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18 August 2015

The Tories shouldn’t blame young people for being unemployed when all they’ve done is made things worse

Unemployed young people will be forced to attend a three week intensive scheme, or they see their benefits scrapped. But we shouldn't be pointing fingers at those most vulnerable.

By June Eric-Udorie

As if young people haven’t suffered enough under a Conservative government, Cameron and his crew have brought in a new policy to give “more support to young people.” Within three weeks of registering as unemployed, young people aged 18-21 will be made to attend “boot camps”, three week intensive courses to hellp them find employment or training. Any young person that fails to attend these “boot camps” within a month of claiming benefits will see those benefits scrapped. If after this scheme, a young person has not found a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or unpaid work experience within six months, this will result in their benefits being docked. Never mind that most people who can afford to do unpaid internships have a bank of mum and dad to support them. But they’re not forcing young people or punishing us, they claim, when the reality is they leave the most vulnerable young people with no other choice but poverty. (And I’m sorry, Matt, but it’s one thing to apply for a job but what are young people supposed to do if there aren’t any jobs?)

Prior to winning the general election in May, David Cameron said, “If you’re young, want to work hard and want to get on, the Conservative Party is the party for you.”

The Conservative Party isn’t for young people. The Conservative Party have only ruined our prospects since they came to power in 2010. It’s not just about working hard. There is so much more to this debate that we’re not talking about. We’re not very good at providing young people with the skills they need for the world of work. A three-week intensive scheme isn’t going to solve the problem of youth unemployment in Britain. And no matter what the government thinks, I don’t think that young people are going to pick up these skills in three weeks – no matter how ‘intense’ this placement will be. 71 hours will never be enough. Also, it’s worth noting that young people are less likely to participate in the scheme with a willingness to learn if this is something you’re forcing them to do.

What Cameron and the like forget is that being a young person in Britain today is hard. The typical student will graduate with £45,000 debt. The wages of those aged between 22 and 30 have reduced significantly. Almost 30 per cent of 22- to 30-year-olds are in poverty after accounting for higher housing costs. 83,000 young people homeless in Britain. Although youth unemployment has fallen by two per cent among young white people, it has risen by 49 per cent among BME young people. The government may have made a commitment to transform mental health care, but services for children and young people in England were cut by £35million. 

I’m lucky enough to go to a school where I’ve given a broad, enriching and well-rounded curriculum. This isn’t the same for every young person in Britain – and it shouldn’t be about luck. There should be efforts to level the playing field. When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, the educational maintenance allowance, a small sum to encourage young people to stay in school post-16 was scrapped. Since then, the maintenance grants for poorer students at university were chopped, tuition fees have increased and the housing benefit has been scrapped for under-21s. Even young people under 25 who are working very hard will not be able to receive the national living wage of £7.20 from next year. But of course, we should be grateful because there will be 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020, right?

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If there’s anything the Conservatives can learn, it’s to stop blaming vulnerable young people, when all they’ve done is contributed to making the climate worse. (That, and to not bring up policy ideas that were suggested in the past – and  failed to come through. This was suggested by Chris Grayling in 2008).  It’s not great being a young person today with living standards falling, debt increasing, lack of skilled jobs and unaffordable housing. What the Tories need to do is work with all of us to change things and make our futures brighter.