Living or Surviving? - Benefits, barriers and opportunities for young people transitioning out of homelessness

  • People under 25 receive £70-a-month less Universal Credit than those who are 25 and over, which was found to be “inadequate”
  • The social security system as it currently operates can inhibit rather than help in some circumstances
  • The cost of living crisis has put even more pressure on stretched incomes. Rising food prices were particularly noticeable
  • Supported housing meets an important need for young people in vulnerable situations

New research highlights the growing impact of low income and the social security system on young peoples’ living standards and their opportunities to transition out of homelessness.

The report was funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority Homelessness Taskforce, facilitated by the homeless charity St Basils and carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy, an independent research centre based at Loughborough University.

The research involved 21 in-depth interviews with young people aged 17 – 25 across the West Midlands who were living in or had moved on from supported housing after experiencing or been at risk of homelessness.

It revealed how young peoples’ employment circumstances interact with their financial and housing situation and shape their ability to make ends meet and plan for their future.

It showed that while steady work with reasonable earnings can provide the opportunity to cover costs and come off Universal Credit, fluctuating hours and earnings can throw finances into disarray as varying benefit payments make it hard to budget.

The research also highlighted the difficulty for young people who want to work when living in supported accommodation where higher rents and complex interaction with the social security system causes uncertainty about the financial viability of working and the fear of facing high housing costs. [KH1] 

Lead researcher Katherine Hill, from Loughborough University, said: “This research highlights the inadequacy and inequity of a social security system that provides a lower rate of benefits to people under 25.

“Young people we spoke to face the same living costs regardless of age but receive £70 a month less in Universal Credit.

“This isn’t only unfair but the amount is just too low – struggling to cover essentials let alone anything else, especially with rising food and energy bills was a constant stress.

“We need a social security system that better supports young people moving on from homelessness to live independently, make ends meet, and look ahead – this means entitlement to the standard Universal Credit rate, and less complex interaction with earnings to make work more viable.”

The report highlighted a number of key factors and recommendations that would help young people.

They included having suitable and affordable housing, benefit rates that they could live on, and being able to move into stable and financially viable work, when ready.

Recommendations from the report:

  • Pay the Universal Credit standard 25 or over rate to all young people living independently
  • Reinstate the Work Allowance (which was abolished for single adults in 2016)
  • Cap the rent at Local Housing Allowance or social rent levels for a period of time when people move into work, with the difference between this and the regulated rent being paid directly to the landlord from Housing Benefit
  • Increase the supply and improve access to suitable social housing and commissioned semi-supported accommodation.
  • Provide help with up-front costs in private rented accommodation. Realign Local Housing Allowance rates with actual private sector rents and commit to uprating them annually in future.
  • Subsidise transport. This could significantly ease the financial pressure on young people and increase their opportunities

Jean Templeton, Chief Executive of St Basils, said: “This research links young people’s ambitions to live and work with the challenges presented by our social security systems and helps identify what improvements could be made to support that shared ambition.

“The findings and recommendations will help to progress the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce’s aim of ‘designing out homelessness’ and we hope will provide the evidence to inform national policy changes.”

Councillor Sharon Thompson, Chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group, welcoming the research.

She said: “The WMCA Homelessness Taskforce works in a collaborative way across sectors to identify regulations, policy, systems and practice which can contribute to the ultimate exclusion that is homelessness.

“This research shows how our current social security systems can unintentionally trap young people in poverty and unemployment and makes recommendations which can change that outcome.” 

You can read the full report here:


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/22

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’.

In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.


St Basils works with young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, helping over 4000 young people per year across the West Midlands region.  They aim to help young people find and keep a home, grow their confidence, develop their skills, increase opportunities and prevent homelessness.

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For more information on this press release please contact St Basils Head of Fundraising and Communications, Barrie Hodge on 07539 481 255 or by emailing


CRSP is an independent research centre based at Loughborough University that conducts applied social research and policy analysis on issues related to poverty, living standards and income adequacy. For more information, visit: or email:


The first Mayor of the West Midlands set up the Homelessness Taskforce in 2017 with a commitment to bring together organisations, people and resources to tackle homelessness. The Homelessness Taskforce’s central aim is to design out homelessness, in all its forms, by identifying gaps in strategies, policies, procedures, laws, structures, systems and relationships that either cause or fail to prevent homelessness. The purpose of the Taskforce has been to identify conditions for systems change by addressing these gaps – working to design in prevention through our mainstream strategies - a perpetual, intentional process influencing mainstream systems.