Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas is to open a parliamentary debate on housing benefit for young homeless people and care leavers this afternoon (Tuesday 4 February).
The Green MP secured the debate – which is due to start at 4pm in Westminster Hall – to call for an end to age discrimination against young people over housing benefit.
She said: “More than 100,000 young people nationwide were homeless or at risk of being so in 2017-18.
“The desperate shortage of social housing means most are forced into the private rented sector but are being priced out of it by the lack of government support, with a cap on their housing benefit.
“Nearly half of those living in supported accommodation are under 25. They end up trapped in hostels because they cannot afford to move out.
“While people over the age of 25 who have previously spent three months in a hostel will be given a higher ‘local housing allowance’ to help find a place to live, those under 25 will receive the lowest rate.
“For a young person entering a homeless hostel at age 18, it would be seven years until they can benefit from the rate that would help them move forward.
“Young people leaving care can claim the higher rate but then lose it on their 22nd birthday, forcing them on to the lower rate for the next three years until they turn 25.
“In Brighton and Hove, this means hostel leavers under 25 can claim only £365 a month rather than the higher £696 a month paid to older homeless people.
“The average room rent in a shared house is more than £500 a month, leaving a homeless young person having to find another £140 a month to find a roof over their head.
“The result is that many are forced to stay in hostel accommodation, blocking places from others who may be in even greater need, because they cannot afford an alternative roof over their head.
“The situation is particularly bad in Brighton and Hove because the level of housing benefit is set at a regional level, whereas the city is one of the most expensive in the area.”
Ms Lucas intends to ask the government to end this age discrimination immediately and give homeless young people and care leavers the same housing benefit rate. She said: “Young people are ending up trapped in hostels because our welfare system is rife with age discrimination.
“These young people, many of them care leavers, cannot rely on the bank of mum and dad. They can’t move back into the family home to save up – and yet they receive the lowest benefit rate.
“The amount a young homeless person can claim in Brighton and Hove is £365 a month.
“If you search for private rented properties, the only accommodation available at that price is a garage or a parking space.
“So it is virtually impossible for vulnerable homeless young people or care leavers to find somewhere to live in the city.
“It would cost the government just £3.7 million a year to give vulnerable young people across the country the chance to move on – and just £6 million to continue supporting care leavers with their housing costs until they are 25.
“This support would save money overall as stable supported young people can fulfil their potential rather than suffer in chaos and danger.
“Ministers must find it in their hearts and budgets to end youth homelessness.”
Ms Lucas has previously asked the government to include young people under 25 in the higher housing benefit rate but was told that there were no plans to do this.
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