Now, being under 25 myself, perhaps this will come off as a bias report but I don’t particularly care. On the 25th of this month, David Cameron gave a little speech about benefits and the welfare system, in it, he touched on working-age welfare: “The time has come to go back to first principles; to have a real national debate and ask some fundamental, searching questions about working-age welfare, what it is actually for, who should receive it, what the limits of state provision should be and what kind of contribution we should expect from those receiving benefits.”
He pointed out that the state spends £2 billion a year on housing benefits for under 25s, and the there are 210,000 people aged 16-24 who are social housing tenants. Compassionate Cameron added this, “Some of these young people will genuinely have nowhere else to live – but many will. And this is happening when there is a growing phenomenon of young people living with their parents into their 30s because they can’t afford their own place…almost 3 million between the ages of 20 and 34.
“So 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.”
Can we pause for a moment and consider what he just said, about young people living with their parents into their30s, this is surely a chilling prospect for any parent or child. He has stated the bloody problem, but keeps soldiering on! People can’t afford their own place, because there are not enough affordable homes.
Instead of trying to build more affordable homes, Mr Cameron thinks the best thing to do is make sure the chick never flies the nest. You invest in about 18 years of housing, clothing and feeding this great big drain, 19 or 20 years at the very most, only to find out that some toff expects you to look after your overgrown child if the abysmal minimum wage isn’t enough to keep them in a flat (and that would make even the best person start eyeing up the drinks cabinet).
This is all very well and good for Mr Cameron in his country house, where I expect his children could knock about for years living off daddy’s money. What about those people who live in three bedroom homes, where both children have flown the nest? You may say, look those spare rooms are always open. Well, you’d be wrong! It seems that old Dave has forgotten some of his other welfare changes. The non-dependant deduction, the “bedroom tax” and non-dependant deductions under Universal Credit for unemployed young people living at home.
Here’s the problem in a world without HB for under 25s. Let’s say you did your time at a university to get a good degree (having pawned a kidney and your left leg to cover the fees), you are struggling to find professional work so are temping and doing casual work to keep up with the rent on your new flat in the area with the jobs you actually want. Though this work is unreliable and without HB to plug the gap, boom, there’s goes your flat! So off you go back to the parental home (where there’s no work anyway and it’s sort of part of the reason for staying near where you got your degree) but your parents have downsized because of the “bedroom tax” for their housing association property.
A penalty that is imposed if you have a spare bedroom meeting certain criteria* in your home then you will experience a cut on your HB eligible rent by 14% for one, and 25% for two or more going spare.
So parents were being sensible and assuming it would be the right thing to downsize to get rid of that pesky cut on the room which their now adult child won’t need. Whoops! Whose that! Our grown-up son whose pitiful minimum wage job could not cover the rent on his rubbish flat, and the lack of housing benefit means there’s no way he can bridge the gap, is on our door step! Bugger! Not nearly enough space in this one bedroom flat for three grown people to live comfortably.
What’s that! Another one of the Prime Minister’s brilliant ideas is about to bugger us again? Brilliant! That non-dependant deduction will do what? For each non-dependant over 18 who lives with us, we experience a deduction from our own HB. That seems perfectly reasonable, as both parties here expected the adult offspring to suddenly appear on our doorstep after we downsized and then have a cut made to our HB we were trying to avoid – you know the one where the spare room we could have more easily placed our now vagrant child in was dropped because it would have caused deductions…wait a minute, that’s happening away.
Thank you Mr Cameron, thank you for doing what in social terms might be described as bending the nation over a table and not having the common courtesy to spit on it first, you classy gent.
Mr Cameron suggested that those 210,000 young folks in social housing didn’t need to take up a scarce resource and did not need to live independently. He, of the Tory party, who essentially advocate people giving back as much as they can to society. Surely, being stuck in the area you grew up in where jobs are as rare as banker who doesn’t bleed acid, and where you an active, tax-certified drain on your parents is the worst way to promote a Big Society? Furthermore, half of the spend on HB for under 25s is in the private sector, as only about £767 million is spent on social housing for under 25s out of the real figure of £1.851 billion per year.
Not to mention that no self-respecting person thinks living at home into their 30s is a way to live a good life. Especially if that involves spending the next decade sleeping on a sofa bed or some other such non-conventional, shitty sleep device. Though perhaps you’ll be even luckier and just be plain homeless because your parents detest you so much that they don’t want you back or they left the country or they’re such awful people that you aren’t going back to them even if hell were to become as cold as Mitt Romney‘s heart.
Cameron said he did not want those who genuinely need HB to be affected, but they undoubtably will be. There are orphans or those who have been in care for years or those who are from abusive households, and let’s not forget those under 25s convicted of crimes who need to be rehabilitated. The two key factors in rehabilitating an offender are secure housing and employment. You can’t get a job without an address, and without HB you wouldn’t get an address without a job, references and bank statements – which I doubt an offender leaving a prison will have too much of. How does he plan to compensate for these groups? How will his voters like seeing the growing numbers of homeless on their way to Sainsburys?
The problem is obviously far more complex, there are people who have been brought up in a way where not working pays and will expect to have a house handed to them, but for those who want to live as a responsible adult – what will this change do to them? Create a generation of man-children with crushingly low self-worth. Well done, David, you keep on understanding the common people as you chat with your Eton pals. Doing a grand job of it so far, I look forward to more of your social sensitivity.
Please, let me know your thoughts on the post and the issue, and suggest other areas for me to write about.
- Cameron is playing on the myth all housing benefit goes to the unemployed (leftfootforward.org)
- Forcing under-25s to return to the nest is inconsistent, say SNP (scotsman.com)
- Cameron’s welfare speech: he cannot be serious | Editorial (guardian.co.uk)
- Why Young People Need Housing Benefits in the U.K. (theawl.com)