Open Forum

This month marks the ninth anniversary of the single room rent (SRR) restriction that limits housing benefit for under-25s. Brought in at the end of the last Conservative government in the face of Labour opposition, it has remained in place ever since, despite evidence of the hardship it causes young people.

In theory, the SRR simply restricts the amount payable to single people under the age of 25 in private rented housing to the average price of a room in a shared house. But in practice it has hit thousands of vulnerable young people who have been left with serious shortfalls between their benefit and the rent they owe. Rent arrears, eviction and homelessness often follow.

Government research confirms that those affected face an average shortfall of £35 a week. This is more than double the average £16 shortfall faced by claimants who are over 25.

So what can be done about it?  Well, ministers are expected to bring forward a bill reforming the housing benefit system early next month. This represents a real opportunity to take decisive action and sweep away this pernicious restriction in line with the government’s objectives of promoting fairness and opportunity. The argument used to justify SRR was that unemployed young people on benefits should not be better off than those in work. But equally, we should not be prepared to tolerate a benefits system that denies vulnerable young people the opportunity of a decent home and forces them to choose between paying the rent and other essential expenses.

Shelter, along with other organisations, will be campaigning to persuade ministers to use the forthcoming bill to abolish the SRR.

Andy Love, Labour’s MP for Edmonton in north London, has laid down an early day motion in parliament backing the campaign. We hope others from across the housing and social care sectors will join us in pressing their MPs to support that motion and help bring an end to this discrimination against young people.

Adam Sampson is director of Shelter

See Welfare Rights

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