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Housing Benefit cuts for under-25s 'will make more young people homeless'

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Housing Benefit cuts for under-25s 'will make more young people homeless'

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government

Homeless Woman Homeless Woman

The Government should abandon plans to cuts Housing Benefit to under-25s or risk making more young people homeless, a report has warned.

Homeless Link's 'Young & Homeless 2012' report also found that the extension of the shared accommodation rate (SAR) to those under 35 has increased the number of people competing for shared accommodation previously prioritised for the under-25s.

Of the 101 councils that the charity polled, 65% reported a negative impact on the ability of young people to access private rented accommodation due to the extension of SAR, with almost half reporting that capping housing allowance for young people has had a similar effect.

Young & Homeless 2012, which also surveyed 117 homeless charities, follows a similar report from Homeless Link in 2011. The study shows that since last year:

• 50% of providers say more young people are seeking support
• 65% of young people supported by providers are homeless due to relationship breakdown with family, friends or partners
• 54% of providers report closures of youth services in their area due to funding cuts
• More than half of providers are turning young people away because they are full
• Almost half of services have reported difficulties supporting 16-17 year olds due to ineffective relationships with children’s services

The report highlights the case study of Mariam, 23, who moved into a women's refuge when she was 19 after suffering abuse at home. Mariam said: "My mixed background – western mother and strict Muslim father – left me feeling like I didn’t fit in. My dad was abusive towards my mum and, as I got older, towards me too and I was diagnosed with depression at 14.

"My dad’s side of the family wanted to force me to marry my cousin. I had to get out. It wasn’t easy to leave but the local police took me to the refuge. Now, four years on, I stay with friends but it was only meant to be temporary. I still class myself as homeless. I want my own place so I can start fresh but I’m finding it hard to find somewhere."

The report notes that Mariam will have to wait another 12 years before she qualifies for enough support to afford her own private accommodation under the current welfare scheme, and would not qualify for any support under the proposed changes to cut housing benefit for young people.

The report urges the Government not to remove access to Housing Benefit for under-25s and continues to provide welfare support for vulnerable young people.

Homeless Link's chief executive, Rick Henderson, said: "These findings highlight the impact that capping welfare for young people is already having on their ability to find housing. Homelessness among the under-25s is increasing in many areas while unemployment, rising rents and cuts to homelessness and youth services are leaving many with nowhere to turn.

"Cutting housing benefit would do nothing to help young people with no safe place to go because they have faced abuse at home or their family has fallen apart. Nor will it help those who have to claim housing benefit because they are in low paid jobs and face high rents.

"What we need now is services that prevent homelessness, such as safe emergency accommodation, and local authorities, providers and landlords working together to increase access to private rented accommodation.

"These young people are this country’s future and it’s time we began investing in them."

Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of Depaul Nightstop UK, the national network of accredited emergency accommodation for young people, said: "Homeless Link’s report demonstrates the need for urgent action.  Youth homelessness figures don’t have to keep on rising; safety, security and support at the right time can prevent a housing emergency becoming long term homelessness.

"Homelessness is dangerous for young people.  Many who become homeless are already vulnerable and homelessness puts them at risk from abuse and sexual exploitation.  Safe emergency housing is a must for young person facing homelessness and, as young people have themselves testified, Nightstop provides them with safe accommodation in a crisis1.  We have convened a national Nightstop conference at which Nightstop Projects will be discussing ways of encouraging more people to become hosts through our forthcoming Spare Rooms campaign.

"We urge Local Authorities to prioritise funding for Nightstops and also Supported Lodgings – both community responses to a community issue - and are keen to help them develop these solutions.  We also urge Local Authorities not to use B&Bs as emergency housing for young people.

"Housing crises and homelessness can be prevented through effective preventative work.  Depaul UK has a successful track record in preventing youth homeless through our family mediation projects.  We support Homeless Link’s finding that support for families is needed more than ever and call for funding for family mediation and other prevention services to be protected.  The evaluation of Depaul UK's Reconnect family mediation service in Oldham2 credited it with saving Oldham Council just over £1.2 million.   We would argue that the need for such ‘invest to save’ interventions has never been more pressing."

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