In the last five years the Conservativess have introduced policies that targeted certain groups of people, – namely, the disabled, the working class, the sick, trade unions, to name a few. But this time, there seems to be one demographic that is ruthlessly under fire under the Conservatives – young people.
The list almost too long. Firstly, David Cameron does not want 16 and 17 years old to have the vote, not only in general and council elections, but also in the upcoming EU referendum, even though it is their future that is being decided on too.
Secondly, the university maintenance grants for lower income students are also being scrapped, a scheme under which students from families with annual incomes of £25,000 or less were given a full grant of £3,387 a year, relied on by more than half a million students in England. Too many times I have seen examples from students who say they would not have been able to survive without it, that it was vital to them. Even before the budget was announced, the importance of the maintenance grant was something stressed to me in every presentation about university finance I attended. Taking that help away away is a policy that will obviously only affect the poorest students, and make no mistake, it is a deterrent for those students. There are poorer students who will not apply to university, though they have the ability, because of the sheer cost of the fees and the lack of the maintenance grant. It sends out the message that you can only afford university if you are rich, that higher education is only for the richest, that trying to go when you are poor is something that will leave you with over £50,000 worth of debt and in the end, many just don’t see it as practical.
Suppose instead of going to university, or after leaving, a young person gets a job. But, as they are under 25, they will not be paid the government’s new ‘living wage’, even if a 24 year old is doing the exact same work as a 26 year old, they will not be paid the same. This is nothing more than a penalty for youth – at 24, you could have a family to support, you need that extra money that you would have been paid, had only you been a couple of years older. How on earth is this fair?
Furthermore, the housing benefit cut for 18 to 21 year olds is also an attack on the poorest young worth mentioning. A centre point study by the University of Cambridge in July concluded that one quarter of young people had experienced unsafe homelessness. There is no question about it, taking away this housing benefit will increase youth homelessness, limiting their opportunities, and restricting their basic human right to shelter. The policy seems to think that these young people are living on the benefit out of choice and not out of necessity, that when it is taken away they will have somewhere else to go, but for some, that somewhere else will only be the streets. Who is the target? The poorest young, who cannot afford to live off of the money of their parents, you know, like David Cameron did.
While we are on the topic of having somewhere to live, perhaps it is worth looking at the conservatives housing policy. David Cameron pledged to turn “generation rent” into “generation buy”. A young single person would have to earn over £55,000 a year outside of London to afford one of David Cameron’s starter homes. For young people who are not from ridiculously rich backgrounds, owning their own home under the conservatives is becoming a dream that is less and less achievable.
Unpaid internships, low paid apprenticeships – the list is truly endless. All of this is fine; if, as I have mentioned before, you can afford to live off your parents, but the frankly disgusting attack to take away help from the many young people who can’t is truly awful.
To summarise, conservative policy in regards to young people will discourage those from poorer backgrounds from applying for higher education, increase homelessness, and increase dependence on the state. Of course, when more young people do become dependent on the state, because tory policy has forced them too, they are demonised, they are blamed for it, as though their disadvantage is somehow down to their own lack of ambition and not, in fact, because conservative policy is making ambition pointless for those from poorer backgrounds.
There we have it. Conservative policy doing its very best to ensure that those born into poorer families have little or no chance or opportunity to advance and so stay poor where they conservatives can continue to make their lives harder .The message is clear, try to climb the ladder, and we will step on your hands from above until you realise that there is just no point in trying.
But it doesn’t matter, because they wouldn’t have voted Conservative anyway.