26 June 2012 | By Carl Brown, Inside Housing

Housing figures have criticised David Cameron’s suggestion that housing benefit could be removed for under 25s pointing out many claimants are in employment.

The prime minister yesterday floated the idea and drew comparisons between those who work and do not claim housing benefit and those who are unemployed and do. He said the welfare system has created a ‘culture of entitlement’.

But senior housing professionals have pointed out that many housing benefit claimants are in work. Department for Work and Pensions figures show that as of March 2012 nearly one in five claimants (882,890 out of five million) are employed. Since January 2010 the majority of new claims, 297,160 out of 363,550, have come from workers.

Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: ‘The debate must be based on fact, not assumptions.

‘We should not assume that most housing benefit claimants are long-term unemployed. The most recent figures show that the fastest-growing part of the housing benefit caseload is from tenants in work.

We need to ensure that we protect the most vulnerable people in our society – whether they are over 25 or not, we need to provide housing support for those who are truly in need and have a range of genuinely affordable housing options.’

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, echoed Mr Smart’s criticism.

Ms Morphy said: ‘It is not just the very vulnerable who will lose out. Housing benefit is rightly claimed by people who are in work but whose pay is too low and local rents are too high – taking housing benefit from them will cause them to have to uproot and most likely lose their job and not be able to find another.’

Alison Garnham, chief execuitve of campaign group Child Poverty Action Group, said: ‘It makes no sense to try to drive a wedge between the working poor and families out of work, when the reality is that families with children move in and out of work due to insecure and temporary work – they are the same people just at different times in their life.’

John Wade, managing director of Bromford Support, urged the sector to stay calm and said Mr Cameron’s comments ‘should be taken in the spirit of thinking out loud’.

He said: ‘The idea of cutting housing benefits for all under 25s is preposterous. The people we house face a whole range of challenges and problems from violence to homelessness. Many have no money, nowhere to go, no family and no support.’