Shelter Homelessness Campaign
My response to the campaign to help people at risk of homelessness now
Thank you for contacting me about homelessness and the benefit cap.
The Government is clear that people should always be better off in work than on welfare. This was not the case before the introduction of the benefit cap, with too many people able to claim more in benefits than they otherwise would in employment. This was not fair on working people.
There has to be a balance between supporting the vulnerable and encouraging work.
If claimants do require additional support with housing costs, they can approach their Local Authority for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). Since 2011, the Government has provided around £1.5 billion in DHPs.
Exemptions from the cap are in place to protect families who experience a sudden change in circumstances. For example, if a claimant loses their job, they may qualify for a grace period from the cap for 39 weeks. Exemptions also apply for the most vulnerable claimants who are entitled to disability and carer benefits.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions reviews Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates annually. In April 2020, LHA rates were increased to the 30th percentile of local rents. This significant investment of nearly £1 billion provided 1.5 million claimants with an average of £600 more housing support in 2020/21 than they would have otherwise received.
LHA rates have been maintained at their increased levels since then, so that everyone who benefitted from the increase will continue to do so.
More widely, the Government’s record on tackling homelessness has been a success, with levels of rough sleeping falling by 49 per cent since 2017. The Spending Review committed £2 billion to tackle and prevent homelessness over the next three years.
We can have confidence that exceptions to the benefit cap are in place for those who experience a sudden change in their circumstances.
Know that I will continue to make clear the concerns of residents and expert charities such as Shelter to the Chancellor and Prime Minister. Support must continue to be adaptive and flexible to current needs and difficulties.
Thank you once again for contacting me regarding this important issue.
Sir Peter Bottomley MP