18-21 year olds given housing support under Universal Credit in Westminster u-turn

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey

The UK government is to amend regulations so that all 18-21 year olds will be entitled to claim support for housing costs through Universal Credit.

Under the current situation, people between 18 and 21 who make a new claim to Universal Credit in full service areas need to meet certain requirements in order to receive financial housing support.

Confirming the major change in policy last week, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said those 18-21-year-old’s receiving housing benefit will have a Youth Obligation – an intensive package of labour market support for 18-21 year-olds looking to get into work.

Alongside the Youth Obligation, this change will mean young people get “comprehensive and intensive work-focussed support”. They will also be assured that if they secure a tenancy they will be entitled to receive support towards their housing costs in the normal way.

Esther McVey MP said the announcement will reassure all young people that housing support is in place if they need it.

The minister added: “We want every young person to have the confidence to strive to fulfil their ambitions.

“For those young people who are vulnerable or face extra barriers, Universal Credit provides them with intensive, personalised support to move into employment, training or work experience; so no young person is left behind as they could be under the old benefits system.”

Neil Gray MP, the SNP social justice spokesperson at Westminster, said that the u-turn shows the Tories have “finally realised penalising young people in this way is callous”.

He added: “Any change of policy in the shambolic and damaging roll out of Universal Credit is welcome – but we need to see detail from the DWP on what they mean by saying young people will need to sign up to a ‘youth obligation‘ before accessing this much needed benefit  – how that will work. We also need clarification on whether or not these changes will be linked in any way with sanctions. Our young people need support into work and into homes and not to be penalised as they start their life by having vital financial support removed from them.

“The SNP Scottish Government has always mitigated this callous policy and provided support to under 21s through the Scottish Welfare Fund, and the social security bill ensured this support would be in legislation – at an estimated cost of up to £6.5 million by 2020. It is shameful that it’s taken the UK government till now before realising this policy was just wrong from the start.”