Shelter responds to the Today programme

23 January 2012

Photo of Campbell Robb

Shelter has responded to comments on this morning’s Today programme from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, about the Government’s plans to impose a cap on benefits.

Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb said: 'The Secretary of State said that, according to Shelter, a family where children share a bedroom would be defined as homeless. This is simply not true.

'Shelter uses the same definition of homelessness as the Government, as set out in the Housing Act 1996, passed by the last Conservative Government.

'We are disappointed that these comments are creating unnecessary confusion and deflecting from the real issues we should be focusing on today, namely the significant impacts these proposals will have on the lives of those in the 67,000 affected households. 

'According to the Government’s original impact assessment published last February, the expected effects of this policy include households falling into rent arrears, resulting in some households having to move and others presenting as homeless to their local authority.'

The 1996 Housing Act defines homelessness to include not just rough sleeping, but a broader range of circumstances that include reasons why people are unable to occupy their current home, such as because of a threat of domestic violence.

This wider definition is essential in order to capture the true scale of the problem and to tackle it effectively. Only the most severe overcrowding, such as people sleeping in kitchens, could be potentially considered by local authorities as homeless under the statutory definition. This would not include two children sharing a room.

Are you worried about how changes to housing benefit will affect you? Get advice on future changes here.