Do you remember being 18? Do you remember what it was like when you had to pay your rent for the first time and budget for your gas and electric and council tax? I remember being skint and never having enough money for it all. For me, and most people like me, the Bank of Mum and Dad was the buffer at the end of the month. In fact, at the beginning of the month too. I never needed housing benefit and I count myself lucky.
Most young people go to university, have interest free loans, or stay living with their parents well in to their twenties. I'll wager this is the case for 99% of the people sitting braying in the chamber at Westminster. It is no wonder plans to remove housing benefit from those 18-21 cause few stirrings on the streets of SW1. The people here are lucky enough not to need it and their kids will never need it either.
I have met people who needed it. Really needed it. Every year Women's Aid conduct a residents' survey to provide socio-demographic information about a sample of women residents within refuge services on one day. Last year, on one single day, 132 women living in refuge were aged 18-20. In Birmingham, where I'm from, women who have been beaten, tortured, raped and belittled aged 18-21 made up 25% of all residents living in Birmingham and Solihull Women's Aid refuges. Almost all will have received housing benefit to live in refuge and stay safe.
Up and down the country there are young people who simply cannot live with their parents. Abuse victims, care leavers, kids whose parents have died, moved away or just simply don't want them living with them. These are people with little or no earning power. No networks, no safety net. I want the Government to answer the simple question: where will they live?
I don't want to see people living on handouts any more than the next "hardworking taxpayer". But I did. It's just they were handouts from my parents. So, again think back to being 18. How many times were your earnings topped up by your mum? How many meals on a Sunday did you eat round at your nan's when you were skint? Count up every penny you got after you were 18 from your family. I bet it's a lot. I wonder what Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron and George Osborne got from their parents at 18. Their rent at least. Well, weren't they the lucky ones.
It is a delicious irony that those with this decision in their gift take state funded housing expenses way above any local housing benefit allowance rate I've ever known.
The Government must think again, and at the very least eliminate, care leavers, people living in supported accommodation, like refuge, and young people at risk of homelessness from this welfare reform.
As a new MP and a female to boot, I am at risk of casting myself as a moaning harpy. Easy to ignore. Always banging on about the women and the poor. Yes, I am vitriolic, and perhaps I will need to work on that. But I am trying to throw the other side a bone. They will end up having to house young people at risk. Either that or open some Dickensian workhouse. I think that they do care, they just don't know that they care because they never lived it, their kids won't live it. Hell, in most cases their constituents won't live it. But mine do.
Jess Phillips is the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley