Tory MP outlines plans to stop under-25s claiming housing benefit

Plans to stop under-25s claiming housing benefit would not affect anyone coming out of care or fleeing domestic violence, a parliamentary aide has clarified.

Yesterday chancellor George Osborne announced the Conservative Party’s intentions to make a further £10bn savings on welfare by 2016, which is understood to feature the under-25s restriction and also the end to the automatic right of benefit increases for unemployed families having more children.

In his speech at the Party's annual conference yesterday, Mr Osborne said: “How can we justify giving flats to young people who have never worked, when working people twice their age are still living with their parents because they can't afford their first home?

“How can we justify a system where people in work have to consider the full financial costs of having another child, whilst those who are out of work don't?”

Homelessness charity Crisis said the proposals to cut housing benefit for under-25s was “irresponsible” and warned that tens of thousands of people simply don't have the option of moving back with their parents, particularly those who have experienced family breakdown, violence or abuse.

However, last night at the conference, Harriett Baldwin, MP, parliamentary aide to new employment minister Mark Hoban, told Channel 4 News that there would be exemptions.

She said: “No changes would affect anyone coming out of care and certainly no changes would affect anyone fleeing domestic violence. We need a welfare safety net in this country for people who have had difficult challenges and difficult starts in life.

“The point the chancellor was making is a teenager leaving school shouldn’t automatically qualify for housing benefit if they’ve got a parental home where they could live."

She added: "What you’re trying to do there is send the same signals to young people in working households whose parents would expect to have them at home perhaps past 18.”

There are currently 383,650 households who are under 25 on housing benefit in Britain and if everyone in this bracket was disqualified the Government would save £1.88 billion, which is some what short of its £10bn target, warned the Chartered Institute of Housing. Its chief executive Grainia Long said “blanket age-based exclusions don't support growth and they fail the fairness test”.

Mike Muir, chief executive of Impact Housing, said if the under 25 restriction applied to those in supported and supported move-on accommodation, then “our whole work with young people would collapse”.

He said: “If it’s just general needs housing for young people who just want to be independent and live on benefits, then of course we wouldn’t be encouraging of this; but, young people in this category don’t really get any priority for a flat under choice based lettings anyway.

“All in all, when you tease it out, it’s a good sound bite, but it won’t save much of the money they want to save without it having knock-on costs somewhere else in the system.”

Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said if the proposals were about tackling fraud, the Government should be competent and sort it out.

She said: “The vast majority of people on benefits are desperate to get a job. Certainly single parents we speak to - 9/10 are desperate to get into work and they’re highly motivated to do so. They’re sick of all this language about hard working strivers versus people on benefits.”