David Cameron has outlined controversial plans to cut housing benefits for young people aged 18 – 25 in an attempt to lower the welfare budget and raise £1.8 billion.
The Daily Mail reports:
Let us not forget that this proposal finds its roots in populism and not social urgency.
Only 20% of social housing tenants are under the age of 35, and an even smaller percentage is made up of under 25s; it is clearly not a pressing matter and certainly not one which deserves centre stage at a time when the number of unemployed youths has increased eight-fold.
Nobody wants to live with their parents. Young adults, more than most, find the idea unsavoury as they should be embarking on new adulthood. But, for some, moving back in with parents is not simply an inconvenience: it is either too emotionally traumatic to do or impossible. As many as 1 in 7 young adults were “severely maltreated” by their parent or guardian before leaving home, according to research by the NSPCC, which doesn’t sit well with Cameron’s assumption that everybody can just grin and bear a few extra years at home. These young adults are not merely inconvenienced, but given a heartless ultimatum: Move back into a traumatic family environment or become homeless.
There is also a real possibility that parents will not accept their children back. Not every young person has good enough family relations to go back home, and this move could cause a damning increase in youth homelessness. Parents may also reject a young person from staying due to practicalities such as a lack of space. Houses are being built with increasingly small interiors and new housing regulation hasn’t been introduced to tackle this in years. A 2010 Shelter report called “Full House?” found that overcrowded housing caused 85% to suffer from “anxiety and depression”. It is cruel and lazy to force parents to put up with the adverse effects of stay-at-home kidults or face seeing their offspring homeless. It is one of the least progressive policies put forward by Cameron to date, as overcrowding remains an overwhelmingly working-class issue. Parents with larger estates will be able to coexist with their children much more easily than struggling parents in a down-sized flat. Applying a one-size fits all approach when parents have wildly different standards of living is irresponsible at best and reprehensible at worst.
The move is most contradicting in it’s attack on the cornerstone of Conservatism: the family. In 2010 it was found that 58% of 18 – 35 year olds living with mum and dad find it difficult to hold down a stable relationship. It’s no surprise that couples are getting married later and later, with the average groom being 37 and bride 34. This policy certainly doesn’t help the pro-marriage agenda being pushed by both front and backbenchers of the Conservative party.
In Cameron’s article, he cites a conversation he often has with those concerned about housing:
“A couple will say, ‘We are engaged, we are both living with our parents, we are trying to save before we get married and have children and be good parents,” he said.
“‘But how does it make us feel, Mr Cameron, when we see someone who goes ahead, has the child, gets the council home, gets the help that isn’t available to us?’.
He’s right. Young couples should not have to wait as long as they do before their adult lives can begin. A report called The Human Cost revealed that 2.8 million people aged 18 – 44 are delaying having children and marriage because of the cost of housing.
However, Cameron neglects couples looking to move out of their parents house and instead actively makes life harder for those who do not.
Introducing a MIRAS-style housing scheme could reward people who work hard with the stability of homeownership but such a measure has not been discussed by Grant Shapps or David Cameron publicly as of yet. Cameron has not only failed to offer an alternative to young people who live with Mum and Dad; he is actively forcing others to do so for longer. Quelling common complaints by neglecting the young people who live with their parents and actively making life worse for those who do not is irresponsible beyond belief.
The effect of this measure on the future of the family far outweighs any popularity it will win the government. Appealing to populism is no crime in politics, as pleasing the public is all part of democracy. But when lazy solutions are applied to complicated situations, it is never in the national interest.
For more insight into the current difficulties facing our generation in terms of housing, joblessness, and crime, read Jilted Generation by Shiv Malik and Ed Howker