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Autumn Statement

Posted23.11.23

Autumn statement 2023

In yesterday’s Autumn Statement, Jeremy Hunt announced several measures to address the cost-of-living crisis that may have a direct impact on people impacted by homelessness.

One significant move is the plan to restore Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the 30th percentile starting in April 2024. LHA plays a considerable role in determining the support individuals on benefits receive for housing costs in the private sector. While LHA rates were adjusted to the 30th percentile in 2020, they have remained frozen since then; leaving many households without adequate support, unable to cover rising rents in the private rented sector.

The decision to restore LHA rates to the 30th percentile is a positive step towards addressing the longstanding concerns raised by us and other homelessness charities, housing associations, and local councils. It means that anyone renting a home that is among the cheapest 30% of private rental properties in their area should be able to cover their entire rent with housing benefit. This adjustment in financial support will help to make housing costs more manageable, reducing the risk of people losing their homes. It will result in 1.6million households receiving an average of £800 more support next year.

In addition to the rise in LHA, a 6.7% increase in Universal Credit was also announced. This adjustment, in line with September’s inflation figure, translates to an average increase of £470 for 5.5 million households. The current standard allowance for a single claimant over the age of 25 is £368.74 a month. With the 6.7% rise this will increase by £24.71 a month to £393.45. This means more financial support to meet basic needs, including housing costs. By providing higher housing benefit through the restored LHA rates, and increased overall financial support through Universal Credit, individuals and families are less likely to face eviction and homelessness due to inability to pay rent.

The autumn statement also announced that people claiming benefits will face mandatory work experience if they do not find a job within 18 months, while those who do not look for work for a six-month period will have benefits stopped.

While the intention may be to encourage reintegration into the workforce, it is essential to recognise that there are myriad reasons why someone may be unable to work beyond mere inaction or laziness. People dealing with physical or mental health issues, caregiving responsibilities, or those with disabilities may find it challenging to secure and maintain employment within a traditional framework. There is therefore a risk that sanctions, without a nuanced understanding of individual circumstances, could disproportionately affect those who are already hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis.

Furthermore, the prospect of benefit stoppages for individuals not actively seeking work may overlook the realities of job availability, skills misalignment, or the need for additional support services. Policies that fail to consider the diverse and often complex barriers to employment may inadvertently push vulnerable individuals further into poverty. We know this because this is the reality for the people we support.

To tackle these issues, work-related mandates should be accompanied by robust support measures. This means offering practical retraining options, accessible mental health services, and considering reasonable workplace adjustments for individuals with disabilities. A more pragmatic and understanding approach is essential to prevent worsening the difficulties faced by those dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. Striking a balance between promoting workforce participation and acknowledging the specific circumstances of each person is vital for the effectiveness and fairness of these policies.

Read the full Autumn Statement here.

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