Closed petition Provide housing allowance for Care leavers aged 16 to 25

I left care at 16 years old 10 years ago and because I was working as an apprentice I couldnt afford my own home or supported housing.
10 years on young people still often avoid apprenticeships as the low wage doesn't cover their bills.
I want more financial support for low income care leavers.

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Young people are given low wages because they are assumed to be living with families, what happens to young people who have left care with no family and now have to face rent, council tax, bills and the prospect of being homeless.
We should be encouraging young people to work yet they are still choosing not to because wages do not cover their extensive bills.
I want to introduce flexible benefits to working care leavers aged 16-25 so they can afford supported or adequate unsupported housing.

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Government responded

This response was given on 29 January 2021

Care leavers up to age 22 are exempt from the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) Shared Accommodation Rate and are entitled to the higher, one bed LHA rate. We are working to extend that up to age 25.

The Government recognises the unique challenges faced by young people leaving local authority care and improving support for care leavers continues to be a high priority.

Universal Credit is designed to replicate the world of work through the introduction of a range of measures such as monthly assessment periods. At its core is a focus on getting people into work and supporting in-work progression. Setting a clear benefit rate for claimants under the age of 25 reflects the lower wages that younger workers typically receive. This is intended to maintain the incentive for younger people to find work which has been aided by the Department’s £2bn Kickstart scheme which is already creating thousands of high-quality jobs for young people.

For claimants who live independently, Universal Credit already includes separate elements to provide support for housing costs, children and childcare costs and support for disabled people and carers.

Managing a structure of different rates for different groups of younger people adds complexity and cost that cannot be justified in a simpler system of benefits focused on getting people into and supporting them in work. Therefore, when designing Universal Credit, the benefit rates were simplified for under 25s into two separate rates, one for single claimants and one for couples.

The Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR) policy reflects the housing expectations of people of a similar age outside the benefits system. Many young people who are not in receipt of benefits cannot afford to rent by themselves, therefore, we think it is reasonable to expect young Housing Benefit (HB) or Universal Credit (UC) tenants to also share accommodation.

The market cost of sharing accommodation is cheaper than renting a one-bedroom flat and this is reflected in the SAR, which is based on local market rental values for that type of property.
The exemptions which apply to the SAR include:

•         care leavers up to the age of 22;
•         those who have spent at least three months, which do not need to have been continuous, in a homeless hostel/hostels specialising in rehabilitating and resettling within the community (those aged 25 to 34 only); and

In the Spring Budget 2020 we announced that we will be making important changes to the exemptions from the SAR which will benefit many young people at risk of homelessness. These changes include extending the SAR exemptions for care leavers up to the age of 25 from 22, and to claimants who have spent at least three months in a homeless hostel under 25.

We are also introducing two new exemptions providing crucial additional housing support for survivors of domestic abuse and modern slavery for whom shared housing is not always appropriate. However, these measures require changes to both legislation and IT systems so will take time to implement.

Early policy and delivery work has begun to deliver these measures and the necessary legislation will be taken forward in due course.

For those who require additional support, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are available.  DHPs can be paid to those in receipt of Housing Benefit or support with housing costs in Universal Credit who face a shortfall in meeting their rental housing costs.

These payments are very flexible and may be awarded for a short period to give a claimant time to deal with their immediate financial difficulties or for an indefinite period until their circumstances change.

Since 2011 we have provided over £1 billion in DHPs to local authorities (LAs) to support households with their housing costs. Many LAs also provide Council Tax exemptions. Recently the Government wrote (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/12021-council-tax-information-letter-13-january-2021?_sm_au_=iVVfQpjHDP60WHMqW2MN0K7K1WVjq) to LAs reminding them that they can include care leavers in their local discount schemes.

Other support is also available, such as a £1,000 bursary for care leavers starting an apprenticeship, and can be found through the Care Leaver Covenant, (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/care-leaver-covenant--2) which provides a way for organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors to show their commitment to care leavers through providing concrete offers of support, or the LA ‘local offer’.

The Government is aware that there is more to be done and that is why within the last year we have established a cross-Government Ministerial Board to drive better outcomes for care leavers.

Department for Work and Pensions