In Brief

Government U-turn on axing housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds

Policy reversal follows outcry from homelessness charities

The Government has made a dramatic U-turn by restoring housing benefit for people aged between 18 and 21.

In a written statement published online, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said that controversial legislation barring unemployed under-22s from receiving help to pay their rent will be amended. McVey said the change “will reassure all young people that housing support is in place if they need it”.

The policy to end automatic entitlement for the housing element of Universal Credit was announced by David Cameron and George Osborne in 2014 and was introduced last April.

Osborne’s government claimed it would stop young people “slipping straight into a life on benefits” and would save the taxpayer £105m by 2020, the Daily Mirror reports.

But homelessness charities and housing organisations said it would cause homelessness and “heap years of stress on already vulnerable young people”, and would not deliver the savings promised to the taxpayer. 

In January, the first official figures since the policy launched were released, revealing that it denied benefits to just 90 people in the whole country in its first three months.

“The number was so low because ministers drew up a huge list of exceptions to the cut to head off criticism from charities, campaigners and Labour,” says the Mirror.

Greg Beales, campaign director at homelessness charity Shelter, said he was “thrilled” at the decision to reverse the policy.

“We’ve been working closely with the Government on this and hope this powerful change will prevent many young people becoming homeless in the future, and potentially ending up on our streets,” Beales said.

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