HOMELESS charities in North East Lincolnshire have expressed their concerns over the proposed changes to Housing Benefit announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech.
Doorstep and YMCA Humber say the potential changes, which will see the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit removed for 18-to-21-year-olds are ‘in danger of leaving young people homeless and with nowhere to live.’
YMCA Humber supports 98 young people in North East Lincolnshire. Its services include the Hostel on Peaks Lane, the Foyer on Orwell Street and a Community Housing Project in central Grimsby.
YMCA has supported Sam Lee, 18, since late-2014.
He said: “What about the people who have no choice, what about the people who have got nowhere to go but places like the YMCA, it’s a roof over your head which for most people is only payable with the help of Housing Benefit. Without Housing Benefit there would be a lot more people on the streets.”
Doorstep provides support and temporary accommodation to 117 young people and families in North East Lincolnshire who are aged between 16 and 25 and are homeless or who may be at risk of becoming homeless.
Julie Walmsley is senior manager of Doorstep and she spoke about the impact the proposed changes would have on young people in the local area.
She said: “Charities in this region understand the need for the government to reduce the levels of youth unemployment and the overall spend on welfare, however, there are long-term consequences for removing Housing Benefit for this age group.
“The misconception is that young people are simply abusing the system to have a good life when, in reality, for young people accessing the benefits system, it is not a choice but a necessity. For many of these young people, returning home is not an option and Housing Benefit is the only thing separating them from the street.
“Homeless charities work day-in-day-out supporting young people to gain employment and improve their educational prospects and many are only able to do so by accessing Housing Benefit. Removing this will only create further instability in young people’s lives and make the prospect of finding work more difficult.
“Demand on our services and staff is increasing and this is exacerbated by the reduction of other public services that we would normally count on to share the workload and the risks. Most people will probably not be aware of the difficulties faced by young people in housing crisis and I suspect many will also not be aware of this proposed policy that will inflict misery on those who are most vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society.
“YMCA and Doorstep would urge the Government to retain automatic Housing Benefit entitlement for 18-to-21-year-olds so that the most vulnerable young people in this area continue to receive protection and support during their times of crisis and need.”