More than four in ten homeless young people could be affected by Government cuts to housing support, according to a new report published today.

Research shows that up to 44% of young homeless people could be hit by Government proposals to remove automatic housing benefit entitlement from 18-21 year-olds.

The charity Homeless Link warns this would have a “devastating impact on young people”, leaving thousands unable to access safe and affordable accommodation.

The report also warns that the removal of housing support could leave vital homelessness services out of reach for vulnerable young people, at a time when they are most in need of help and support.

Homeless Link is calling on the Government to exempt young people at risk of homelessness from the removal of the automatic right to housing benefit.

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive of Homeless Link, said: “An effective welfare system should protect the most vulnerable, not create additional barriers.

“This is especially true for young people, as we know early experience of homelessness can cause problems in later life that are difficult to overcome.

“This report should send a clear signal to the Government that removing housing support could have a devastating impact on young people at the time when they are most in need of support.”

Welfare reforms are compounding the problems faced by homeless young people, a survey of homelessness service providers and local authority housing departments found.

Around 95% of homelessness service providers said benefit sanctions had affected young people’s ability to access accommodation, while 73% said limiting the amount of housing benefit a young person can claim in the private rented sector had a similar effect.

Related: Benefit Sanctions Leaving Vulnerable People Hungry And Homeless

The report ‘Young and Homeless 2015‘ found that young people spend 16 months on average in homelessness services, which has almost doubled since last year.

Homeless Link says a lack of resources is hampering efforts to prevent youth homelessness, with 43% of local authorities lacking suitable accommodation and 39% reporting a reduction in supported housing.

According to the report, just 23% of 18-21 year-olds who approached their local council for help were protected or relieved from homelessness.

One of the primary causes of youth homelessness is family breakdown, which accounts for 47% of all cases. Family mediation and support can be the most effective way of preventing youth homelessness, however the number of councils offering this service is down from 77% in 2014 to 70% in 2015.

Mr Henderson said: “Voluntary sector agencies and local authorities are doing excellent work to help young people, but are increasingly being asked to do more with less.

“We’re calling for the commitment and investment needed to prevent young people from becoming homeless and support them to realise their potential.”