Did you know that if you are under 25 and single the government does not treat you as a fully grown adult when it comes to housing benefit? This scandal is known as the Single Accommodation Rate and is soon to get much worse.  From January 2012 the age will be raised to 35.

While the media has paid some attention to the housing benefit reforms in general, such as the caps on upper limits, the massive injustice of SAR is frequently not even mentioned.

Local Housing Allowance was introduced in 2008 as a way of calculating housing benefit entitlement.  It doesn’t affect people living in social housing – only those who rent from a private landlord and who are claiming housing benefit. Every local authority publishes a LHA table monthly on their website.  For example, the July 2011 table in Brighton and Hove shows that for a 1 Bedroom self-contained flat the allowance is £144.23 per week.

So if you are a single adult or a couple without children who qualify for full housing benefit (your eligibility is based on factors such as your income and who you live with), you would be able to rent a flat up to this amount and your rent would be covered by housing benefits.  However, there is an exception to this – if you are single and young you will receive substantially less.

Instead if you are under 25 you will only receive the SAR, so in Brighton a young single person currently only gets £79.81 per week. From January 2012 this will affect everyone under 35 years old.  This will hit all new claimants immediately, and most other housing benefit claimants will have their benefits reduced on the anniversary of their claim.

This is because as a young person you are expected to live in shared accommodation, having your own bedroom but sharing other facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom.  The government believes it is fair to treat young people as second class citizens, but I don’t think they realise the real impacts this will have on young people. In a commons debate Caroline Lucas MP highlighted how this could mean a single pregnant girl would be forced to live in a shared house right up until the day her child is born.

I’ve created a Facebook Group called Scrap the Single Accommodation Rate where I’m hoping lots of people will start posting their stories, and we can use these to raise awareness of this scandal and, if there is enough support, put pressure on the government to put an end to this discrimination.