affects areas where there is the full service of UC and that claimants within Specified Accommodation are not affected and continue to receive HB.
There is potentially an issue with move-on from Specified Accommodation though. The good news - I understand there remains exemption provided no break between HB claim (at the Specified Accommodation) and the subsequent UC claim (for the move-on). But could UC payment periods be an issue? Might create a ‘break’ between HB and UC depending on timings?
(apologies - I am not as up to speed on UC rules and payment periods).
Secondary legislation scrutiny committee has referred the regulations to the ‘special attention’ of parliament - https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldsecleg/131/13103.htm
Minister for Local Government Marcus Jones’ written answer on exemptions to the cuts -
‘These include exemptions for young people in temporary accommodation and for those where it is inappropriate to live with their parents. Young people placed in supported housing, which is often used by local authorities to prevent or relieve homelessness, are not affected by this measure because they receive housing benefit…
The government’s intention is that young people who cannot return to the family home can get help with housing costs quickly and easily and we will ensure Jobcentres and Service Centres have the guidance they need to make that happen. This will include them taking into account third party evidence that it is inappropriate for a young person to live with their parents. We know it is important that landlords have confidence in that process so they can continue to let properties to this group. We will be providing messages for landlords on gov.uk and as part of the engagement process in new Universal Credit areas.
New House of Commons Library briefing paper - Housing cost element of Universal Credit: withdrawing entitlement from 18-21 year olds-
‘This Commons Library briefing paper provides information on the decision to restrict entitlement to the housing cost element of universal credit for young people aged 18-21. The paper sets out the exemptions that will apply and includes comment on the potential impact of the measure.’
Caroline Nokes confirms in written answer that young people will not have to provide documentary evidence that they are unable to live with their parents or that they have been subjected to domestic violence -
DWP will gather information to determine eligibility for many of these exemptions, such as whether the claimant has responsibility for a child or is exempt from the shared accommodation rate, as part of the standard claims process. Where a claimant qualifies for such an exemption no further information will be required.
For other exemptions, we will not expect a claimant who tells us that they are unable to live with their parents or that they have been subjected to domestic violence, for example, to provide documentary evidence. A reference from a third party – such as a local authority or a relevant charity – would be acceptable.
The Decision Makers Guidance is pretty thorough…......
A full list of examples where it is inappropriate to stay can be found in the DWP guidance to decision makers, at para 20:
20 Circumstances which may be deemed to be inappropriate to live with their parents include
1. those whose parents are deceased
That’s a relief…...
I know some Italians who live in the family mausoleum.
On the issue of guidance, Lord Kirkwood has moved a ‘regret motion’ in the House of Lords -
‘... that this House regrets that the Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for Claimants Aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 has been published without the guidance which will be key to understanding how the legislation will work in practice.’
(in section headed ‘Motions relating to delegated legislation’)