Prime minister David Cameron announced at the Conservative Party conference last week that he would seek to end automatic housing benefit for under 25-year-olds as part of a bid to cut a further £10 billion from the £180 billion welfare bill by 2016/17.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg last week said the Liberal Democrats would oppose a ‘blanket ban’ but left the door open for the party to support some under-25s losing their right to housing benefit.
The DWP initially refused to comment, saying it was a Conservative Party proposal rather than government policy.
However it has now confirmed it is looking at changing the criteria around housing benefit, with a reduction in eligibility for under-25s one of a number of options being considered.
A spokesperson said:
We’re looking at a range of options for future reforms to the welfare system – changing the eligibility criteria for housing benefit is one of these.
Any changes would affect future claimants only and we would still ensure that vulnerable people remain protected.
Joe Halewood, a housing benefit consultant, said restricting the measure to future claimants would only save a small amount of money, around £90 million a year after 10 years.
Last year nearly £1 billion was paid out to existing housing benefit claimants under 25 living in social housing, meaning a removal for existing tenants would have had a severe impact on social landlords’ income.
Andy Tate, policy officer at the National Housing Federation, said it would have been unfeasible to apply this to existing tenants, and therefore better for the government to exempt existing claimants and vulnerable people.
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