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Housing Benefit: Young People

Volume 507: debated on Wednesday 17 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many people under the age of 19 years who are not in employment, education or training are living in supported housing schemes; what assessment she has made of the effects of housing benefit levels on the prospects of such people obtaining employment; and if she will make a statement. (320878)

The information requested is not available. Figures on the total number of young people under the age of 19 years who are not in employment, education and training and living in supported housing schemes are not collected centrally.

The Government are committed to ensuring that there are suitable employment and training opportunities for all and that the system of working age benefits provides effective support for people to return to work. Young people are a specific priority. In December 2009 we published ‘Investing in Potential’, our cross-Government strategy for increasing the proportion of 16 to 24-year-olds in education, employment or training.

Housing benefit is an income-related benefit designed to help people who rent their home and have difficulty in meeting reasonable housing costs. There is no age restriction and it can be paid to people whether or not they are working or training. Full-time students in non-advanced and further education who are aged less than 21 may also get housing benefit. We have recently launched the Working Benefits campaign to help advisers explain to their clients the in-work support that this benefit can offer and make it clear that help with housing costs is still available to people in work or training on a low income.

On 15 December 2009 we launched the consultation document ‘Supporting People into Work: The next stage of Housing Benefit Reform’ which examines how housing benefit might play a part in encouraging people to work. It contained proposals that will improve incentives for people to get a job, building on an on-going programme of IT projects and financial help designed to smooth the transition for our customers as they move into work.

Many single young people aged under 25 will have the amount of their rent which is eligible for help with housing benefit restricted to the amount they would pay on a shared room basis, regardless of the property they rent. This reflects the fact that this group commonly have earnings prospects well below those of older people and addresses any possible disincentive to work that may arise from meeting high rent levels a person could not afford while in work.

However the housing benefit rules recognise the additional costs that might arise from the provision of supported housing. For this group no account is taken of a person's age in working out what help is available and help for those living in the social and voluntary sectors is usually based on the contractual rent.