There was some concern, from certain commentators, that no announcement was made on housing benefit for the under 25s in the Autumn Statement, but readers of The Lincolnite will know that the government is looking at a plethora of ways to reduce the massive deficit we inherited from the previous Labour government in a way that is fair and responsible to everyone.
The cost of housing benefit in our country almost doubled under the last government from £11 billion in 1999 to £21 billion in 2010, and in tough economic times it is not fair that those striving to make ends meet, also pay for the housing of those who can live at home. In some cases, housing benefit has trapped people in poverty and created a culture of entitlement.
There are 400,000 claimants under 25 who receive around £2 billion a year in housing benefit, and shared accommodation rates also extend to under-35s. These two benefits make up a significant part of the welfare budget, and so it is an area of welfare spend that we, as a government, are looking at, although I must stress I am aware that no firm decisions have been made at this point.
With regards to those who are under 25, the government has said repeatedly that under plans ministers are considering, entitlement would not be removed from those who are already on housing benefit, nor would it affect young people with a genuine need for housing, like those leaving foster care or those with a destructive home life for example. Nevertheless, the government will always reward young people who are doing the right thing and working hard to support themselves if they need that little bit of extra help to stay in their homes.
Please be reassured that ministers realise this is a delicate issue, but that a national debate about how our welfare system works is crucial – any money any government spends must come from somewhere. The government is working to restore fairness to our welfare system, and to give people the chance to work for a better society and to improve their own situation.