Minister rejects fears housing benefit cut for young could fuel homelessness
The Government has rejected claims made by leading housing charities that axing housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds will leave thousands homeless.
Work and Pensions minister Caroline Noakes insisted vulnerable youngsters would be protected by a wide range of exemptions to the plan - but she was blasted for refusing to publish an impact assessment.
The policy, which was contained in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, was announced with little fanfare last week and will come into force from the start of April.
Housing charities have warned that some 9,000 youngsters could end up on the streets as a result of the policy, while Labour has branded it “cruel” and a Tory MP questioned whether it appeared "fair" while pensioner were still receiving generous benefits.
But during a grilling on the policy today Ms Noakes said any young adult with vulnerabilities or who was unable to live with parents would be entitled to support.
“This is about encouraging family responsibility, about enabling and helping those young people who have the choice to remain at home to stay there,” she told MPs during an Urgent Question in the Commons today.
“There is a very significant exemption written in for those for whom it is inappropriate to stay in the family home.”
She said the policy would save about £105m over the current parliament and was expected to affect some 5,000 young people in the first year and 10,000 the next.
But despite demands from numerous MPs she refused to publish the Government’s impact assessment of the policy - though she noted that the Social Security Advisory Committee had seen it but decided not to consult.
Shadow Housing Minister John Healey urged ministers to scrap the "cruel and counterproductive cut" in tomorrow's Budget.
Fellow Labour MP Graham Jones said it was an “absolute disgrace” the impact assessment had not been published, while his colleague Luciana Berger branded it “ridiculous”.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband also attacked the policy and mocked the Government over its claims to fight injustice.
“I think we should call this what it is - a nasty, vindictive policy that will make injustice worse from a government that said they would tackle burning injustice,” he fumed.
Tory MP James Cartlidge said: "When we do this and we protect every single penny going to pensioners - including a winter fuel allowance for millionaires in mortgage free mansions just because they are over 65 - [young people] will be forgiven for thinking we are not playing fairly to everybody."