It may be “old” news but the housing benefit cuts are still fresh in our minds, following the Spending Review last year. For those that don’t know what Mr Osborne proposed, the Government has pledged to cut housing benefits for those aged 18-21, who are not in work.
But what is the housing benefit?
There are many conditions, but simply housing benefits can stop people from becoming homeless.
Remember that word – homeless.
You may be thinking – why does she care?
I’ve never been homeless but – I came close to it once during a rough financial patch at home.
I also volunteered with a homeless charity called Depaul UK for four weeks in the summer and it opened my eyes entirely. I did interact with some of young people who had been homeless during my time there and some of their stories shocked me. In that moment I counted myself lucky – very lucky.
I volunteered with Barnabas Safe and Sound too back where I live as part of my course. That opened up my eyes too, to the wider issues of what could happen to someone who’s homeless. It was difficult to see. Poor mental health was a common theme.
I’ve always had a roof under my head and I’ve never had to claim housing benefit, but for some people housing benefit is their lifeline. That money gives them a roof over their heads – for a night and possibly for the near future until they can live independently. It’s something that should not be taken away – at all.
I’ve been told stories from young people themselves about how much it means to them. Some of the people I’ve spoken to find it difficult to get employment because of other issues, so their housing benefit helps them with their livelihood, much like my maintenance grant helps with mine.
But it’s being removed.
It’s a false economy. Young people shouldn’t be losing their housing benefit.
It should be those over 35. Why? To put it simply – they are older and have more experience.
Cuts to housing benefit will increase youth homelessness.
And I don’t want that, even though it won’t affect me.
I’ve watched as someone has been given keys to a room for a night to take them off the streets.
There wasn’t just tears in their eyes.
The money doesn’t always go on drink and drugs either. Don’t tar everyone who is homeless with the same brush.
In most cases there’s no choice and the issues that come with homelessness exist because it’s difficult out there. It isn’t easy not knowing where you’ll be sleeping the next night. Imagine how scary it is for people who are invited into people’s homes through schemes such as Nightstop, ran by Depaul UK. It mustn’t be easy, but I look up to those people – I couldn’t do it.
I haven’t done a “sleep out”. If you don’t know what that is, it’s where you sleep outside of your home so you can experience what it is like to be homeless. One day I hope to. Have you done one?
Think about it – wherever you are now.
Are you in a warm house?
Do you have the freedom to spend money on other things other than just your rent?
Are you going home?
Home. That’s an important word here too.
When housing benefits are removed for people under 21 who aren’t in work, it will have a devastating effect.
Some homeless people do try to get back on their feet, try to get back onto the rungs of the ladder and try to work their way back up again.
Thousands of young people could become homeless – and that is not fair.