Imagine having nowhere to live.

What would you do? Where would you go for help? How would you survive?

For thousands of people in Wales, homelessness is a frightening reality. Fortunately, Llamau (pronounced Lamb - eye) can provide the accommodation, support and advice that is so crucial in times of crisis. Llamau is Wales’ leading homeless charity, working with homeless and potentially homeless young people and vulnerable women across Wales.

An established charity with head offices in Cardiff but projects across Wales, Llamau has been working for over 26 years, to offer support, help, accommodation and housing advice to homeless and vulnerable young people and women in Wales.

Llamau’s Response to Conservative Party proposals to Axe Housing Benefit for Young People

The recent news from the Conservative Party that they plan to axe Housing Benefit for most young people aged 18-21 can only be described as a cruel betrayal of young people across the UK. Mr Cameron points out that care leavers and some vulnerable people may be exempt from this, however the definition of what ‘some vulnerable people’ means exactly is unclear. Once again, Mr Cameron and his party have completely missed the point. The majority of all benefit claimants in the UK are employed. Housing Benefit is just one of the ways in which low paid, employed people can make ends meet in a jobs market where wages for so many people are still very low. The National Minimum Wage does not pay enough for people to live on and the cost of living in the UK continues to rise.

The removal of Housing Benefit will undoubtedly leave many employed young people unable to make ends meet, and unable to pay their own rent. To assume that these young people can simply return home is to make an assumption that all young people have families who can support them or families who will support them. Sadly, for many young people this is not the case. Mr Cameron has not understood that to take Housing Benefit away from this group of hard working young people will likely result in huge increases in homelessness. This in itself is a travesty. Yet, the other impact is to further stifle the lives of young people until they are beyond the age of 35 (with the changes already made to Housing Benefit for under 35s), which will mean they cannot live on their own or with their partners, because they simply cannot afford to do so. Thanks to this draconian and ridiculous act, vulnerable young people will be unable to find independence until 35.

For those who are employed, how many will be able to sustain that employment when they lose their home? Unemployed young people will not be eligible, under Mr Cameron’s proposals, for Job Seekers Allowance, rather a ‘Youth Allowance’ for a period of 6 months, at which point, if they remain unemployed, their benefits will stop.

Mr Cameron asserts that this is all an attempt to pay for the huge increases in apprenticeships for young people in an attempt to tackle youth unemployment. A commitment to apprenticeships is of course very welcome, but will they pay enough to enable young people to live independently? The sad reality is that this is unlikely, and so we are back to the question of how sustainable any employment or apprenticeship is when an individual is threatened with homelessness, and how, without employment or benefit can an individual be expected to survive?

These proposals leave young people feeling that they are not liked or respected by Conservative politicians and disengaged from political debate. Their needs and their potentials are certainly not understood. Yet again, young people are expected to carry the burden of cuts. Llamau strongly supports the idea that ideally, young people under 18 should live at home BUT for many young people, home is not a safe or appropriate place or a place where they are wanted or can flourish. We also support the idea that young people who do not go on to further education or who cannot find work should be actively engaged in something, but this activity MUST be meaningful and equip them with the skills and qualifications to compete on a level playing field. For too many young people this is currently not available. Programmes like Llamau’s individually tailored Learning 4 Life scheme or Symud Ymlaen/Moving Forward Programme should be available to all young people who have been failed by mainstream education – helping them on the road to economic independence and financial sustainability. Vulnerable young people are not a problem - they have the right to be the citizens of tomorrow. They need to be offered more than despair and disregard. They need a stake in our society, which comes by investing in them through education, vocational training, apprenticeships and decent jobs. They then truly will become the solution for Wales. We call on all political parties to provide the right services to help young people, this country’s future, to unlock their potential.

Frances Beecher
Chief Executive, Llamau

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