Cameron proposes cuts to housing benefits for under-25s

Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing new reforms to the benefits system that will see thousands of young people lose their housing benefits.

The Youth Agenda interviewed Kyle Thornton, MSYP and Chair of Glasgow Youth Council, Olly Neville of Young Independence, Sam Coates, Co-chair of the Young Greens, and Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb.

About the policy suggestion

Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested a policy for the Conservative manifesto of the next general election which would potentially cut housing benefits for the under-25s.

Mr Cameron has said he wants to debate ideas for welfare reform before the Conservatives produce their manifesto for the next general election. These reforms could lead to 380,000 people under 25 being stripped of housing benefits and forced to join the growing number of young adults who still live with their parents.

He said the housing benefit system for people under 25 encouraged young people to “grab” their independence through the benefit system rather than earn it. He argues:

“For literally millions, the passage to independence is several years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to move out, while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19 – even if they’re not actively seeking work.”

Mr Cameron also argued that the welfare system encourages working-age people to have children but not work, making taxpayers resentful.

Department of Work and Pensions figures show that, there are 385,000 under-25s claiming housing benefit, of which 204,000 have children.

Cameron’s idea to scrap housing benefit for the under-25s would save the government close to £2 billion a year.

Outrageous proposal

In an interview with The Youth Agenda, Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said many young people “simply don’t have family and friends to fall back on if they lose their job, and rely on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head”.

‪Campbell says that at a time when many young people are facing significant difficulties in finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere else to go. He says:

“They would also present serious problems for vulnerable young people, for example care leavers and those who have experienced family breakdown… And since previous changes to housing benefit will force people with spare rooms to downsize and penalise those with adult children living at home, these policies appear completely contradictory.” ‪

‪”It’s outrageous that the government is considering undermining the housing safety net yet again. Sadly it seems inevitable that we’ll see an increase in homelessness as a result.”

Focus on jobs, not housing

The Youth Agenda spoke to Kyle Thornton, MSYP for Glasgow Southside and Chair of Glasgow Youth Council, who also stressed that the young people claiming these benefits won’t have anyone else to turn to, apart from Shelter and other charities which are already overstretched. He said:

“At a time when there’s 20% youth unemployment – at a time when young people are really finding it tough – to have something else taken from them isn’t justified.”

Kyle says the government needs to come up with proposals to support young people before they go ahead with the cuts. There needs to be a greater focus on getting young people into jobs and supporting them into work, so as to improve their quality of life.

Discrimination against the young

Sam Coates, Co-chair of the Young Greens, the youth arm of the Green Party, is also of the opinion that the government should be focusing on jobs for young people. He says we need:

“Action to get young people into work through getting [them] into government backed jobs and tackling rising rents in the private sector and the housing market in general.”

When The Youth Agenda asked Sam if he agreed with David Cameron’s proposals, he said:

“Absolutely not, we’re completely opposed.  It’s discriminatory against young people.”

“There’s the idea that under-25s are less likely to vote Tory, therefore they’re not losing much support, but it will also affect their parents too.”

Sam also says, “it’s victimising young unemployed people who are statistically the least likely to vote”.

Sensible in principle

Olly Neville, Social Media and Campaigns Officer for Young Independence, the youth arm of the UK Independence Party, thinks that in principle it’s a good idea but that the government should give simple cash benefits, instead of subsidising housing, so people can choose how they spend the money. In this way, young people who choose to live with their parents won’t lose out.

Olly believes that young people should turn to their families first rather than relying on the government, but in cases where people don’t have any family to rely on he says:

“I’m not sure if the Tories have really thought this through and accommodated for these people in our society.”

He thinks that before making any policy decisions, the government needs to look at the poorest and most vulnerable young people and say, ‘How is this going to affect those people?’

Kyle Thornton says:

“If you’re worried about it, write to your MP, write to your MSP: let them know you’re worried. Let them know that you want them to be speaking up for you.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Related linksFor more information on David Cameron’s policy proposal:

BBC – “Long term unemployed could have benefits cut”

Daily Mail – David Cameron’s original interview

Shelter – The housing and homelessness charity

Young Greens

Young Independence

Scottish Youth Parliament

Glasgow Youth Council on Facebook 

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