Osborne really has got it in for young people – unless of course they are poised to inherit their grandparents’ £1 million home or will benefit from a higher inheritance tax threshold. It will be young people who cop it from changes to universal credit that will deduct benefits faster as they earn more. That will cost 3 million families an average of £1,000 a year according to the IFS. Altogether some 13 million families, over half the population, will lose an average of £5 a week as a result of extending the freeze in working-age benefits, tax credits and local housing allowance, until 2020.
Then there’s unemployment. The largest increase between 2008-13 was among 18-24 year olds, with 210,000 more out of work. The latest figures show nearly half a million 16-24 year olds jobless, an unemployment rate of 13.7%, more than double the national average of 5.5%. Even if they can find a job, Osborne’s over-hyped ‘national living wage’ won’t apply to those below 25 years of age. The rate for 18-20 year olds will be a miserly £5.30 an hour, whilst for 16-17 year olds it will be slave rates of £3.87 an hour and and even £3.30 an hour for apprentices.
University fees are ending up putting poorer students into permanent debt. When fees tripled to £9,000 a year, the maintenance loan was means-tested to target students from poorer families. More than half a million students in England received the £3,387 maintenance grant last year, costing £1.6bn. Now this grant is being turned by Osborne’s latest budget into another loan, of up to £8,200 a year. So student debt will now rise to £51,000 after 3 years. Unsurprisingly a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recently found that the largest increases in poverty in the last decade has been among younger adults of working age.
As for housing, anyone aged 18-21 will no longer be automatically able to claim housing benefit under the new rules. The exclusion of young renters from any State support comes as young earners are increasingly locked out of home ownership as a result of soaring prices. The average age of a first-time buyer has rocketed from 29 to 38 over the last decade. Nor is further education a way out. Further education colleges face some of the biggest cuts in the comprehensive spending review due in the autumn. Indeed the further education sector, which provides the bulk of the UK’s post-secondary training, faces possible collapse and the loss of the invaluable source of technicians and mechanics.
What have young people done to deserve these successive kicks in the teeth? In today’s volatile political climate this Tory campaign against the young will surely boomerang against its perpetrators.