THE director of a charity that helps vulnerable young people in Bolton to escape homelessness has said proposed changes to housing benefit could spell disaster for the organisation.
Chancellor George Osborne warned on Monday of a further £25 billion in spending cuts after the next election and highlighted cutting housing benefit for under-25s as one potential saving.
Half of the £25 billion savings would come from cuts to welfare and the Chancellor also proposed restricting council housing for those earning more than £65,000 a year.
Maura Jackson is the director of the Bolton Young People Housing Scheme, which offers temporary accommodation to 16 to 26-year-olds who have to leave their family home for a variety of reasons.
She said the announcement will have huge implications on the organisation’s future — and could potentially mean the end of the charity.
Ms Jackson said: “If it’s just an automatic cut for under-25s, obviously that would close us down. We rely on housing benefit to operate.
“The young people wouldn’t be able to access any supportive housing, or any housing for that matter. It would increase homelessness ten-fold for young people under 25.
“Sometimes they make schemes like ours exempt, but it’s not clear yet.
“But it will still have huge implications for us. When the young people on our scheme are ready to move on, there will be nowhere for them to go if they don’t have housing benefit.
“We will be blocked overnight and could come to a standstill, or we are going to have to refer them to another homeless service, like the men’s or women’s hostel. So they would be in exactly the same position.”
Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, said he was disappointed there were more cuts on the way from central government.
He added: “We don’t know where it’s going to coming from.
“There’s only so many cuts we can take. The way they are going, we’re down to the bare bones and delivering minimal provision. I don’t think George Osborne is living in the real world.”
Cllr David Greenhalgh, leader of the Conservatives, said he supported the call for high-earners to have restricted access to social housing and that a tough stance was needed to fix the economy.
He added: “Social housing should be there for people in the most need for housing and people who are earning more shouldn’t block it for people who need it most.
“I think it’s important that the public accept how grave the problem is. When this government took over, we were in dire straights. It’s going to be a long journey with winners and losers.
“We can see the benefits of what’s happening — growth is up, business is reinvesting, but it’s going to be a while before the average person sees it in their pockets.”
Cllr Roger Hayes, leader of the Liberal Democrats said: “The devil is in the detail. Benefits have shot up in the last 10 years and something had to be done about it.
“The Labour Party has the good fortune of being in a position when they don’t have to say what they would do, but criticise the people taking action.
“I will watch this very carefully and I’ve already talked to a number of our MPs, who have promised they will do what they can to make sure any more cuts are sensible and don’t affect those most vulnerable people.”