UK Government changes to housing benefit, which would put more young people at risk of homelessness, have been condemned by the Scottish Government, which is taking action to mitigate the changes.

The changes, due to take effect from 1 April, will remove the entitlement to housing support for 18 to 21 year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit who do not have a specific exemption, such as disability or childcare.

The Scottish Welfare Fund will now be extended on an interim basis to ensure those young people who will be excluded from financial support by the UK Government will still be able to receive assistance with housing costs.

This move by the Scottish Government comes after it called on the UK Government for a complete halt to the roll-out of full service of Universal Credit until problems with its implementation are fully resolved.

Local MSP Ruth Maguire, who sits on Holyrood’s Social Security Committee, welcomed the Scottish Government’s action, commenting:

‘The UK Government’s plans to exclude some young people from housing benefit are irresponsible and callous and show a serious lack of regard for the difficulties young people already face in obtaining and keeping tenacies. These shameful changes to housing benefit will almost inevitably lead to an increase in homelessness among young people.

I strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the urgency and danger of the situation, and its commitment to ensuring that every young person can access the support they need – by working with CoSLA to extend the Scottish Welfare Fund to provide a safety net to young people. This is not, however, a long-term solution and we must continue to press the UK Government to find a more suitable and sustainable way forward.’

Adam Lang, Head of Communications & Policy for Shelter Scotland said:

‘We are deeply concerned by the UK government’s plans to exclude some 18-21 year-olds from receiving housing benefit at a time when rough-sleeping is on the rise and homelessness is far from fixed in Scotland.

This is an additional barrier to housing for young people who are already struggling to find accommodation they can afford.

Agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments must be reached to protect younger people in Scotland from the worst effects of our housing crisis.’

COSLA’s Community Wellbeing spokesperson Councillor Harry McGuigan said:

‘There’s an urgent need to support the young people who won’t have their rent paid under Universal Credit. It would be unacceptable for them to start their lives with rent arrears and possible evictions.

Scottish and Local Government have consistently prioritised action on housing and homelessness prevention. Councils are prepared to work with the Scottish Government, using our existing Scottish Welfare Fund arrangements, to meet this challenge.’

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