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Good news for care leavers: Shared Accommodation Rate exemption

The Shared Accommodation Rate exemption for care leavers will now be extended from age 22 to 25 in June 2021, instead of 2023 as previously planned. This was announced in the government’s 2021 Budget and we’re really pleased to see it. 

Become, working with young care leavers, played a vital role in securing the extended exemption this year. In November 2020, we arranged for four young care leavers to meet with the children’s minister Vicky Ford MP and welfare delivery, minister Will Quince MP. They discussed issues facing care leavers right now and what can be done to help them. 

What is the Shared Accommodation Rate? 

The Shared Accommodation Rate is the amount of housing benefit you receive if you’re renting a room in a shared house, and that amount is set by the local authority. Ordinarily, up until the age of 35, if you’re a single person, you would only qualify for the shared accommodation rate. 

However, as a care leaver, you can claim a higher rate (the one-bed self-contained rate if you’re claiming Universal Credit, or a different rate if you’re claiming Housing Benefit) – but only until the age of 22 

Why is the upcoming exemption important for care leavers? 

Care leavers are currently granted an exemption that means they can claim a higher rate of housing benefit for private rented housing until they are 22. Once they are 22, they are restricted to the much lower Shared Accommodation Rate, intended to pay only for a room in a shared house. 

Their current options? 

1. Continue to make up the difference financially. This can be incredibly challenging without the safety net of family, or when you’re already on benefits and it isn’t easy to conjure up extra money. 

2. Find cheaper accommodation. This often means sharing with other people, sometimes strangers, after spending years living independently – and potentially moving far away from home. 

Restricting care leavers to the Shared Accommodation Rate increases the risk that they become homeless because in many areas there is very little or no accommodation available to rent at that rate of housing support. Also, many care leavers have personal experiences around safety and stability or mental health problems, which can make it difficult to live in a shared house. 

That’s why extending the exemption from age 22 to age 25 is so important for care leavers who have been healing and thriving while living independently. 

I’m a care leaver and I’ve never experienced or heard of this issue? 

The Shared Accommodation Rate particularly impacts care leavers in certain areas of the country where rent is expensive, such as London and the South East.  

When does the extension of the exemption start? 

The extension of the Shared Accommodation Rate exemption will be introduced in June 2021. 

How do care leavers get the exemption? 

Care leavers will need to apply for the Shared Accommodation Rate exemption – it won’t be applied automatically. To request this, care leavers should speak to Universal Credit/their council if receiving housing benefit.  

If you have any questions... 

Contact our friendly Advisers at the Care Advice Line. It’s open throughout the week from 10am to 5pm. Freephone 0800 023 2033 or email advice@becomecharity.org.uk