After some noises in the press that a reconsideration was underway, the government, via the DWP, has decided that it is going to go ahead with removing housing benefit (or rather ‘housing costs element’ of Universal Credit) from anyone under the age of 22. The regulations, which were announced on last Friday afternoon, while the Commons are on recess, are here,
There are some exceptions. Most relevantly:
a care leaver before reaching 18
receiving care component of DLA at middle/high rate, or daily living component of PIP
in temporary accommodation under Part VII Housing Act 1996 and paying rent to a council or social landlord
the renter is unable to live with their parents because—
(i) the renter has no parent;or
(ii) neither parent occupies accommodation as their home in Great Britain;
where the claimant is a responsible carer for a child under the age of 13, the number of hours that the Secretary of State considers is compatible with the child’s normal school hours (including the normal time it takes the child to travel to and from school); or
where the claimant has a physical or mental impairment, the number of hours that the Secretary of State considers is reasonable in light of the impairment
domestic violence has been inflicted on or threatened against the renter by the renter’s partner or former partner or by a family member.
Oh, and where the minister considers it would be ‘inappropriate’ for the young person to return to the parental home. Guidance to follow. Imagine trying to demonstrate that it is inappropriate.
In addition, this will only apply to those claiming Universal Credit in a ‘digital service area’.
So, while the roll out may be slow (only applying to new claims for UC in a digital service area), for large numbers of 18-22 year olds, if not working the required hours, there will be no housing cost support. Including pregnant women, children leaving foster care and so on…
Words failed me. I experimented with lots of swearing. I tried deep breathing. I went through the multiple layers of cross-referenced regulations. Words still failed me.
This is an act of utter negligence.
It was tried before by a Tory Government. And was revoked after youth street homeless spiked, and youth reoffending levels increased noticeably.
The projected saving is only £3.3 million. As has been pointed out, it will only take an extra 140 homeless youths to wipe out that saving.
Given the derisory level of savings, I would anticipate an age discrimination challenge. Given that some 19-26% of homeless youth are LGBT, there may well also be an indirect gender/sexual orientation discrimination challenge.
This is an incredibly stupid thing to do…
Update – According to the November 2016 minutes of the Social Security Advisory Committee, the DWP estimates some 10,000 people would be affected by 2020/21. Though they acknowledge the survey figures used in reaching that estimate may not be accurate.
On homeless temporary accommodation where rent not paid to a council or social landlord, the DWP said:
In England the duty to house a single homeless person only applied where they fall within a priority group. Anyone in a priority group for these purposes would inevitably be someone with barriers to work and therefore exempt from the new rule as a matter of course. It was acknowledged that this was not the same for the other administrations where there was no concept of ‘priority group’. Given that homelessness was usually caused by some kind of vulnerability it was almost certain that these people would be exempt. In particular, the Department would expect LAs to ascertain whether a young adult could return to the parental home before they accepted a responsibility for them so they would be exempt on that ground.
On pregnant women, the Committee asked the following, with the DWP answer:
A pregnant woman would normally expect to come out of the all work- related requirements group 11 weeks before her due date. Had the Department consulted with professionals on that specific point because they would probably advise that some women would be vulnerable before they reached the 11 week date?
No specific discussion had taken place on that issue, although it seemed unlikely that any woman in this situation and renting a home already would not be exempt under other provisions.
On the issue of youths unable to remain in the parental home due to religious, gender or sexual orientation issues, the Committee asked, and the DWP answered:
Would the Department be giving specific guidance in respect of young people estranged from their parents on the basis of their gender identity, sexuality or religion? And would those things be grounds for allowing an exemption?
Yes; that was an area where the Department was very clear that the guidance would be sympathetic to young people in such a situation.
The DWP being notoriously understanding of and sympathetic to such issues…
And the aim – “the aim was that the measure would have a behavioural effect so that young people who could work would be less likely to leave the parental home and set up a separate home independently whilst remaining on benefit”. Oh yes, that will work…