Thank you for your recent correspondence in respect of the shared room rate, your comments upon which I have read with great interest.
I realise that you have concerns about the proposed changes to Housing Benefit and shared accommodation and are worried about the potential impact this may have.
Our Housing Benefit system traps the poorest in society into areas where there is simply no employment. In many cases there will be a prosperous location where job opportunities exist on the other side of the city or the county, but the travel costs are prohibitive and they dare not move their families as they know this will mean putting their home in jeopardy, as well as their benefits.
This Government is determined to ensure that people are better off in work than on benefits. It is highly regrettable that five million people of working age are on out-of-work benefits, with over one million of those for nearly a decade. It is also tragic that unemployment has become entrenched in many communities clearly signalling that the current welfare system is broken.
As you may be aware, the Shared Room Rate is a lower level of Local Housing Allowance based on the cost of a room in a shared house. Under the existing system under-25 year olds are restricted to this rate but the Government has decided to extend this to under-35 year olds from April 2012.
I appreciate your concern over the proposed changes but I am confident that the Government has made the right decision for the right reasons. The under-35 year olds rate will save money and ensure that there is a level playing field for young people on benefits and other young people on low-paid jobs who will commonly share accommodation.
I understand that you are concerned that these measures will impact on the most vulnerable. The Government is working with councils on the transition and is increasing support where it is most needed. A safety net will not just remain, but it will be improved for the most vulnerable. That is why in the Budget the Government announced an additional £10 million in 2011-12 and an additional £40 million each year from 2012 – 2015 in the Additional Discretionary Housing Payment, to allow local authorities to provide additional support where it is most needed.
Once again, thank you for having taken the time to contact me and I trust that this response clarifies my views on this area of policy. If I can ever be of any further assistance to you then please do not hesitate to contact me again.
Chris Heaton-Harris MP
Member of Parliament for Daventry