As part and parcel of the ongoing welfare reform debate, David Cameron recently suggested that people under the age of 25 (aside from those in exceptional circumstances) should no longer be able to claim housing benefit, and instead should move back in with their parents.
Under the current benefit system under-25s can receive state-funded help to pay their rent if they are on a low income, receiving out-of-work benefits, are not living with or paying rent to their close family or relatives, or seeking asylum in the UK.
YouGov's nationally representative public opinion polling on the subject revealed that 53% of Britons were in favour of taking housing benefit away from under-25s, while 37% were opposed.
To explore this clear split in public opinion, we invited you to share your views in PoliticsLab on whether housing benefit for the under-25s should be abolished. Read what people had to say below!
By contrast with the nationally-representative public opinion poll, the largest proportion of those who took part in the Labs debate disagreed with the Prime Minister’s suggestion to scrap the housing benefit for those under the age of 25.
- Those who held this view said that not everyone who is under 25 has the option of moving back in with their parents.
- Many of you shared personal experiences of coming from an unstable home environment, and suffering physical or mental abuse that made it impossible for you to live with you parents.
- Others said that even for young people coming from relatively happy homes, being able to afford their own place is a crucial step (psychologically and practically) in them establishing themselves as independent, responsible adults.
- Many suggested that because of David Cameron’s wealthy background he does not have a full appreciation of the financial strugglespeople in their early 20s face, including a tough job market, and a much higher cost of living.
- Participants said that those aged 25 and under were often working at the bottom of the pay scale, and therefore removing their right to claim housing benefit would be disproportionately painful for them, and financially hobble them at a time when they most need a bit of help.
- You also argued that this proposal unfairly targets under-25s, who are fully-fledged adults and pay taxes, and therefore should be eligible for the same housing benefit that is available to everybody else aged 25 and over.
A smaller, but still substantial proportion of those who took part in the debate agreed with the Prime Minister’s suggestion to scrap housing benefit for those under the age of 25.
- Those who thought housing benefit should be removed argued that it discouraged young people from taking jobs where available, and contributed to a ‘something for nothing’ culture.
- A view often expressed was that there were jobs available for under-25s but not necessarily ones they want to do, and thus giving them state assistance has led to a situation where young people don’t have to do whatever it takes to scrape by – this ran against many participants’ sense of fairness.
- Those participants who lived with their parents into their mid and late 20s in order to save for a deposit on a mortgage, resented that some others their age could live independently with the help of a taxpayer-funded housing benefit. You said that nowadays it is not exceptional for people to live with their parents into early adulthood.
- Many of you argued that the housing benefit should be restricted to those who (in your view) truly need it, such as older people who have fallen on hard times because of being temporary unemployed, or those suffering from a debilitating illness.
- Participants in this camp expressed unease with the larger welfare system, and seemed to feel that any reform was a step in the right direction. You voiced concerns that the welfare system was overly generous, and was creating an environment where hardworking people felt discouraged and resentful because they perceived benefit claimants being handed the same things for which they made sacrifices.
AGAINST THE PROPOSAL
“I'm under 25 and not currently on housing benefit, but I was last year – in a strange city with no family nearby – my job had fallen through I’d have been stuck without it. I try not to claim benefit unless I really need to. I have been entitled to benefit this year but haven't done so because I can scrape by, but I don't know if I can manage another year like this one and I’m only 22. If they get rid of housing benefit then people like me would be forced to move back in with parents and they haven't the space. They are old, sick and wouldn't survive the stress if me and my sister lost our place. We have agreed if things get any worse (hours cut back) then we would be applying, but neither of us are over 25” Anon
“I'm 22 and even with housing benefit I am struggling with bills and even buying food. Take away my housing benefit (I'm unemployed due to severe illness currently) and I will literally be on friend's sofas, or out on the streets. I'm not even making this up! Most of my graduate friends will be forced to move back in with their parents, and won't end up moving out till they're 30. I can't move back in with parents because of personal issues. Do you want people like me to become homeless and resort to selling our bodies just to pay rent and eat?” Anon
“There are lots of young people in this country who have unhappy homes and may be victims of violence. Housing benefits gives the under-25s a chance to escape from those environments” Anon
“Under-25s need to have access to housing benefit to allow them to live independently of their family. Many young adults have very difficult or strained relationships with their family, and to force them to live at home would very likely be harmful to their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing” David, London
“It is not feasible for many under-25s to live at home, especially for the poor in cramped housing. Parents deserve a rest from their grown-up children. I thought the government wanted people to be independent, not reliant on others? It is partly because property is overvalued that people can't afford rents without benefits and partly to poor pay. Why should the state subsidise poorly-paying employers?” Anon
“If a person can pay tax aged 16 then surely they should be eligible for benefits at that age. When I was that age I was married. It's normal for people to leave home before 25. This is another hare-brained scheme from someone who never had to fend for himself” Chris, Coventry
“Adults are adults and may have moved hundreds of miles from their parents to attend university. Upon graduation they may be forced to take temporary, low paid jobs. As they could still be in need of the housing benefit whilst working, the alternative is forcing them to go back to their parents, thus damaging social mobility and life chances – especially when the parents live in an economically weak area!” Geoff C, Keighley
“It is in a sense discriminatory – why should someone under 25 be penalised if they lose their job? It is also impractical – If a young person has moved to a different part of the country in pursuit of work and then loses their job, what is the sense of forcing them to go home (quite possibly to an area with fewer employment opportunities)?” Caz P, Dorset
“The under-25s are most at risk of becoming homeless, they should be given at least equal help with housing as older people. No one has suggested a single valid reason why they oughtn't be entitled to the same as the rest of us other than that it saves money” Jack, Bradford
“Young people have taken many hits recently. We are now stuck with much longer working lives, with higher pension contributions, a less free NHS and hiked university tuition. Also, youth unemployment is incredibly high. The Coalition talks of fairness but how is it fair that the youth are taking the hit for the previous generations many mistakes? Those 30+ took advantage of the boom years with free NHS and education, and much more favourable working lives, and now young people are being forced to pay for it. Housing benefit allows young people to move to where the jobs are and taking it away is taking our opportunities and most likely our votes in the future. Also, I can't imagine parents being entirely happy with their disgruntled want-away children stepping on their toes until they are 25” Josh W, Cambridge
“If you are an adult at 18 then you should be entitled to everything an adult is, regardless of age. Concentrating on under-25s is misdirection. What is needed is flexibility introduced into a system where people are trapped on benefits and nobody seems to know the exact rules for claiming!” Anon
“Why pick out the young? Some people under 25 have complete families to support, I had a child of 7 at the age of 25. This is an outrageous piece of ageism that discriminates against the young” Liz, Cardiff
FOR THE PROPOSAL
“Benefits are too freely available nowadays, and to some youngsters it is an incentive not to have to work and sponge on the taxpayer instead. They should only be available to those who have tried to pay their way and failed through no fault of their own. I know of several people who have worked hard on low wages for many years, but when they were made redundant and needed help with mortgage or rent the current system couldn't help them, whereas some youngsters walk straight into free housing and other benefits without having contributed a jot to society. It's so wrong and I hope David Cameron goes through with this” Anon
“It encourages a lot of young people to stay out of work and gives then no incentive to find work if they get housing benefit” Anon
“I feel there is far too much nowadays encouraging young people into a life of state dependence. I am 27, have just bought my own house recently and never claimed a penny in benefits. I saved up for three years to get my deposit and buy a house. Living with your parents in your late 20s is nothing out of the ordinary these days as house prices are so high” Christian, Lancashire
“Anyone who is younger than 25 is in a good position to work. There are jobs out there that individuals could do but won't to 'save face' amongst their friends. It would also instigate the younger generation to look harder for work” Anon
“Some under 25's believe that it is the responsibility of the state to provide for them without them paying anything into the state in the form of taxes. When housing benefit is paid in full they will be entitled to free rent and council tax. What encouragement is there for them to go out and get a job because if they do all or most of their benefits will stop?” Anon
“I think that the provision of benefits to this age sector is encouraging many to avoid working. Of course, in case of real hardship, help must be given, but it should be strictly means-tested” Alan DS, Rutland
“In 2006 I was living in a three-story converted house and I was the only one in work whilst the rest of the house, were all on housing benefit. … The truth is they were all just taking the piss, drinking, taking drugs, and generally partying most nights and early morning. These people were mostly aged 18 – 25 I would say, and what person this age with no responsibilities would have liked a life of partying all being paid for by the state. … They should take a look at the whole welfare state and start all over again. It should be a safety net and to take care of the real sick and vulnerable people, not able bodied people” Anon
“As long as safeguards are in place for groups such as care leavers, I think this is long overdue. People not entitled to housing benefit are unable to move out of their family homes, why should people on benefits be able to? … It is hugely unfair that working people who cannot afford to move out of the family home have to pay the rent for people who have never done a day's work” Anon
“I feel it is about time young people learned that they can't expect to receive money without putting something back, even if it is voluntary work. If young people cannot afford to look after themselves, they should remain at home with parents until such time as they can afford it. With the country the way it is, youngsters being given housing benefits is not an option any more” Karen, Norwich
“It is unfair that the benefit class can get their housing paid for when the working class can't” Mark G, Harwich
“When I was young I lived with my parents until I was in my mid-20s. I saved up for a mortgage and when I had enough money bought a flat. Unfortunately, nowadays a lot of people think that it is their automatic right when they become an adult to have a council house and live on benefits. If we take this option away from the likes of those then they will have to go out and try to get work if they want to move out instead of living on benefits. The housing and benefits system are for those in genuine need, not for those who can't be bothered to go out to look for work and who think it is their right to do nothing” Anon, Durham
“It’s not fair to people who do the right thing and work. Young people have kids to get a house on benefits – I see it every day in my role as midwife” Anon