§ Mr. Kirkwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what new initiatives he will take to provide additional benefit to young people who are under 18 years of age and who are homeless.
§ Mrs. Gillian Shephard
Homeless people, including 16 and 17-year-olds, continue to be entitled to claim a range of benefits in the usual way.
The need for most 16 and 17-year-olds to rely on benefit was removed in September 1988 when a youth training scheme place, with a training allowance, was guaranteed for all those not in a job or full time education. Certain groups of young people may receive income support. These include lone parents, the disabled and the long-term sick who may claim at any time. Young people forced to live independently can claim income support during the child benefit extension period while they look for work or a youth training scheme place. They can also receive housing benefit. Moreover, a package of changes was introduced in July which recognised the special difficulties being experienced by some 16 and 17-year-olds with no option but to live away from home. An important element of this was to pay them higher rates of both income support and housing benefit.
We have an important safety net which enables those 16 and 17-year-olds who would otherwise not be entitled to be paid income support to prevent severe hardship.
Those who are homeless may claim a social fund crisis loan to enable them to secure accommodation.
We continue to monitor the 1988 Social Security reforms including those affecting young people.