"Housing benefit is a lifeline for young people who cannot live in the family home, not a lifestyle choice"
By Sally Hayden
LONDON, March 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Young LGBT people estranged from their families will be at particular risk of homelessness after new cuts to housing benefits for young people come into force in Britain on Saturday, charities and activists say.
From April 1, 18-21 year olds who aren't already receiving benefits will no longer be entitled unless they can prove they fall under an exemption - including that they have children or that living with their parents will put them at risk of harm.
Paul Noblet, spokesman for homelessness charity Centrepoint, said the new rule put at risk young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people whose families did not accept their sexuality. Proving they were estranged from their families would be difficult for those who are vulnerable, he said.
"Centrepoint believes this policy will increase the number of young people in desperate circumstances slipping through the safety net and being forced into homelessness," he said.
"Housing benefit is a lifeline for young people who cannot live in the family home, not a lifestyle choice. Young LGBT people whose families cannot accept their sexuality are a prime example of that."
Homeless support worker Joshua Booth, 20, who works part-time on a flexible contract, said without benefits he couldn't afford to move out of his family home in Warrington, northwest England, despite the strain living there puts on his parents.
He said it was unfair he was now a year away from eligibility for benefits due to the change introduced by the ruling Conservative party. "It feels really arbitrary because I'll be the same person, I'll have the same job, I'll be doing the same things."
In an emailed statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the exemptions were "fair and robust".
"We want to make sure that 18 to 21-year-olds do not slip straight into a life on benefits, which is why we are helping young people get the training, skills and experience they need to move into a job and build a career," the spokesman said.
(Reporting by Sally Hayden @sallyhayd, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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