Plans to allow care leavers and vulnerable young people leaving homelessness accommodation to receive a higher level of benefits have moved forward two years, according to Spring Budget costing documents.
Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint has hailed the move that will see youngsters given more cash to find an affordable home from June 1. The Shared Accommodation Rate change had been due to come into force in October 2023.
Centrepoint’s head of public affairs Paul Noblet said: “This change means that thousands of our most vulnerable young people will have greater hope of finding an affordable home.
“Currently many young people are unable to move on from hostel accommodation because housing in most areas of the country is simply unaffordable to young people claiming benefits.
“In listening to our concerns, and bringing forward the implementation date, the government has opened up a brighter future for many young people.”
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Centrepoint led a number of charities in campaigning for the change with the YMCA, New Horizon Youth Centre and Single Housing Project also expressing their delight alongside the Children’s Commissioner for England.
The Westminster Government initially agreed to make care leavers aged 22 to 25 and all under-25s leaving homelessness accommodation after a stay of at least three months exempt from the shared accommodation rate at the 2020 Budget.
YMCA is pleased to see today's #Budget2021 detail which reports the bringing forward of exemptions to the Shared Accommodation Rate.
— YMCA England & Wales (@YMCAEng_Wales) March 3, 2021
The move will enable both groups of young people to claim the higher one-bedroom rate of Local Housing Allowance instead of receiving the rate for a room in a shared house, giving them a greater chance of accessing the private rented sector.
Budget costing documents show the change will cost the taxpayer £25 million but will break the “cycle of homelessness” for young people, according to Homeless Link chief executive Rick Henderson.
He said: “This is something that we have written to the Chancellor about previously, and will help younger people break the cycle of homelessness.”
Very pleased to see the promised exemption from the Shared Accommodation Rate for care leavers up to the age of 25 has been brought forward from 2023 to June 2021, something we have been calling for.
— Children's Commissioner for England (@ChildrensComm) March 4, 2021
The announcement was a rare bright spot in the Budget when it came to benefits and homelessness. The six-month extension to the £20 Universal Credit increase was criticised by experts as “postponing the pain” after calls for the Government to make the rise permanent fell on deaf ears.
Renters, too, also felt ‘ignored’ after pleas for a fund to help tenants pay off rent arrears accrued during the pandemic went unanswered. Charities warned the move could see a homelessness spike “in a matter of weeks” once eviction protections begin to lift at the end of March.
However, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak did pledge £4 million to pilot respite rooms in England to provide specialist support for women experiencing homelessness who face severe disadvantage.