Those losses are massive for those who are already struggling to make ends meet, and could be devastating for someone scraping by on £67.50 (or £53.45 if they’re under 25) of jobseeker’s allowance – a single person’s only other form of income.
The most severe housing benefit cuts now coming into force will hit 62,500 single 25- to 35-year-olds, who will now only be eligible for housing benefit that covers the cost of a shared room in a house, rather than a one-bed flat or studio. Many will see their housing benefit halved. They face the prospect of trying to find shared houses that in many areas just do not exist. But even where they do, for those who are vulnerable – disabled people or those trying to rebuild their lives following homelessness – this type of accommodation is just not appropriate. We expect many will end up on the streets.
Research by the University of York commissioned by Crisis demonstrates that housing benefit acts as the main buffer between low-income and jobless households and homelessness. That buffer is now being dismantled and if the Lords don’t stand up and challenge further cuts and caps before them in the welfare reform bill the gap between rents payable and benefits received will, we fear, become unbridgeable for countless families and individuals across the UK.
Letting thousands slip into homelessness is not without a price. Costs will be borne by the NHS, schools, local authorities and central government, and it will become harder for people to stay in or find employment.
Crisis chief executive Leslie Morphy said: "The human cost is even steeper. What sort of government takes the decision to make people choose between food, warmth or shelter?
"Attacking housing benefit amounts to attacking those in our country least able to defend themselves. Much misunderstood, in reality it is all that stands between poor, often working, households and very bad housing or the horrors of homelessness. I urge the government to rethink before we do irreversible damage to the poorest in our country, and by extension to us all. Carrying on blindly down the current path is not only wrong but counterproductive on its own terms."
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