THE BLOG
06/12/2013 11:59 GMT | Updated 05/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Young Bear Brunt as Chancellor Plays Politics With Autumn Statement

Young British people will see more benefit cuts as a result of this week's Autumn Statement - but only around the time of the next election.

Chancellor George Osborne announced that that those aged 18-21 would not be able to claim welfare unless they undertake 16 hours of training each week including maths and english if they do not hold these basic qualifications.

The 16 hours will need to be carried out alongside their regular job search, which raises a question: with the government already moving towards 35 hours of compulsory jobsearch each week, will youngsters be forced to do 51 hours of mandatory activity every week?

This all-stick-no-carrot government only understands compulsion. The Prime Minister's 'nudge unit' aims to change people's behaviour by persuasion rather than legislation, so where is its influence on benefits and unemployment? Nowhere to be seen as Osborne and Duncan Smith turn the screw on those unfortunate enough to live in areas with high unemployment, in families with few advantages, or who struggle in other ways.

It should not be forgotten that behind the press coverage of 'skivers' and 'scroungers' (hate words which UnemployedNet campaigns to ban) and politicians talking about unaffordable benefit bills and puffing up fraud talk are people who are suffering a difficult time in their lives.

Demoralised by a lack of work, the young are further demotivated by the lack of opportunity they face and the knowledge that they are part of a million-strong army of kids chasing the few openings there are with little real work experience.

More threats and cuts are not going to help motivate them, and shows the coalition's fundamental misunderstanding of what unemployed people both young and old need from a government.

In a word, work, not threats, is required, and that means politicians leaving pure market theory behind and getting their hands dirty in job creation schemes.

In addition to this threat to their income, the young will be hit by an overall cap on benefits, added to the existing individual cap of £500 per week for a family, which means a ban on the country spending more than a certain amount on welfare each year.

This will exclude Jobseeker's Allowance as this varies with the economy, but unemployed people will still suffer further caps on housing benefit, council tax benefit and other payments.

You might think a government that was committed to this kind of policy would want to introduce it as soon as possible, particularly one motivated by a desire to save money and to chop down the size of the state.

But George Osborne won't be doing this; instead he intends to thrust it on the British public in spring 2015, a month before the next general election.

This is where the politics comes in. The cap is a kind of trap for the Labour party, harnessing the anti-benefit feelings of the public to force Ed Miliband to either back it or lose votes.

Unfortunately for the workless, he seems to have embraced the principle with glee, promising a three-year limit on welfare if his party wins the next election even before the Autumn Statement.

Bending to the will of the opinion polls and focus groups rather than what is right is no way to show a country you are ready to lead it.