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Social Housing Speed Read – The Housing Cost Element of Universal Credit for 18 to 21 year olds

In this week's Speed Read, we discuss new regulations affecting young Universal Credit claimants.

What’s new?

On 1 April 2017, The Universal Credit (Housing Costs Element for claimants aged 18 to 21) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 came into force. The Regulations resulted in the removal of entitlement to the housing element of Universal Credit for young people between the ages of 18 to 21 (with some exceptions).

The rationale behind this policy which was first announced in 2015 by David Cameron, then introduced by Theresa May just over a year ago, was to “ensure young people in the benefits system face the same choices as young people who work and who may not be able to afford to leave home.”

The Regulations specified that the categories of young people who were exempt from the removal of the housing costs element of Universal Credit would be: those who may not be able to return home to live with their parents; certain claimants who have been in work for 6 months prior to making a claim; and young people who are parents.

However, on 29 March 2018 the Government has revisited this year-old decision and announced in a written statement that the regulations would be amended “so that all 18-21 year olds will be entitled to claim support from housing costs in Universal Credit.”

There will also be the introduction of a Youth Obligation package for 18 to 21 year olds where young people are expected to participate in an “intensive regime of support from day one of their benefit claim, and after six months they will be expected to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a mandatory work placement.” The statement can be found here.

Sector reaction

A specific date for the implementation of the changes has not yet been set, however it is believed by many housing shelters such as Shelter, Crisis, and Centrepoint that this is a step in the right direction to ultimately reduce youth homelessness and rough sleeping.

It also should be noted that the amendment to the regulations comes at a key time just five days before The Homeless Reduction Act comes into effect, requiring local authorities to help single homeless adults.

In relation to the above, Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, stated on 29 March 2018: “This decision ensures that there are no unintended barriers to young people accessing housing on the basis of their ages alone and getting into work, and is in line with the government launch of Homelessness Reduction Act and our commitment to eradicating rough sleeping by 2027″.

Shelter’s campaign director, Greg Beales, said: “The withdrawal of housing benefit for 18-21s put young people at real risk of homelessness,  and at Shelter we have seen young people in desperate situations, with no family to turn to for support. With soaring rents and a lack of social housing, this has left many facing homelessness.”

The Government’s manifesto commitment will seek to halve rough sleeping numbers by 2022 and completely eradicate it by 2027.  The official rough sleeping figures for 2017-18 estimated 4,751 people slept on the streets in England, up 15% year on year, and 169% since 2010.

The decision to abolish the policy, which was considered by many commentators to actually increase homelessness and reduce the willingness of landlords, including housing providers, to rent to all young people is being met with positivism by the sector.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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