Eligibility for Housing Benefit Puts Shelters Under Threat

  • Night shelters in England and Wales are under threat over court ruling with housing benefit eligibility.

    Dozens of shelters are concerned they will have to close if the housing benefit they rely on is withdrawn due to a change in definition.

     Most shelters rely on the benefit for income, but the definition of a 'home' is being changed due to a legal ruling, which could result in the withdrawal of funding.

    This would result in closure for many shelters across the country, as councils are having to review their policy of who is entitled to the benefit.

    The council's reassessment of the definition is following an upper tribunal judgement made in Anglesey in 2012. A judge ruled that the council was not liable to pay housing benefit to an individual to cover the costs of overnight stays at a Holyhead shelter.

    The decision was based on the man not storing belongings at the shelter, and because beds were allocated each night, so therefore the shelter could not be considered a permanent dwelling.

    This has resulted in council's using this case to reassess who they will pay housing benefit to, despite the judge stating that this decision was based on specific facts of this case.

    This has already resulted in one shelter in Salford being forced to close due to removal of funding after the council made changes following the court's decision.

    The 28 bed shelter is no longer classed as a 'home' by Salford council, and therefore will no longer receive housing benefit. The home has had 2,200 people referred to it in the last 3 years.

    Homeless Link, umbrella body for homelessness, said there are currently 10 other local authorities reviewing their position on who will receive the benefit.

    A spokesperson said:

    Currently decisions are dependent on interpretation locally, and councils appear to be interpreting differently the case law on what constitutes a home.‘Often these services are the only form of emergency accommodation for homeless people and their loss could have a significant impact.'

    A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said:

    Housing benefit helps those on low income with the rent they are liable to pay on the dwelling they occupy as their home.

     


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