John Healey MP: Shameful cuts are putting young people at risk of homelessness
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey accuses Ministers of failing to protect young people from homelessness following yesterday’s urgent question on housing benefit cuts for 18-21-year-olds.
Last Friday afternoon, when the Commons wasn’t sitting, the Government slipped out changes to housing benefit rules that could make thousands of young people homeless.
Plans to scrap housing benefit for 18-21-year-olds will go ahead within weeks, and yet no proper impact assessment has been released.
These are young people old enough to marry, work, pay tax and fight for our country, but set to be denied the same right to basic help with housing costs as any other British adult.
There is simply no precedent for stripping support away from our adult citizens in this way in the social security system at present.
That is why I confronted the Government on this shameful policy in an urgent question in the House of Commons yesterday, and called on Ministers to account for the impact these changes will have. Instead they refused to provide any assessment of the changes and were in denial about the consequences of this cut.
When homeless charities are speaking out, but Ministers refuse to admit there’s a problem, people will rightly ask, what is the government hiding? And why a Prime Minister who claims she wants a ‘country that works for everyone’ is putting thousands of young people at risk of ending up on the streets.
A policy which could make so many young people homeless needs proper scrutiny not a political cover-up.
And whilst the Government may not be prepared to give us any real answers, the charities who work day in and day out with homeless people all over the country have done. And they say this:
Centrepoint estimates that around 9,000 young people will be put at risk of homelessness.
Shelter has said: “there is no way this isn’t going to lead to an increase in rough sleeping.”
The charity Crisis - who played a big part in delivering the cross-party Homelessness Reduction Bill - say this: “runs entirely counter” to the aims of that Bill, and “could spell disaster for the many vulnerable young people rightly entitled to help."
Since 2010, the number of people sleeping rough on our streets has more than doubled, the number of households accepted by local councils as homeless has risen by almost a half. The housing charity Shelter calculate that the total number of homeless people in England has now hit a quarter of a million, over 100,000 of them children.
Sometimes the consequences of government policy decisions are not clear. But removal of support from young people’s housing costs is a policy that is guaranteed to make the problem of rising homelessness worse.
Homelessness in our country is not inevitable; it is the direct result of political decisions. Decisions like this one. The Chancellor should drop this cruel and counter-productive cut in the Budget today.
John Healey is the Shadow Minister of Housing and Member of Parliament for Wentworth and Dearne