Without the safety net of a welfare system, many under-25s have no other means of supporting themselves.
Without the safety net of a welfare system, many under-25s have no other means of supporting themselves
David Cameron left home at 13. So when he announces policies affecting young people living independently, he is speaking from experience.
Unlike many students and young people though, Cameron’s situation was one of unimaginable privilege. While some of us leave home because of disruption, abuse and estrangement, he did so to join one of Britain’s most expensive boarding schools.
Cameron’s latest policy announcement aims to revoke Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for 18-21 year olds and deny housing benefit to under 25s. He wants to use these cuts to fund 1m more apprenticeships.
Yet there is no commitment to create roles which exceed the apprentice minimum wage, just £2.68 an hour. This rate of pay married with the housing crisis means any apprentice would still need to claim housing benefit and income support in order to meet their cost of living, let alone support any dependents.
Benefits would also be removed if we fail to find work after six months: yet the supply of jobs is in no way meeting demand. There are, on average, more than five JSA claimants to every vacancy. In some areas the proportion is more like 25:1.
We are bombarded by the out-of-touch Westminster elite telling us what’s best for us: if we can’t find work then we must be provided for by our parents. Even Labour is pandering to the myth of the ‘youth scrounger’, pledging to cut JSA for under-21s.
The reality is that many of us simply do not have that option. I fit the bracket that Cameron and Miliband would limit state benefits to; but if I was to lose my job tomorrow I’d have no ‘family home’ to move in to, no spare room, nor parents in employment for that matter.
With no proposal to tackle in-work poverty, create jobs, reduce rents and drive up the minimum wage, Cameron’s plans risk making young people homeless. Without the safety net of a welfare system, there is literally no other means by which thousands of under-25s can support themselves.
This policy change will also affect many part-time students who are eligible for benefits. Housing benefit and other subsidies they receive not only allow them to access education but in many cases ensure their personal safety. But personal safety and welfare is of no importance to this government.
The motivations behind these policies appear to be a deliberate attack and effort to debilitate a generation of working class people: to remove our agency and access to work. The government’s world view stems from their experiences in life: they’ve no actual concept of struggle: struggle to find work, to scramble together a deposit, to be daunted by the debt burden of education.
I’m joining a host of others at the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) annual conference next month, where I hope to be part of a discussion on how we can build a set of shared values that give power to working class communities, hope to young people and give us back the agency we need to get rid of this government. You can register online and join us.
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