Housing Benefits not barriers - Shelter and Crisis joint submission

By: Anne Baxendale  Published: October 2008


Shelter, in partnership with Crisis, has launched a parliamentary campaign to address the changes needed to the current housing benefit system to enable people to successfully get back into work. In 2008/09 the Government is undertaking a review of the housing benefit system for working age claimants which aims to “look at its effectiveness, particularly in promoting work incentives, efficiency and fairness, and to ensure that it represents value for money for the taxpayer.” Shelter believes this is a real opportunity to ensure that the housing benefit system is reformed to genuinely get people out of poverty and into work.

Summary

We believe the review presents a real opportunity to address the problems with the current Housing Benefit system and have joined forces to argue for change. Comprehensive reform of the Housing Benefit system to eliminate the disincentives to work would encourage and support more people into work and away from benefit dependency. Current problems include:

-          An excessively high withdrawal rate once claimants go into work, making them hardly better off, if at all.

-          Too much complexity involved in re-applying for housing benefit if a job does not work out – which makes starting work and giving up benefits seem a big risk.

-          No security of income. An overly sensitive system meaning people with fluctuating hours are having their claims recalculated weekly.

-          Preventing the over-19s from claiming housing benefit at all if they are in education for more than 16 hours per week, which stops people improving their skills and gaining qualifications.

-          Difficulties for advisors in understanding the huge complexities of the housing benefit system and a lack of awareness by claimants of housing benefit as an in work benefit.

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