We young people, are bearing the brunt of the welfare cuts and it’s no accident. As much as I agree with much of what Russell Brand has said, I’m afraid his “do not vote” rhetoric is very much to blame. If young people don’t vote then this is what happens. Osborne and co aren’t stupid, they know young people didn’t win them the last election and they know we won’t win them the next, so they play politics with us. They make us their scapegoats so that they can keep their support that got them into power in the first place. When most of Europe seems to understand that young people are the future of their country and support them thus, the Tories are doing the opposite. It’s quite simple really, they don’t need us, so why should they help?
It began with trebling the amount of tuition fees that Universities could demand so that students like me, who go on to higher education, are £40,000 in debt before their life has even started. Now the Tories have won a second term it seems they will be even more ruthless. There’s talk of increasing the tuition fees beyond the already un-payable £9,000.
In a time where minimum wage doesn’t go as far as it used to and very few of us can look forward to buying a house before we’re thirty, Osborne announced in May that he was cutting housing benefits for 18-21 year olds. In the year 2013-14, a centre point study showed that over 80,000 “homeless 16-24 year olds relied on the support of councils and charities in the UK”, compared to the 27,000 homeless young people whom the Department of Communities and Local Government believe to be receiving support. There can be little doubt that these measures will drive even more young people into homelessness, and surely directly opposes Cameron’s plan to reduce the amount of young people on benefits. The instability this will create, let alone the amount of red tape and bureaucracy one must face while applying to a job without an address to put down will make it even more difficult to get off benefits. Not to mention that we might have a situation where homeless young people must do 40 hours community service and 10 hours of job hunting per week just to get receive help from the state, and then look for somewhere to stay or live on top of that.
At least we young people finally have an MP to represent us and tell them how it is. In her fantastic maiden speech in the House of Commons, Mhairi Black said “We are now in the ridiculous situation whereby, because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest, but I am also the only 20 year-old in the whole of the UK who the chancellor is prepared to help with housing”.
Moreover, the Conservatives’ latest plan can hit two birds with one stone – both migrants and young people. In an effort to prevent migrants coming over here to claim benefits, Cameron et al want to implement a four-year residency rule. So, this means that migrants cannot claims benefits unless they can prove that they have lived in the country for at least four years. However, applying this solely to migrants could be claimed discriminatory under EU law. As such, the government are devising a four-year residency test for all tax credit applicants, including British citizens. Here’s the catch, they will have to start the residency rule from 18 years of age. This means that only people who are are 22 or over would be able to receive tax credits and the BBC claim that around 50,000 18-21 year-olds would be affected by these implementations.
How extraordinary that the Tories still see 18-21 year olds as children. They are young adults, and thus many decide to leave home at 18, while many are forced out with no choice. Furthermore, we have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe. This is not one of our finest accolades, but these young mothers (or fathers) need supporting nonetheless. How are young, single parents meant to support a child without child tax credits or housing benefits on a minimum wage job? They’d need to pay for day care while they were at work amongst other things so it would be very difficult. Surely it would be cheaper for them to stay at home to look after the child and claim unemployment support. This isn’t exactly encouraging young people into work is it Mr Cameron?
It seems as if when there is a problem, young people are the first to be thrown under the bus. It’s easy to understand why, because we are seen as apathetic, we are not seen as a political force, we are not seen as a game changer in general elections. Comparatively, the Conservatives’ have very little support among young people so they can do with us what they will. It’s a shame that Cameron and Osborne are resorting to a ‘rub my back and I’ll rub yours’ kind of mentality rather than understanding that they have certain obligations to those in need. But that’s reality.