Withdrawal of housing related benefit under Universal Credit for 18 – 21 year olds but no one should lose out in Scotland

The UK Government’s policy to withdraw financial support to help young people meet their housing costs came into effect on 1st April this year.  This will affect people living in areas where Universal Credit is being delivered as a Full Service (as opposed to Live Service) and whose claim commenced from 1st April 2017 onwards.

The Department of Work and Pensions has drawn up exemption criteria which mean that some young people will be able to obtain housing credit under UC.  Those exempt from the new policy, and therefore able to obtain help with housing costs, include people who are:

  • responsible for a child
  • unable to live with a parent
  • placed in temporary homeless accommodation
  • experiencing a threat of or actual domestic violence
  • care leavers
  • receiving the care component or higher rate of Disability Living Allowance
  • receiving the daily living component of the Personal Independence Payment
  • subject to multi-agency management arrangements (MAPA)
  • need to live independently as part of a support plan

The exemptions are wide ranging and should apply to many people in supported housing and those using housing support services but young people who are not receiving disability benefits, are not homeless and haven’t been in care could face difficulties.  There are also concerns that the requirement to provide details about why a person cannot live with their parent (s) may act as a barrier to a young person requesting an exemption.

In Scotland, the Social Security Secretary of State, Angela Constance, recently set out the Scottish Government’s commitment to mitigating the impact of the new policy.  The Scottish Government and Cosla have been drawing up plans to use the Scottish Welfare Fund to assist 18 – 21 year olds who do not fall within the exemption criteria.

What do we need to do?

There are 5 areas in Scotland that have undergone UC Full Service:

  • Musselburgh
  • Inverness
  • Kirkintilloch
  • Greenock
  • Port Glasgow
  • Dalkeith
  • Penicuik

In these areas young people could be affected by the new policy and should contact their local authority for assistance if they are not able to gain support with housing costs through the UC system.

Here at the Unit we are working with officials at the Scottish Government to further influence the DWP’s guidance on the exemptions and help to highlight any difficulties people are facing accessing the Scottish Welfare Fund through their local authority.   If you are aware of situations where a young person is missing out on help to pay their rent please do get in touch with me at: yvette.burgess@ccpscotland.org