by Niall Christie
The UK Government are driving young Scots into homelessness with their changes to housing benefit, according to Social Security Secretary Angela Constance.
The moves, which will come into effect next week, will remove the entitlement to housing support for 18 to 21 year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit who do not have a specific exemption, such as disability or childcare.
To assist those who will now miss out, the Scottish Welfare Fund will be extended while calls for a stop to the changes continue.
Ms Constance said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring that every young person can access the support they need.
“It is very disappointing, yet unsurprising, that the UK Government has insisted on pushing through these shameful changes to housing benefit.
“This is hugely dismissive of the difficulties young people in Scotland face in obtaining and keeping a tenancy.”
These criticisms come as homelessness amongst young people in Scotland continues to rise.
At present 5000 people sleep rough in Scotland every year and charities are following suit in their disapproval of Westminster’s plans.
Adam Lang, head of communications and policy for Shelter Scotland said: “We are deeply concerned by the UK government’s plans to exclude some 18-21 year-olds from receiving housing benefit at a time when rough-sleeping is on the rise and homelessness is far from fixed in Scotland.
“This is an additional barrier to housing for young people who are already struggling to find accommodation they can afford.
“Agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments must be reached to protect younger people in Scotland from the worst effects of our housing crisis.”
As well as charities, welfare groups in Scotland have expressed concerns about young people running-up debts early on their working lives.
North Lanarkshire Councillor Harry McGuigan said: “It would be unacceptable for them to start their lives with rent arrears and possible evictions.”
Ms Constance has now called on the UK Government for a complete halt to the roll-out of full service of Universal Credit until problems with its implementation are fully resolved.