Following Justice questions on Tuesday an Urgent Question was granted on housing benefits. In particular housing benefits to 18 to 21 year olds. The question asked was:
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will make a statement on the impact on homelessness of the recent confirmation of government plans to remove automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds.
Labour’s record on housing in government is clear: two million more homes, a million more home-owners, and the largest investment in social housing in a generation. By contrast, the Tory record on housing is seven years of failure – from falling homeownership (200,000 fewer home-owning households since 2010) to homelessness (rough sleeping more than doubled since 2010) to the lowest level of affordable housebuilding in 24 years.
In contrast to the Conservatives at Westminster, Labour in Wales has been taking steps to tackle homelessness. The homelessness provisions of Labour’s Housing (Wales) Act 2014, upon which the recent backbench Homelessness Reduction Bill is based, came into effect in April 2015. They are designed to reduce homelessness through a stronger focus on prevention. Local Authorities are required to take reasonable steps to help prevent or relieve homelessness, with more flexibility to use the private rented sector and other housing options.
Despite significant funding pressures, the Welsh government have provided funding for the new legislation: so far, £5.6 million in the first financial year and £3 million in the following year. Significantly more resource will be needed in England given the population is around 18 times higher, with far greater homelessness pressures.
I asked the Minister to admit that her policy would impact upon 10,000 people. She said she expected it it to be 10,000 a year in a “steady state.” This is simply not good enough. This is 10,000 lives who will be hit by the Government’s poorly thought out policy.