17:15 Sunday 16 February 2014

YMCA pleads for Housing Benefit re-think

Written byMARK MCKAY

SCORES of vulnerable youngsters could be homeless if Government welfare reforms continued after 2015, a Burton homeless charity has warned.

Chief executive of the town’s YMCA, Paul Laffey, said the charity sheltered 51 under-25s last year because they received Housing Benefit.

But if re-elected in 2015, the Tory Party said the age group could lose their automatic right to the payments if they refused to take up the offer of work, education or training.

Mr Laffey (pictured) said those aged under 25 needed to receive the benefit in order to gain access to accommodation.

He said: “If the Government did not provide the benefit then that would be 51 people we would not have been able to accommodate – that would have been a problem.

“If they are unable to pay their rent then that leads to them being homeless, so it is a life saver in protecting vulnerable young people and keeping them off the streets.

The benefit is absolutely critical.. I urge the Government not to remove the benefit, especially for these young people.”

Although the Tories made the announcement in October, Mr Laffey spoke to the Mail after new research from the charity Homeless Link revealed 40 per cent of youngsters become homeless because of relationship breakdown.

Mr Laffey said the research reinforced the YMCA’s calls for the Government to reconsider.

When he announced the plans last year, Prime Minister David Cameron said the idea aimed to tackle the problem of young people not in education, employment or training.

He said: “We should give young people a clear, positive choice. Go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job. But just choose the dole?

“We’ve got to offer them something better than that.”

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