Plans to cut benefits to under 25s could lead to an increase in homele

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11 Oct 2013
by Neil Skinner

Plans to slash benefits for people under 25 could have a disastrous effect on vulnerable young people, Framework has warned.

Framework, which provides accommodation and support to hundreds of vulnerable 16 – 25 year-olds in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, says plans outlined last week by Prime Minister David Cameron to withhold housing benefit and jobseekers allowance to those not in education or employment could lead to increases in homelessness and social exclusion.

The warning came ahead of a special conference in Mansfield yesterday, convened to discuss the most pressing issues facing vulnerable young people. The event, “Youth in Crisis”, focussed on a range of subjects including the dangerous and exploitative market in New Psychoactive Substances – commonly known as “legal highs*,” domestic abuse and the stubborn issue of youth unemployment.

Claire Windebank, Framework’s Operations Manager for Women and Young People, explained: “This idea may win votes in the short term but, in the long-term, it would prove disastrous for vulnerable young people who are at a point in their lives where they need a little bit of state support to help them make a stable transition into adulthood.

“We couldn’t agree more about the importance of getting people into education and employment, but this takes time. Some of the young people we help – those with mental health, drug, alcohol or behavioural issues for example – are simply not in a position where they are able to access training or employment. We will work with them until they are but, in the meantime, they must have money coming in to pay their rent and other expenses. The logical conclusion if they don’t is that will eventually be made homeless.

“Of course it’s easy to assume that homeless young people can simply return to their parents’ home, but, sadly, this is not an option for a large number of the people we work with. Indeed, in many cases their chaotic life-styles are a direct consequence of their troubled home lives.”

Whilst warning of the likely impact of this potential future reform, Framework has also expressed serious concerns about the effects of changes already announced to the benefits system. These concerns include:

  • The capping of benefits for some large families may result in some young people being forced out of the family home when money becomes tight.
  • Young people aged 16 – 25 have traditionally only been entitled to a single room rate allowance for housing benefits. This age limit has now been raised to 35 year-olds – resulting in more competition for the same amount of properties.
  • Young people may be force to stay in unsuitable homes as parents seek to avoid the Spare Room Subsidy, commonly known as The Bedroom Tax.
  • The disproportionate effect of benefits sanctions (financial penalties imposed for a variety of rule breaches) on vulnerable young people, who are penalised as a result of the chaotic life-styles Framework are attempting to challenge. Some of the demands placed on them, such as completing a regular job search diary, are very tough when applied to this client group and the following sanctions can adversely impact their progress.

Claire added: “Perhaps the most shocking example single example of this I have encountered is the story of a 19 year-old girl who had been help to make progress away from sex working. When she was sanctioned for being ten minutes late to an appointment she says her sex working increased to make-up the shortfall. Sadly, it seems that Job Centres are not taking into account mitigating circumstances.

“The unfortunate result of all this is that my staff are spending more and more time sorting out benefit problems and less time resolving the underlying problems that need to be challenged.”

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