William Eichler 16 April 2018

Benefit reforms a driver of youth homelessness, charity says

Welfare reforms are contributing to homelessness among young people aged 16 to 24, charity warns.

New research from the charity Homeless Link’s found changes to welfare benefit entitlements are making it more difficult for young people to access housing.

The charity’s survey of councils, youth homelessness services, and homeless youths found 92% of respondents identified delayed Universal Credit payments as having an impact on youth homelessness.

Around 90% and 80% respectively also reported that sanctions and the capping of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) are also having an effect.

Homeless Link’s Young & Homeless 2018 report found that family breakdown remains the main cause of homelessness among young people, making up nearly half of cases (49%), but also warned ‘structural factors’ such as welfare reforms and a lack of affordable housing are ‘significant contributory factors.’

Over the past year, 55% of homelessness agencies recorded an increase in demand for their services, with over a quarter (28%) of people accessing services aged only 16 or 17.

The support needs of 16 to 24s are becoming more complex, the charity’s research discovered, with 82% of services identifying an increase in those with multiple and complex needs over this period.

The top three support needs of the young people surveyed were not being in education employment or training (44%), a lack of independent living skills (41%) and mental health problems (35%).

About 37% of respondents stated that the range of services available to prevent youth homelessness was ‘inadequate.’

Homeless Link's chief executive, Rick Henderson, commented: ‘The picture of youth homelessness is extremely concerning, and there is clear evidence that systemic issues such as welfare reform and the housing crisis are worsening the situation.

‘While youth homelessness charities and councils are working hard to successfully support many young people away from homelessness, more needs to be done. It is vital that we focus on preventing homelessness among vulnerable young people, and that those who do become homeless are able to get the support they need.’

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