A flagship Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) welfare reform is contributing to the homelessness crisis in England, according to research. But the accusation that Universal Credit is causing homelessness is sadly nothing new.
The national homeless organisations’ membership body, Homeless Link, has released a report [pdf] into youth homelessness among 16-to-24-year-olds. Called Young and Homeless 2018, it gathered information [pdf, p6] from 109 homelessness service providers and 79 local authorities. The results showed a direct link between Universal Credit and youth homelessness.
According to the report [pdf, p24], 92% of the organisations surveyed said DWP delays in paying Universal Credit were “having an impact on young people’s ability to access and sustain accommodation”. But it wasn’t just delays in payments that were making youth homelessness worse:
Homeless Link’s report shows deeper welfare-related problems for young homeless people than just Universal Credit. For example, 90% of the organisations said [pdf, p32] benefit sanctions also had a “detrimental” impact on young people’s “housing options”. It also found [pdf, p32] other welfare reforms were having an impact:
This is not the first time organisations have linked Universal Credit to homelessness. In September 2017, Homeless Link and three other organisations warned the government about Universal Credit’s impact on overall homelessness, regardless of age. A statement said [pdf, p1]:
We are concerned that Universal Credit in its current form is not working for people who have experienced, or are at risk of, homelessness. If problems with the new system are not addressed they will lead to significantly increased hardship for this group.
People who are homeless face specific problems caused by the current design of Universal Credit… others are being left at risk of becoming homeless… It is very unlikely that the people we represent will have the financial resources required to bridge the gap between applying for Universal Credit and receiving their first payment
A DWP spokesperson told The Canary:
Everyone deserves a safe place to live and we have already implemented a range of measures to tackle homelessness that have been welcomed by charities. We have introduced the Homelessness Reduction Act, made housing benefit available for 18-21 year olds on Universal Credit and brought in extra rent support for people moving from housing benefit to Universal Credit.
The government is providing over £1.2bn up to 2020 to reduce all forms of homelessness and we are investing in a Fair Chance Programme to support 18 to 25-year-olds with specific needs to help them find suitable accommodation and support.
The DWP: out of control?
But as The Canary has documented, the problems with Universal Credit extend well past homelessness. After highlighting overarching concerns about the impact of the policy on sick and disabled people, campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) told The Canary:
Universal Credit is a disastrous policy that represents a crime against claimants and must be stopped before it pushes more people into poverty and destitution.
Now, with more evidence of the calamitous effects of Universal Credit, the government must seriously rethink it. And if it doesn’t, a demonstration DPAC are organising at parliament on 18 April may make it change its mind.
– Find out more about DPAC’s 18 April day of action.