Universal Credit Is Not Enough
Posted on 21st February 2020 at 14:33
New analysis shows that housing benefit payments for young Universal Credit recipients are not enough to cover the average rent of a room in a shared house in almost all of England's local authorities.
Leading charities have called on the Government to rethink the "illogical and confusing" system, which they say leaves vulnerable young people, including care leavers, trapped in homeless hostels.
Universal Credit uses the Local Housing Allowance to calculate how much housing benefit claimants are entitled to, with rates based on the private rental market in the local area and set at the same level for all.
Under the system, most single people aged under 35 are only entitled to a set amount to help towards the cost of a room in a shared house - known as the Shared Accommodation Rate, the lowest LHA band.
But analysis of the latest rental market figures from the Office for National Statistics by youth homelessness charity Centrepoint shows there is just one local authority area in England (Rother) where the rate actually covers the average cost of a shared room.
Young people face a shortfall in the remaining 232 council areas - in 166 authorities, it is £100 a month or more. That is after a rise of 1.7% scheduled for April is taken into account.
Centrepoint said prices may have increased since September, when the ONS figures for the previous 12 months were published, leaving young people in an even worse position.
Chief executive Seyi Obakin said it "defies logic" that under-25s are not entitled to greater help with their housing costs, regardless of their vulnerability. "The current system means that many young people are ready to move on from care or a homelessness hostel but can't," he added.
"The negative impact this has on young people, and the bed-blocking it creates, is simply unsustainable."
Some young people, such as care leavers aged 18 to 21 and over-25s leaving homeless hostels, are able to claim a higher rate for a one-bedroom property. But this is also not enough to rent the average one-bed in all but two local authorities.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called on ministers to "find it in their hearts and budgets to end youth homelessness". She said: "These young people cannot rely on the bank of mum and dad, they can't move back into the family home to save up. "This support would save money overall, as stable, supported young people can fulfil their potential rather than suffer in chaos and danger."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said about 900,000 people would see their benefit rise by an average of £10 in April. He added: "This government continues to spend around £23 billion a year helping people with their housing costs and since 2011 have provided authorities with more than £1 billion in Discretionary Housing Payments to protect the most vulnerable."
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