Critics warn Prime Minister’s plan would spark youth homelessness ‘epidemic’

Plans to scrap housing benefit for people under the age of 25 would lead to an epidemic of youth homelessness in Scotland, it has been warned.

Prime Minister David Cameron says he is considering scrapping the benefit to cut the benefit bill by nearly £2 billion a year.

The move would affect around 325,000 people who receive an average of £90 a week.

Mr Cameron is also considering stopping unemployment benefits to individuals who are considered not to be doing enough to find work.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper, Mr Cameron said the existing benefits system is ”sending out strange signals on working, housing and families”.

He added: ”A couple will say, ‘We are engaged, we are both living with our parents, we are trying to save before we get married and have children and be good parents.

”But how does it make us feel, Mr Cameron, when we see someone who goes ahead, has the child, gets the council home, gets the help that isn’t available to us?’

”One is trapped in a welfare system that discourages them from working, the other is doing the right thing and getting no help.”

Mr Cameron’s proposal to axe housing benefit for under-25s would include exemptions for special cases, such as domestic violence.

However, he insisted: ”We are spending nearly £2 billion on housing benefit for under-25s — a fortune. We need a bigger debate about welfare and what we expect of people. The system currently sends the signal you are better off not working, or working less.”

However, a spokesman for the homelessness charity Shelter Scotland said the comments reveal how out of touch Mr Cameron is with people north of the border.

He said: ”The Prime Minister must be seriously out of touch if he thinks this will do anything other than fuel another epidemic in youth homelessness — and it’s already bad enough.”

He added that people under 25 already receive less money than other recipients of the benefit.

”Under-25s already get far less than other age groups and have done for a long time. It seems that David Cameron doesn’t understand the reality in Scotland.

”There are some qualifications that people will still get a benefit if they are victims of abuse but people have to leave home for all sorts of valid reasons.

”He seems to be operating under the impression that there is a lot of largesse towards people under 25 when it is not the case at all.”

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne also castigated Mr Cameron’s proposal. He said getting people back into work is the best way to reduce the benefits bill.

”This is a hazy and half-baked plan when we need a serious back to work programme for young families,” he said.

”Many young families with their first foot on the career ladder will be knocked off if help with their rent is taken away. And young families that want to work won’t be able to move where the jobs are.”