Does David Cameron have any idea how many young LGBT people rely on housing benefits?

If he did, he might think twice before pledging to cut them

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The Independent Online

David Cameron announced his intention to plough on with the next round of welfare cuts last week. In particular, he promised to cut housing benefit for young people aged 18-21 if the Tories win the next general election.

Cameron believes that when it comes to ensuring under 21s have a roof over their heads, the onus is on parents, not the state. By removing the option of a council home, young people will be forced to move back in with their parents - who will be expected to embrace and fund them.

Not only does the state save money, but a neat, nuclear family is grafted back together. It’s a nice idea, rooted in fuzzy, feel good, familial tropes. But, it doesn’t reflect the reality of family life in modern Britain.

For many young people, parental support simply isn’t an option. Some parents don’t have the physical space or financial support, others are imprisoned, divorced, live far away or have fractured relationships with their children. For them, this proposal wouldn’t take the young person off the housing waiting list and into the family home, but straight on to the streets.

Cameron’s proposal threatens to be a particular disaster for LGBT youth. Young LGBT people already make up more than their fair share of sleeping bags on streets. It is estimated that some 25 per cent of homeless people are lesbian, gay, bi or trans.

Stonewall Housing charity, which supports LGBT homeless people, estimate that two thirds of those who use their services are under 25.

The sad reality that many families still reject their out children as they struggle to come to terms with their son or daughter’s identity. Despite the cultural shift towards LGBT rights over the last decade, some parents are still intolerant of and even hostile towards gay or trans children. LGBT teens might be kicked out of the family home, or forced to flee after violence or emotional abuse makes their living situation insufferable.

Queer youth are also more likely to suffer from mental health problems, substance misuse and alcohol addiction - factors which can also result in people in living on the street.

Not only are they more likely to be made homeless than their heterosexual peers, but when this happens, they’re also more likely to be let down by support services. Most hostels, refuge shelters and domestic abuse centers are designed with straight or cisgendered (as opposed to transgendered) people in mind. They simply lack the understanding and resources to adequately support the particular mind field it can be to be rejected by one’s family for one’s identity.

Painting idyllic pictures of family units might evoke warm feelings amongst nostalgic voters, and get the government off the hook about actually supporting its citizens. But for many LGBT who have been cut off from their families, this policy would mean the severance of the very last lifeline of support.

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