As the dust settles following the General Election, Young NCB member Jack Welch, considers how young people will be affected.
The 2015 General Election is now something officially for the history books.
Months of coverage and debate led to, perhaps, the most unanticipated result for a generation.
Despite many first-time voters, myself included, being treated to the more boisterous nature of multi-party politics on TV schedules, a traditional majority government was returned to power.
Before any praise or concern at the result can be identified, the young 18-24 generation has brought a sufficient, but perhaps not yet solid, turnout of 58% to justify their mandate.
The impressive work of campaigns like Bite the Ballot and The League of Young Voters have ensured that the youth agenda is back from the brink after the ominous 44% polling rate in 2010. With 66% of the population voting overall though, it still leaves plenty to be desired in the overall public perception of politics.
Now with a new Conservative Government that can firmly deliver on their manifesto pledges, what can young people look forward for the next five years?
I recall some findings last year which referred to the youngest voting generation as ‘Generation Right’ – supportive of the social changes in the last decades, but more sceptical on the welfare state and advocating individualism, with little interest in party politics.
Some aspects of the Conservative programme for young people - expanding National Citizen Service, creating three million apprenticeships and lower taxes for lower wages – may correlate to support for the party.
However, for the many young people still unemployed in the UK, at 743,000 in the last set of official statistics, the outlook may not be looking so good.
Jobseeker’s Allowance for those aged 18-21 could be changed into a ‘Youth Allowance’. After six months, they may face the prospect of unpaid community work to earn their benefits. Housing benefit also faces a cap.
It concerns me that many of the long-term unemployed will be punished unduly in a highly competitive jobs market – to leave the most vulnerable feeling failures in life at an early stage does not bode well.
The impact on youth services too has been widely reported. Cuts to government spending are set to continue by billions of pounds in the next year, yet local authorities have already had many difficult choices to make.. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, English councils reduced spending by 27% under the Coalition Government. By 2014, councils had cut youth services on average by 36% in the preceding two years.
Stripping council services to a minimum has had disproportionate consequences to those in most need of help. The voluntary sector alone may not be able to bear the brunt of adopting services without adequate resources. Whoever shall have powers to decide on this agenda, they must think long and hard on the aftermath of their actions if young people are the losers. A ‘Youth Minister’, initially proposed by the British Youth Council, who would have capacity to represent our behalf, also has no sign of becoming a reality.
What I might describe could be unfairly pessimistic, with the new Parliament just finding its feet. However, there are many issues which young people have passionate views on – mental health and votes at 16 to name a couple. The new Government’s commitments to these issues needs to be demonstrated, if they hope to reassure many young people they can have a bright future under the Conservatives.