Today (3rd March) the Government has laid regulations that will enact a long-delayed manifesto commitment to restrict the housing costs element of Universal Credit that 18-21 year olds currently receive.
The regulations, which will come into force from 1st April 2017, remove the automatic entitlement from some 18-21 year olds. However, there are a number of exemptions to protect the most vulnerable claimants.
In the explanatory memorandum accompanying the regulations (available here), the Government argues that this action is necessary so that “young people in the benefit system face the same choices as other young people who go out to work and cannot yet afford to leave the parental home.”
They argue that this change will make the system fairer by encouraging young people who can stay at home to do so, thus alleviating a cost to the tax payer.
Exemptions are being included as the Government recognises that there will be some young people who are unable to stay at home. These exemptions include:
- the claimant is an orphan or their parents live abroad
- the claimant would be at serious risk of physical harm if they remained at home, or
- it would be inappropriate for the claimant to live in the parental home including where there would be a serious risk to the claimant’s physical or mental health.
The regulations will also not remove the entitlement from vulnerable claimants including those that:
- are responsible for a child or a qualifying young person
- were a care leaver before reaching the age of 18
- receive the care component of disability living allowance at the middle or highest rate or the daily living component of personal independence payment
- has been a victim of domestic violence, or
- is in temporary accommodation provided by a local authority.
Commenting on the Government’s move to restrict the automatic entitlement of 18-21 year olds to claim housing benefit, Richard Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the National Landlords Association said:
“The Government has effectively closed the door to private rented housing to some of the most vulnerable individuals in society.
“Never mind the nuances, all landlords will hear is that 18-21 year olds are no longer entitled to housing benefit. Faced with a young person who may not be able to pay the rent, a landlord won’t worry about the details of their life, they just won’t consider them as a tenant.
“However much the Government tries to make this policy more palatable by talking up the exemptions, it still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.”