People who support removing housing benefit for young people always focus on two arguments: finance and fairness. The former concerns the amount of money the government could save by not paying out to those who haven’t paid much in yet, while the latter points out that those who have jobs must often live at home and save before they can move out, unlike housing benefit claimants.
But both these arguments are wrongheaded. The main reason we should support this policy has nothing to do with any desire to economise or to equalise – it is because it stops families from being driven apart. Certainly there are times when there is no option but for a young person to move out from their home (abuse, for example), and ministers have already taken note of this. But, for many, the option of housing benefit gives a gratuitous incentive to detach themselves from their families.
This detachment robs families of the chance of undergoing the processes by which they are glued together, and is essentially unstitching the social fabric at the most basic level. For obvious convenience, we can take a personal case: I (along with the vast majority of my peers) have just graduated from university, and found my first full time job, and I expect to be a burden on my family until I am stable enough to step out on my own. In the same way, when my family are old and vulnerable, I expect them to be a burden on me. Young people are “burdens”, if we must call it that, upon the entirety of their family throughout childhood, through all kinds of trauma and change, and ultimately most families do become the stronger for it.
It is not stealing to take housing benefit away from the young, but it would be theft to deprive young people of the formative experiences which provide the bedrock for secure, loving, supportive families.