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Cameron needs to address youth unemployment, not slash benefits

25th June 2012

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David Cameron, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday, has proposed the withdrawal of housing benefit for the under 25’s, saving almost 2 billion a year.

Cameron’s argument is that our current welfare system sends out strange signals: we will be better off if we do not work, or work a lot less. Cameron argued that some young people have stayed at home, planned for the future and got nothing from the state, while others have left home, not made an effort to work and had their homes paid for by the welfare system unfairly.

But is stripping 380,000 people of their housing benefit the right thing to do? This proposal is arguably more of an appeal to some of the core conservative values, and unhappy Tory backbenchers, who feel that such values have been ‘watered down’ during the coalition government, rather than the problem they are attempting to tackle.

I can understand this argument completely. I can understand why this would annoy those who work hard and pay taxes, those who are ultimately paying for those who don’t work or contribute to the state. However, this argument fails to consider all scenarios and situations.

What about those who are coming out of care and do not have a family to fall back on? How are those disadvantaged few meant to survive if living on low salaries with no option but to rely on welfare? Is Cameron throwing these people onto the street in taking away their help?

And what about those individuals, who by Tory standards have done everything right; who have got jobs, saved, but then lose their jobs through no fault of their own? Should these individuals then be made to move back in with their parents? This is just going to leave people who have paid their dues feeling hard done by.

I disagree that this is the right move for our country. To make a blanket decision such as this would result in treating many of us unfairly. It is not only those who misuse benefits who rely on housing benefits, and Cameron’s implication of such is unfair and wrong.

Liam Bryne, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said that instead of scrapping housing benefit for the under 25s the government should be trying to improve youth employment. He also argued that many young families with their first foot on the career ladder are likely to be forced off it with their welfare being taken away.

I agree with this sentiment. The problem lies firstly with youth employment. If the government can succeed in getting young people into work then there will be less reliance on the welfare system. Housing benefit should always be available to those who work hard but live on low salaries, such as a minimum wage. We should make not working for the fit and healthy a non-option. We should not carry those who cannot be bothered to work, but equally we should not punish those in need on the back of those who do not contribute and work.

A side issue to this is that the private rental housing sector is seeing increasingly high prices being asked for properties in a market where more and more people are being forced into private rentals. Surely another way to tackle the issue of under 25s reliance on housing benefit would be to introduce a cap on the amount of rent a landlord can charge, which is realistically aligned with the minimum wage in England. This would allow fair opportunity for those who work to live away from their parents in fairly priced accommodation.

Additionally, is our current minimum wage enough to support the current living costs in Britain today? If housing prices do not come down, then surely the minimum wage should be put up - a ‘living wage’ rather than a minimum wage. After all someone has to do the lower paid ‘menial’ jobs. These people should earn enough to live without relying on the state.

To stop housing benefits completely for the under 25s is an unfair and ill thought out plan. Youth unemployment and housing prices is what our government needs to tackle. Do this, and the issues surrounding state welfare reliance will ease. 


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