Cameron’s welfare proposals have churned up immediate opposition from across the political spectrum, yet the Official Opposition can hardly stir itself. A little authentic anger accompanied by serious analysis from Labour’s front benches would not come amiss. However Emily Hewson, Labour Party activist and IDYW supporter, refuses to stay quiet.
Young people aged 16-24 are yet again being targeted by David Cameron. Making everything like an uphill battle for those young people who need more of a helping hand due to circumstances usually out of their control doesn’t seem like a particularly fair and just society to me.
In all my years as a youth worker, I’ve worked mainly with young people between the ages of 10 and 20 and often those whom live in more deprived and disadvantaged localities, where being an active member of the youth club gave them something to do. Many of these young people if not at the youth club, would roam the streets looking for something to do. There are young people who don’t like spending much time in the house and for whom their homes are fairly crowded, and not somewhere they can spend a lot of time in and certainly not with their mates as well. Hence the usefulness of the youth club as a meeting place.
But often these young people want to leave home at their earliest opportunity. They want to get a job. They want to move on in society, and this government has made it almost physically impossible to do any of this. It’s also becoming apparent that some young people in this age group are struggling harder with the transition to adulthood.
Fiona Weir, chief executive of single-parent family charity Gingerbread, said that Cameron’s rhetoric could be damaging.
“The Prime Minister is trying to sound tough on welfare reform at a time when his promises to make work a route out of poverty are stalling,” she said.
“Most single parents work, and most who don’t work want to, but can’t get a job. One in five of those working full-time still lives in poverty. The Prime Minister needs to focus on delivering the welfare reform changes already enacted, not thinking up a new round of punitive measures that will stoke up financial hardship, relationship strain and stigma for hundreds of thousands of families.
“Most single parents have small families, and over half only have one child. The Prime Minister risks perpetuating damaging myths and stereotypes.”
Then there was the centrepiece of the weekend spinning – the abolition of housing benefit for the under-25s. With the cosy middle-class assumption that mum and dad can always welcome back jobless twentysomethings, this sounded like a suggestion from a gin-soaked colonel in his clubhouse. Does Mr Cameron even know that he recently legislated for cuts to force council tenants to downsize once adult children flee the nest? What about youngsters whose parents are mad, bad or dead? The PM talked about the special circumstances of foster care leavers, but what about those leaving prison? Would it be a good idea to have them roaming the streets? And what about the thousand who get the coach out of dead-end towns and find a job but don’t earn enough to put a roof over their heads without some help from the state?
Attacking the under-25s might help poll ratings for now, but the real causes of high housing benefit costs lie elsewhere.
Cameron’s plan for the under-25s to stay at home springs from his own social milieu, where empty nesters rattle around in echoing home counties mansions, easy for returning children to commute to first jobs. But take housing benefit from 380,000 young people, and what does the student from Middlesbrough College do at the end of their course if they can’t move to where the jobs are, get a room, get started? Stay at home and be unemployed for ever. Even in work, the 205,000 under-25s with a child will have to separate, each to move back to their parents. With benefits as well as wages cut in depressed areas, the north-south divide will gape yet wider, with no chance of moving.