The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has warned the government that young people living independently on benefits cannot afford day-to-day living costs, limiting their ability to take advantage of work and education opportunities. Currently, there are some 300,000 under-25s living independently on benefits.

Under-25s who live by themselves due to a risk of violence or abuse, or because they have left care, often face high rents.

This means some are forced to cover rent by using benefits designed for food and clothes, in some cases leaving them with only £20 a month for food and clothing, once utilities are paid.

In some UK cities, there are no single rooms available for the current benefit amount.

The few properties available with housing benefit are often of poor quality, the report found.

Speaking to The Independent, Paul Gray, the chairman of the social security advisory committee, said under-25s often felt they were “being set up to fail”.

Mr Gray also criticised the fact that so many young people were having their benefits sanctioned (reduced or stopped) for trivial reasons.

Young jobless people are given the 'shared accommodation rate', a lower payment reflecting the expectation that under-25s should be sharing accommodation. However, the committee's report recognised that there are often very few rooms available at the set rate.

According to the report, in Birmingham there were 16 such rooms, while there were 4 in Cardiff and 2 in Leeds. But in Bristol, Edinburgh and some parts of London, there were no rooms available at the set rate.

The present housing benefit rate was set in 2015 and has been frozen until 2020.

On Sanctions

“Young people say they are sanctioned after being late for one or two appointments," said Mr Gray.

“If you are dealing with young people who may be a bit disorganised, it can seem that sanctions are being used indiscriminately.”

The SSAC provided the DWP with the following independent advice:

* Job centres should tell claimants about top-up grants or funds for those struggling to pay their bills.

* New funds should be created exclusively for work-related costs, covering the purchase of equipment, uniforms and travel costs.

* Evidence should be published demonstrating that under-25s can meet basic living expenses on current benefit amounts. Minsters should take action if this is not possible.

* Information should be collected on how many 16-24-year-olds are eligible for benefits but who do not claim.

The DWP defended current arrangements. A spokesperson said: “The majority of young people are better off living at home until they are able to financially support themselves, but there are special measures in place for people who don’t have that option, such as care leavers.

“Care leavers are exempt from the shared accommodation rate until they are 22, people estranged from their parents can apply for universal credit at the age of 16, and work coaches can provide tailored support into work to all young people.”