Government proposes housing benefit cuts
Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested cutting housing benefit for people under the age of 25, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday.
Housing benefit is paid to adults on a low income, to help them pay their rent, either to the local council, a private landlord or to a hostel.
It is currently paid to around 380,000 under-25s and scrapping their entitlement would save the government around £2 billion a year.
The Prime Minister suggested that the current housing benefit system is sending out “strange signals” that people are “better off not working, or working less”.
“It encourages people not to work and have children, but we should help people to work and have children,” he said.
The proposed reforms to the welfare system could be presented as an effort to reduce a feeling of antipathy towards people on benefits that may exist among the general public.
Mr Cameron said that current benefits system has “led to huge resentment amongst those who pay into the system, because they feel that what they’re having to work hard for, others are getting without having to put in the effort.”
He also commented that cutting housing benefit for younger people would “stop the state dragging young people into dependency”.
Downing Street said that Mr Cameron wanted to encourage a debate about welfare.
He is also considering proposals to set benefits at a regional level, rather than a national level, in order to reflect wide regional variations in pay.
Political analysts have suggested that Mr Cameron’s comments are part of an effort to reconnect with Conservative backbenchers who believe the party’s values are being watered down under the coalition.
Housing charity Shelter has warned that cutting housing benefit for young people could lead to an increase in homelessness.
The charity’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: “To take away housing benefit from hundreds of thousands of young people – particularly in the current economic environment where young people in particular are finding it very difficult to find jobs – would have a devastating impact on many people’s lives.
“I think we would see many more people ending up homeless as a result of this kind of very significant change.”