POLITICS

Tory MP Warns Theresa May Against 'Catastrophic' Housing Benefit Cuts To Under-22s

The changes were slipped out on Friday

05/03/2017 18:00 GMT | Updated 05/03/2017 18:03 GMT
Parliament

Theresa May is facing a potential backbench revolt over housing benefit cuts after one Tory branded the changes as “catastrophic”.

David Burrowes, Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, today warned that the decision to scrap the benefit for under-22s would “pull the housing rug from vulnerable young people.”

Huff Post UK understands other MPs are also angry with the policy, which was slipped out by the Government on Friday.

While the measure was part of the Tory’s 2015 manifesto, charities and campaigners had hoped the change of Prime Minister last year meant the plans would be scrapped.

Labour branded the cuts as “disgraceful”, and today Burrowes called on the Government to rethink the policy.

He told Huff Post UK: “The changes planned for April should await the outcome of the supported housing consultation.

“The Government should listen to providers like YMCA who tell me they will not be able to house the most vulnerable young people any longer if those young people, often with multiple needs of alcohol and drugs addiction and mental illness, can not fund their stays through housing benefits.

“They would have no alternative but to make their accommodation available to those who can pay their own rents or to cease offering housing.

“If this happens across organisations offering housing to the most vulnerable under 22s the consequence could be catastrophic.

“At a time when the Government is supporting new laws and funds to prevent homelessness it does not make sense to pull the housing rug from vulnerable young people.”

The Government slipped the changes out with no fanfare on Friday in the form of regulations to Parliament – made when the House of Commons wasn’t even sitting.

Under-22s will no longer be entitled to housing benefit from April 1, although this will only affect new applicants.

The policy will not apply to those with dependent children, care leavers, those in temporary accommodation or young people who have been working for the previous 6 months.

An exemption will also apply if the Secretary of State judges it is inappropriate for individuals to live with their parents due to a threat of violence and other reasons.

PA
Labour's Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey has branded the changes "disgraceful".

Labour MP Clive Betts, chairman of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, welcomed the exemptions, but was still disappointed with the overall policy.

He said: “Whilst they have taken these exemptions on board, people can be homeless for a whole range of reasons.

“It could be they are in a violent family home, or they may have had a relationship breakdown.

“The notion that everyone has a welcoming family they can go back to when they haven’t got a home is wrong.”

When news of the change was revealed on Friday, housing charities were quick to criticise the Government.

Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association said: “The Government has effectively closed the door to private rented housing for some of the most vulnerable individuals in society. 

“Never mind the nuances, all landlords will hear is that 18-21 year olds are no longer entitled to housing benefit.  Faced with a young person who may not be able to pay the rent, a landlord won’t worry about the details of their life, they just won’t consider them as a tenant.”

Roger Harding, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Communications at Shelter, said: ““Whether these young people are escaping an abusive household or thrown out because of their sexuality, they’ll now have the added, sometimes impossible, burden of having to prove they can’t go home. If they can’t, their only option may be to sleep rough.”

Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister John Healey today said “ministers should hang their heads in shame” over the policy, and added: “This is exactly the type of Cameron-Osborne legacy policy that Theresa May declared she’d discard.

“If she really meant what she said on the steps of Downing Street last summer, she must instruct the Chancellor to cancel this cruel cut in the Budget on Wednesday.”

On Friday, a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We want to make sure that 18 to 21-year-olds do not slip straight into a life on benefits, which is why we are helping young people get the training, skills and experience they need to move into a job and build a career.

“This government is delivering on its commitment to ensure young people in the benefit system face the same choices as young people who work but may not be able to afford to leave home.

“We know that personal circumstances will differ so we have worked closely with charities and the housing sector to develop a fair and robust set of exemptions to protect the most vulnerable young people.”