The U.K. government’s plans to strip young people aged 18 to 21 of housing benefit are being debated over fears they would add to the homelessness bill and stand contrary to Prime Minister Theresa May’s pledge to govern for the most needy in society.
In addition, charities have argued it will cause increased hardship and put more financial pressure on local councils to supply emergency accommodation.
Previously, former Prime Minister David Cameron stated in his party’s 2015 manifesto that the move would save two billion pounds every year, but the number of young people estimated to be affected was 380,000 aged under 25.
Some exemptions from the plans included vulnerable young people and those unable to return home and live with their parents. Young people with children and others who are already in work before claiming a housing benefit would also be exempt.
Some propose widening the category of “vulnerable” to assure the commitment of the Conservative government towards that aspect of British society.
The use of housing benefit is considered a “safety net” keeping individuals from falling into extreme poverty. With the number of people sleeping rough having risen massively over the past six years, further cuts could send this figure soaring to even higher levels.
The plans for housing benefit cuts will come into effect in April, unless they are derailed by further debate in the months to come. Homeless and housing organizations including Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint, who have been campaigning against the housing benefit cuts are hoping the plans will be dropped completely and that the U.K. will continue to provide support for young people without a place to live.
Anne Baxendale, a head of policy research and public affairs at Shelter, said: “We’re deeply concerned by the imminent plan to bar 18- to 21-year-olds from receiving housing benefit at a time when rough sleeping is on the rise. Taking away the safety net that stands between some young people and the streets would be utterly indefensible.”