Monday, 8 July 2013

Cambridge MP Urges Minister To Protect Housing Benefit For The Young

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was urged to protect housing benefit for the under-25s from government cuts when he met Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert and representatives from the city’s YMCA.

Julian had organised the meeting after raising the issue with Mr Duncan Smith in Parliament and receiving assurances that he would safeguard the payments for the time being.

But Julian is concerned that Tories may keep trying to cut the benefit paid to young people living on their own or in centres such as the YMCA.

Julian was joined by Jonathan Martin, CEO of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough YMCA and  Dave Goodier, Housing Manager at Queen Anne House in Cambridge.

He said: “I impressed upon the minister how vital this benefit is for young people who find themselves in a position where they have to live on their own. In an ideal world, every young person would have a secure, stable and loving family to live with but in reality that doesn’t always happen.

“We cannot turn our back on these young people when they need our help. If we take away this benefit we run the risk that some of them could end up on the streets.”

Mr Martin said “Julian afforded us a great opportunity to meet with Iain Duncan Smith on Housing Benefit for under 25 year olds.

“We felt we were able to get over that for some young people, housing benefit is crucial in allowing them to strive for independence and leave difficult, abusive or inappropriate housing.

“Iain Duncan Smith seemed to understand the key issues and felt protections could be put in place to support those who needed it. With Julian, I think we’ve really been able to advocate for the most in need young people.”

Julian also raised the issue of the problems facing Cambridge families living in private rented accommodation and claiming Local Housing Allowance.

He has been fighting for the last three years against the unfair way in which Cambridge is grouped with other areas such as Littleport and Haverhill for calculating average rents for the purpose of the LHA. His predecessor, David Howarth, also fought against this since the scheme was set up in 2008.

This has left struggling families in Cambridge having to find extra money out of their own pockets to make up the difference between LHA and their rents or move out of the city.

“I have told the minister that families with children in schools in Cambridge are facing the impossible dilemma of having to find extra money or move their children away from the city,” said Julian. “It is unforgiveable that a family should be forced to disrupt their children’s education because the system is unfair. It was set up by the previous government, but that is no reason not to fix it.”