Ben Macpherson MSP: Tories cut to housing for young an attack on future generations

Tory cut to housing support condemned ahead of Scottish Parliament debate 

EDINBURGH MSP BEN Macpherson has warned that the latest cut to social security support by the Tory Government, aimed at 18-21 year olds who need housing support, risks causing further harm to the most vulnerable and in fact increasing financial costs.

Macpherson, MSP for Edinburgh Northern and Leith, will lead a members business debate in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow [Wednesday 17 May] on the recent cut to housing benefit, and warnings from housing experts that the policy will put young people at risk.

The measure, which follows seven years of steady erosion of social security rights by the Tories, removes the inclusion of 18-21 year olds in the right to housing support within the Universal Credit system in applications made after April 1 2017.

“This particular cut, to housing support for 18 to 21 year-olds, is a clear attack on young people in our country.” Ben Macpherson MSP

While the Department for Work and Pensions, the Westminster body enforcing the cut, has pledged to ensure exemptions for young people who can’t stay at home due to threats of violence or specific circumstances, there are fears that the policy change will cut a whole in the safety net for those needing held amid a tough housing crisis of a lack of homes and high rents. 

Macpherson told CommonSpace: “The Tory UK Government is continually hitting vulnerable groups across our communities, with cut after cut after cut. With an election coming up, the Tories should be judged on their dismal record of shamefully and repeatedly punishing those less fortunate.

“This particular cut, to housing support for 18 to 21 year-olds, is a clear attack on young people in our country. It is yet another example of the fact that the Tories are quite prepared to damage the prospects of younger and future generations.

“Homelessness charities across the country have stated that this Tory policy change was flawed from the outset, because it’s impractical and stems from a misguided and cynical worldview – it stems from false assertions about the motivations and circumstances of young people in our communities.”

Housing groups Shelter, Crisis and Centrepoint have all put pressure on the Tories to reverse the policy. Even the National Landlords Association, which has benefited from many Tory policies, have opposed the cut - warning it means the Tories have “effectively closed the door to private rented housing for some of the most vulnerable individuals in society.” 

Read more - Westminster sanctions regime harmed 100,000 children last year, report finds

Initial estimates from Centrepoint, which supports homeless young people, suggest that between 900-1000 young people in Scotland will be negatively affected by the cut. The measure could lead to increased costs in other areas of the social security system - with applicants either applying for grants from the Scottish Welfare Fund, set-up as a emergency response to Tory austerity.

Council authority costs in relation to homelessness cases - involving temporary accommodation, support work, and rehousing costs - would mean that even a small increase in homelessness cases as a result would cancel out any reduction in housing support payments. Macpherson’s motion “notes the research of Heriot-Watt University, which estimates that, if more than 140 young people are made homeless, the policy will cost the UK Government more than the estimated and supposed savings”.

Campaigners have been at loggerheads with the Tories over a sanctions and assessments regime found to cause stress, poverty and even suicide among those seeking support.

The Rape Clause policy, linked to cutting child support, has been the latest policy to cause outrage as women’s and feminist campaign groups have called for the plan to be scrapped in favour of a humane alternative. 

“The UK Government have ignorantly disregarded calls from the Scottish Government not to apply the policy in Scotland, because Scotland doesn’t want it.” Ben Macpherson MSP

The Scottish Government, which has criticised the approach, has used partly devolved social security powers to mitigate the policies - such as the Bedroom Tax, which previously reduced housing support.

Macpherson added that the latest cuts were anathema to the national interest in Scotland: “The Tories have pushed these cuts through without thinking about the problems they will cause for the young people involved. The UK Government have ignorantly disregarded calls from the Scottish Government not to apply the policy in Scotland, because Scotland doesn’t want it - or at least to halt the policy until problems with its implementation are fully resolved.

“Yet again, the Scottish Government is having to ‘mitigate’ this senseless Tory cut - on an interim basis until a sustainable solution is found because, as a society, we cannot give carte blanche to the Tories to keep making their senseless cuts. The Tories are the party who are responsible for proposing and implementing these futile policies and they must be the ones who are held accountable for them and the damage they cause.

“Scotland’s people shouldn’t have to pay extra because the Tories don’t have the empathy or the wisdom to provide an adequate social security safety net.” 

The SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Greens, and Scottish Liberal Democrats have all opposed Tory security security cuts. The Conservatives defend the plans.

A spokesperson for the DWP stated: “This government is delivering on its commitment to ensure young people in the benefit system face the same choices as young people who work but may not be able to afford to leave home.

“We know that personal circumstances will differ so we have worked closely with charities and the housing sector to develop a fair and robust set of exemptions to protect the most vulnerable young people.”

Picture courtesy of Homelessness Shames Glasgow

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