The budget will have far-reaching consequences, says Young NCB member Jack Welch.
With the most anticipated political event since the General Election now complete, the Government’s announcements on welfare and spending will have significant ramifications for those under 25. The measures included in Chancellor George Osborne’s speech today included:
- Housing Benefit to be scrapped for under-21s. Exemptions for the most vulnerable. Automatic claims will also be ended.
- Maintenance Grants, which are means tested for low paid families with students going to university, are to be converted into repayable loans from the 2016/17 academic year. Like tuition fees, students will pay this once they earn £21,000 or over.
- Young people up to 21 will be expected to ‘earn or learn’ – described as a ‘Youth Obligation’, more restrictions will be in place if young people are to claim Job Seekers Allowance or Housing Benefit.
- A new National Living Wage for workers over 25 by 2020. will start next year in 2016, when current minimum wages will go up from £6.50 to £7.20.
- Child Tax Credits will be restricted to two children per family for new claimants by April 2017.
These announcements today may come as a surprise to some people, particularly around the scale of the reforms which will occur over the course of the next Parliament.
The changes to Housing Benefit may see many of the most vulnerable young people, who are already struggling to make ends meet, pushed over the edge and for those who are unable to return home to family, the risk of homelessness becomes ever more likely.
A report released this week by Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research shows that at least 83,000 young people have been homeless between 2013/14, an increase on previous years. It is not acceptable to simply assume that young people are lazy or that they enjoy relying on benefits, given that so many of them face difficult situations. This measure must be given greater scrutiny before any implementation can take place.
It is welcoming to see the Government raise the Living Wage in the country, but when 16-20 year olds are often paid no more than £3.87 to £5.20 per hour, this development is likely to only benefit those who are already in work and may further disadvantage those young people, including graduates, who are just starting out in the job market. With Apprenticeship wages still lower than this, this otherwise positive development may have little benefit to the younger generations.
NCB’s analysis, produced with The Children’s Society and Children & Young People Now, indicates that services such as early intervention are likely to be hit the hardest by local authority spending cuts. Additionally, families may now also bear the brunt of these measures meaning that more and more of the country's poorest children are likely to slip further into poverty.
The Government must think very seriously now about these reforms that they are taking. Many of the country's poorest young people may feel they have to bear the burden of these cuts and this is not acceptable if all children and young people are to have equal opportunities in their lives.