Changes to the Shared Accommodation Rate Exemption to benefit under 25s
In 2018, Centrepoint research found that one in five young people were ready to move into their own accommodation but were unable to. Almost half of these young people had been ready for over six months.
A stand-out reason for young people being unable to move-on was that most under 25s couldn’t access enough money through the benefits system to meet the real costs of renting, as they were only entitled to the lowest rate of financial support: the Shared Accommodation Rate (SAR).
While people who have spent time in homeless hostels are exempt from the SAR, this was not the case for people aged under-25. Young people leaving care were exempt until they were 22, but then lost this exemption between 22 and 25.
This left young people across the country struggling to move on from homelessness.
Together with our partners and organisations across the housing and homelessness sector, we campaigned for change, collecting over 20,000 petition signatures and inspiring hundreds of supporters to contact their MPs via emails, letters and on social media. Through building links and support from across the political spectrum we were able to keep this important issue on the agenda.
In March 2020, we had success! The government announced they would be extending exemptions to the Shared Accommodation Rate in 2023, to include care leavers and under-25s who had lived in a homeless hostel.
However, with youth unemployment rising and pressures on our services increasing over the pandemic, we knew it was even more critical that young people who were ready to move could do so. We kept the pressure on. And in the March 2021 Budget, we were delighted to hear that the exemptions were being brought forward to this year.
What do the changes mean?
On May 31st 2021, existing exemptions to the Shared Accommodation Rate were extended to include care leavers aged 22-25 and people under-25 who have spent at least three months in a qualifying homeless hostel. This means that these young people will be entitled to claim the one-bed rate of Local Housing Allowance, significantly opening up the accommodation options available to them.
Centrepoint’s new briefing goes into more detail on these changes and explains who can benefit. Critically the DWP will not be contacting claimants who are now entitled to the exemption: young people will be expected to self-identify. It is important homelessness services can support any young people they work with to access this increased support; this briefing explains how.
These new measures are no silver bullet to overcoming all the housing challenges young people face. Beyond the pandemic, we need to see the social security system strengthened across the board, and a real commitment to delivering genuinely affordable accommodation that young people can access to give them the security they need to move forward with their lives. We will continue to work with partners to campaign for the rights of young people and ensure those facing homelessness can access the support they need.
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Senior Policy and Research Officer
Billy Harding is a Senior Policy and Research Officer at Centrepoint.