Young people from YMCA St Paul’s Group have expressed their concerns over the proposed changes to Housing Benefit announced in this week’s Queen’s Speech.
Chantelle and Simon say the suggested changes, which will see the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit removed for 18 to 21 year olds, can potentially lead them to end up back on the street.
Chantelle, 19, from Mitcham, has lived in one of YMCA St Paul’s Group’s hostels for around nine months. “Housing benefits cover my rent here at the YMCA and also other expenses,” she says. “Without these benefits I would be unable to pay my rent, and I could potentially end up back on the street”.
She welcomes the proposal from the Government to “help create two million new jobs and help move young people into paid employment by giving them the support, skills and experience they need to fulfil their potential”.
Support whilst you get back on your feet
However, finding a job that pays enough to cover high London rents is hard.
“We all want to find a job and move out of the YMCA”, Chantelle says, “however, if you are dealing with some personal problems or issues that need to be resolved before you can get a job, Housing Benefits helps take some of the stress away whilst you get yourself back on your feet”.
Simon, aged 21, is also living in a YMCA hostel in South West London. He is actively searching for a job but so far, he has had no luck. “The benefit cuts really concern me,” he says. “I find it really hard to find a job, and housing benefit is the only income I have enabling me to pay my rent. Without it, I think there would be more crime, as people would have to get money from somewhere”.
Not a choice but a necessity
YMCA is the world’s oldest and largest youth charity, intensively supporting 228,000 young people across England every year.
Denise Hatton, YMCA England Chief Executive, says that “YMCA understands 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”.
She adds that “the misconception is that young people are simply abusing the system to have a good life when, in reality, for young people accessing the social security system, it is not a choice but a necessity.
Nearly 1,400 young people currently supported by YMCAs would be left homeless if entitlement to Housing Benefit was removed for all 18 to 21 year olds.
YMCAs work day in, day out supporting young people to gain employment and improve their educational prospects and many of these are only able to do so by accessing Housing Benefit. Removing this will only create further instability in their lives and make the prospect of finding work more difficult”.
Protection and support
Earlier this year, YMCAs across England released a Manifesto, urging for ‘Housing Benefit entitlement to remain unchanged for young people’.
Following the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday 27th May, Denise Hatton says that “YMCA would urge the Government to retain automatic Housing Benefit entitlement for 18 to 21 year olds so that the most vulnerable young people in the country continue to receive protection and support during their times of crisis and need.”