David Cameron announced recently, that should his party win the general election in May, that 18-21 year-old's would no longer be entitled to housing benefit unless they can robustly prove that they deserve an exception. The justification for this was an expected £120 million saving annually. Many might argue that while it doesn't help those in the age group and particularly those who might be in great need of such help but cannot prove it, it does provide an advantage in terms saving which would in turn help a far greater number of people in the form of greater economic prosperity. That view is both immoral and short-sighted and, quite frankly, it sickens me. It also happens to be incorrect.
A recent study conducted on homelessness reported that in the cases of rough sleeping, it took no more than 7 days for the psychological effects to start doing long-term damage to the minds of the individuals. If housing benefit is cut for those aged 18-21, without a shadow of doubt homelessness will increase at a dramatic and rather alarming rate, but this has either been ignored or perhaps just 'conveniently' forgotten by Number 10. As a result, the cost later down the line on services already under budgetary pressure would be exponentially worse than the incorrectly calculated and inherently false estimation of £120 million saved each year. These are services such as the NHS, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Prison Service, ambulance and fire services, even simple services like street cleaning for example, all of which are looking at tough times ahead and do not need any extra pressure. The report commissioned by the End Youth Homelessness Alliance named 'Lifeline Not Lifestyle' used limited data to deduce some fairly conservative estimations on the effects of this policy becoming a reality. EYH surmised that at best, the savings made in year one would be £3-5 million, the governmental fiscal equivalent of a Freddo®.
Yet David Cameron's crusade against the future of this once prideful and great nation doesn't stop there. The Prime Minster also announced his party's plan to cut JSA for those aged 18-21 who had been in receipt of the benefit for six months. Instead, young claimants would be moved onto the proposed 'Youth Allowance' which would have the same appearance of JSA but tacked on top, a requirement for claimants to take part in so-called community projects for 30 hours a week such as 'making meals for older people, cleaning up litter and graffiti, or working for local charities'.
Now forgive me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that sound an awful lot like the same work that criminals with less serious convictions are given when their sentence is a Community Service Order? Is David Cameron really now in the business punishing young people because they are just that, young? If there was one thing young people didn't need more of its stigma and yet with one commitment from him, he is on the brink of relegating an entire generation to a life of constant uphill battling to disprove the stereotype for absolutely no reward and no guarantee (or even hope) of success. It is little wonder young people don't engage with politics: when they do, it's only ever terrible or totally eviscerating news.
The supposed rationale behind Mr Cameron's latest attempt to neuter the hopes and aspirations of young Britons is his belief that 'what young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day' yet what he is proposing does very little except condemn young people to a life of menial servitude to try and put food in their mouths whilst simultaneously bleeding them dry of whatever hope they had of making a better life for themselves as soon as they leave school. With every breath, he is sounding more and more like an embittered and unashamedly incorrigible pensioner, who has little to no understanding of the stark reality of life beyond the borders of his church parish and not much more within.
The Prime Minister is a person whose job it is to provide a figurehead and lead the democracy of our nation and to protect the freedoms our ancestors selflessly fought to defend so that future generations could enjoy them. We have a basic right to exercise these freedoms, yet our current Prime Minister seems hell-bent on restricting access to such freedoms from those who weren't born prior to 1993. Mr Cameron's punitive proposals and condescending attitude towards young Britons is an insult to the office he occupies and severely handicaps the future of Great Britain.
This blog was written by Benedict Wardlaw, who's a BBC Generation 2015 contributor. His views are entirely his own.