Idris Elba condemns Tories for scrapping housing benefits for young people

'No one should be homeless it's f****** b******t. No one should be hungry,' says actor and musician

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 05 April 2017 15:20 BST
Idris Elba savages housing benefit cuts at Shelter fund-raiser

Idris Elba has launched a scathing attack on government cuts to housing benefits for young people.

The cut, which came into effect earlier this month, has abolished housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds who are out of work. The change which was first announced by David Cameron in 2015 is expected to push many vulnerable youngsters onto the streets.

The 43-year-old actor and musician, who was born and bred in Hackney in east London, condemned the benefit cuts at a fundraising gig for the housing charity Shelter. Elba opened the show by drawing attention to the plight of the 45,000 families who are currently homeless in the capital.

"It's 2017, there are 850 people here tonight but there's like at least 1,000 men and women on the streets tonight,” he told the audience.

“That’s f**krys, we need to do something about that, that’s why we’re here, that’s why we back Shelter.

"We have one of the strongest currencies in the world, why do we have 60,000 women and single mothers homeless that's f****y, that's b******t.

"The government is trying to take away housing allowances from 18-21-year-olds ... Seriously man. No one should be homeless it's f****** b******t. No one should be hungry.”

Skepta also performed at the event alongside fellow rappers A$AP Rocky, Shorty and JME. Skepta told the audience: "This is isn't about any celebrity giving back, this is about us all giving back.

"Everyone should give back, everyone."

The drastic change to housing benefits, which applies to new Universal Credit claims made after April 1, was included in the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto. For many young people, housing benefit is the only barrier between them and the streets and former British Prime Minister, Cameron, even previously admitted that "some of these young people will genuinely have nowhere else to live”.

Anne Baxendale, Shelter's director of communications, policy and campaigns, condemned the housing benefit cuts for young people.

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“We’re deeply disappointed the government has chosen to deny 18-21 years olds housing benefit at a time when rough-sleeping is on the rise," she told The Independent.

"They have failed to heed the dire warning that tampering with this vital safety net will result in more young people being left to fend for themselves on the streets.

“The option of being able to live with your parents is not one that is open to everyone. These cuts will affect those who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in desperately difficult situations. Whether these young people are escaping an abusive household or thrown out because of their sexuality, they’ll now have the added, sometimes impossible, burden of having to prove they can’t go home. If they can’t, their only option may be to sleep rough.

“The government has said its committed to reducing homelessness so it makes no sense to take away this help for desperate young people. Clearly doing something that risks increasing the number of rough-sleepers is the wrong path to take. If it’s the welfare bill they want to cut, the government should make building homes that people can actually afford more of a priority.”

A number of charities have pointed out that the axing of housing benefit will save virtually no money and exacerbate long-running problems of youth homelessness, disproportionately affecting LGBT people or those estranged from their families.

A quarter of the young homeless population in the UK identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, according to a survey carried out in 2015 by the Albert Kennedy Trust.

The legislation does include a number of exemptions such as people classed as vulnerable, families, and those who have been in work for at least six months prior to claiming – as well as those carrying out at least 16 hours work a week.

When the policy was first announced the Conservatives initially pledged to axe housing benefits for 18-25 year-olds. However, at the last minute, it was dropped it to 18-21.

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