Cameron’s war on youth

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME Minister David Cameron last Monday declared that people under the age of 25 should not be entitled to housing benefit as part of a package to further cuts to welfare benefits.

He says that scrapping benefit for that age group will save taxpayers around £2 billion a year. He claims the system discourages people from working and encourages a “culture of entitlement”.

Cameron was making these remarks in the context of drafting the next Tory general election manifesto; he knows he is unlikely to try to push such changes through under the current Con-Dem Coalition.

And he is speaking to the most reactionary and bigoted section of Tory supporters, who believe all welfare benefits are morally wrong and encourages idleness.

The proposals totally miss the point that most housing benefit is paid to people who do have jobs and are working hard. And if millions of workers cannot afford to pay for their housing without help from taxpayers, according to the laws of the free market that the Tories hold sacred, then either wages are too low or rents are too high. Or both.

The way to cut the huge housing benefit bill is to raise wages and cap rents.

a pawn

Housing benefits effectively allow wages to be too low and rents too high and benefit mostly bosses and landlords. The poor tenant is a pawn in the middle.

And if a “culture of entitlement” means that young people expect to be allowed to be part of human society, to have an education, a career, to form relationships, have a family and have a home then we completely agree with them. These things should be regarded as human rights.

We do not think natural human life in all its diversity and complementary strands should be a privilege only for a small elite of very rich people, while the rest of us must be either worked to death for little or no pay or parked on the dole and expected to crowd into our parents’ homes with no prospect of an independent life until we reach pension age at around 70.

Many of the young people who will face losing housing benefit and their homes will have jobs — which they will lose if they become homeless. Many will already be married with children.

Many will not have a parental home they may return to for many different reasons.

And why should their parents, who worked hard to bring them to adulthood, expect to have to accommodate their adult children in an overcrowded house at a time when they want a bit of space and time to do their own thing.

Working class people are not supposed to want normal simple things like homes, jobs and leisure. We are supposed to be like robots and pack ourselves away in cupboards when the capitalists do not need us because they’re having another economic crisis.

Speaking for the Liberal Democrats, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander told BBC One’s Sunday Politics he was “very relaxed” about the Prime Minister “setting out his own thinking”.

But, he said, the coalition government had already brought in radical welfare reform and “the right thing to do” was to let them “bed in before we take further decisions”.

The Tories seem aware that they are unlikely to get Lib-Dem support on this and it will have to wait for their next election manifesto — clearly they think young people are unlikely to vote in it — and say they “want to begin a debate”.

But, they say, that debate will be against a background of the next parliament needed to cut welfare costs by a further £10 billion. For Labour, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne called it a “very hazy and half-baked plan from the Prime Minister, when what we really need is a serious back-to-work programme”.

He said: “You have to remember that housing benefit is available to a lot of people who are in work and perhaps on low incomes, so for a lot of young families with their first feet on the career ladder this plan could actually knock them off the career ladder.”

The housing charity Shelter added its name to many other charities on a list of signatories to a letter to Downing Street, warning that the Prime Minister’s proposals to cut benefits for under-25s will have a disastrous impact on thousands of young adults, especially at a time of record youth unemployment.