Ipswich: Benefits crackdown puts vulnerable at risk says Foyer boss

A GOVERNMENT clampdown on young people claiming housing benefit could prove “catastrophic” for vulnerable people living in Ipswich, it has been claimed.

It comes as Ipswich MP Ben Gummer backed the government’s attempts to cut spending and remove housing benefit from those under 25, branding it “a sensible move”.

Mr Gummer said: “You have young people who get jobs and have to stay living at home with their parents until they are in their late 20s saving up for a deposit for their own home – while they see those who have no jobs just walk into their own houses or flats on housing benefit.

“That needs to be addressed – but there is also a need to ensure that specialist services like those provided by IHAG and the Foyer are able to continue.

“IHAG provides accommodation for single men who would otherwise not have anywhere to live, and they give them support enabling them to get on their feet.

“It is vital this continues and I am sure there would be help for this kind of service.”

Mr Gummer said he would also seek an assurance that services offered by the Foyer, which provides a home for youngsters who are not able to live with their families, would continue to be funded after any changes.

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But Chris Giles, operations director at Circle Support, which runs the Ipswich Foyer in Star Lane, helping more than 50 young people providing extra support with accessing training, education and employment, was very concerned.

He said: “The speech by David Cameron suggesting the withdrawal of housing benefit to the under-25s could have a catastrophic effect on the work we do at the Ipswich Foyer.

“There is a common misconception that everyone in receipt of housing benefit is unemployed, when significant numbers are working on low incomes or in full-time education.

“Many of the young people that come to us are not homeless through choice, they may have recently left care, they may have been forced to leave home due to violence and abuse or have been referred by youth offending teams.

“They are trying to turn their lives around. In fact over half of our residents are in education, employment or training.

“When you have to choose between staying in education and putting a roof over your head, it is a tough call to make and when you are young and struggling to find somewhere to live, you can be vulnerable to abuse with long-term implications for your future.”

Meanwhile, Halford Hewitt, director at Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), which offers affordable housing in the town and support, said he was puzzled about the Prime Minister’s comments at the weekend.

He said: “Talking about stopping housing benefit to under-25s seems odd. Most of those getting housing benefit have jobs.

“Our tenants rely on housing benefit. If that was not available to those under 25 it would cause us major problems.”

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