Budget 2015: Shelter Scotland issues youth homelessness warning

Graeme Brown
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland

Housing charity Shelter Scotland has warned that new changes to housing benefit entitlement for 18-21 year olds could increase youth homelessness in the UK.

Describing the move as “unjustified and cruel”, the charity slammed the UK government’s announcement in yesterday’s Budget Statement that automatic eligibility for housing benefit for under-21s would end from April 2017.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: “It is not acceptable that in an economy moving towards full employment, some young people leave school and go straight on to a life on benefits.

“So for those aged 18-21 we are introducing a new Youth Obligation that says they must either earn or learn. We are also abolishing the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.

“There will be exceptions made for vulnerable people and other hard cases, but young people in the benefit system should face the same choices as other young people who go out to work and cannot yet afford to leave home.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, criticised the move, saying: “It completely removes the safety net that is in place to protect young people whose circumstances often prevent them from staying in or returning to the family home.

“Whether it’s someone fleeing an abusive relationship or thrown out of their home, or someone caught between jobs a long way from home, we have a duty to support young people.

“Cutting this vital lifeline for many thousands of young people is simply wrong and I fear that, despite Shelter Scotland and other support service’s best efforts this will cause very hard times and lead to a rise in homelessness among young people.”

Mr Brown added that the move would “do nothing to fix the root cause of the housing benefit bill – which has grown due to the chronic shortage of affordable homes, a growing reliance on the private rented sector and sky-high rents”.

He explained: “In Scotland, we need to build at least 10,000 new homes for social rent each year for the foreseeable future to tackle the shortage of affordable housing.

“By investing in affordable housing, not only would this bring hope to the 150,500 households on council waiting lists, it would also gradually reduce the housing benefit bill, which in turn would leave more funds available for investment in housing.”

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