New briefing: reform of welfare must not make homelessness worse

Monday, 20 July 2015 - 3:00pm

We've published a briefing on the second reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to highlight our concerns that any changes must not impact disproportionately on people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Photograph: Images_of_Money (Flickr)

Today, 20th July, the new Welfare Reform and Work Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons. With changes that include freezing the rate of housing benefit under Local Housing Allowance, a further reduction to the total benefit cap, and a freeze on certain social security benefits for the next four years, there could be far reaching consequences for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Although some of the proposals, included in the Conservative party manifesto, have been on the cards for some time, as ever the pace at which they have come before Parliament is incredibly quick. It is critical that these issues are properly debated and the impacts fully considered.

Last week we circulated a briefing to go alongside the Second Reading, outlining the concerns many of our members have already shared about what the changes could mean for their clients and those who we fear could now be at risk of homelessness in the future. Among them we raised:

  • The impact of the reductions to Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Local Housing Allowance, and that this could further risk people being stuck in poverty, and potentially increase the risk of homelessness.
  • The need to reinstate the link between benefit levels and earnings/prices and at a minimum increases in benefit rates should reflect rises in the cost of living.
  • The need for Government to ensure any future employment programmes take account of the needs and vulnerabilities of people experiencing homelessness.
  • The cumulative impact of the proposed changes in the bill, especially when also taken alongside the proposals to restrict entitlement to Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds. We believe that these proposals will lead to an increase in youth homelessness.

News surrounding the bill from Westminster last week was dominated by reports of increased discord within the parties about the role of welfare in this country. And while we need the debate that comes alongside this, we also need far greater scrutiny of the changes contained in this far reaching legislation. As we outline in our briefing, the further real term cuts to benefit levels proposed in the bill will have a devastating impact not only upon people already living in poverty who want to work, but those who struggle to access the labour market or who are ill.

The Government has spoken many times of how the economy is now in full-scale recovery. However, the poorest people in society, who have already borne more than their fair share of the burden over the last few years, will face further hardship if this legislation is enacted. Alongside our partners and members, we will continue to work with parliamentarians and officials throughout the passage of the bill to ensure this message is heard.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill - briefing on the second reading

Briefing on the second reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to highlight our concerns that any changes must not impact disproportionately on people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

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Helen Mathie

Helen Mathie

Head of policy and communications

Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.