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"Unlucky" Locals set to lose £54 per week in Housing Benefit Cuts

Cuts to Housing Benefit will mean that some people in Aberdeenshire will lose £54.23 from their weekly budget.

The government is changing its rules on Housing Benefit payments for 25-34 year olds. Currently such people can claim enough to live on their own, but from now on, everyone in this age group will automatically get the reduced Housing Benefit rate for shared accommodation (which will be significantly less than what is needed to sustain a one-person home). Such people will therefore be forced to move into shared homes. Yet most housing experts believe there is a shortage of such housing, and so are worried that the change will lead to an increase in homelessness and rough sleeping.

Westhill and District CAB Manager, Eveline Crossan said, “Government figures show that those affected by this change in Aberdeenshire will lose £54.23 per week. This means that we are the worst affected in Scotland. “This is only one of many cuts being made by the UK government, but it is one that will cause real suffering for many people. And with the housing shortage, we also fear that it could increase the amount of homelessness locally. “People who are receiving Housing Benefit are, by definition, vulnerable. You don’t get this benefit unless you really need help. It generally means you are unemployed or on a low wage, or perhaps suffering from an illness or disability. These are not rich people and they are not living in luxurious accommodation. To lose £54.23 a week will be a real blow to them.

“The aim of the policy seems to be to move these people from single accommodation to shared homes. Quite apart from the disruption this will cause to many peoples’ lives and to our community as a whole, the plain fact is that there simply aren’t enough shared properties to house all these people. “It doesn’t make sense to us that someone can be entitled to something today and then not entitled to it the next day – purely based on their age and not on their circumstances. It seems this age group is just unlucky enough to be the latest target for government cuts.

As ever, people who are worried about their finances can get free, confidential and impartial advice from the CAB at our offices in the Shopping Centre in Westhill and at our outreach services in Aboyne and Alford.  Clients should call the Westhill office for further information on 01224 747714”

So, How Much Money Will People Lose? Across the UK as a whole there are 88,000* people who will be affected by this change. 7,500 of those are in Scotland**. A table in a report published in January by the Scottish Government Housing Benefit Welfare Reform Group – which is monitoring the impact of these reforms (and of which Citizens Advice Scotland is a member) - shows potential losses every week to 25-34 year olds when the change takes effect. The lowest amount is South Lanarkshire (£17.31) and the highest is Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire (both £54.23).

* This estimate is from a report published on 20 April 2011 by the charity Crisis. It is available on their website at www.crisis.org.uk 

** This figure is from the Scottish Government’s Impact Report into these Housing Benefit changes. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/supply-demand/chma/marketcontextmaterials/hbchangesscottishimpact/Q/EditMode/on/ForceUpdate/on