[Oliver Price | Contributing Writer]
David Cameron has recently announced a new policy promise if they win the general election in May, that will see 18 – 21 year olds who have been unemployed for more than six months doing 30 hours community work and 10 hours job seeking a week in order to keep claiming their youth allowance of £57.35. If this were an hourly wage it would equate to less than £2 an hour, which is less than half the minimum wage for this age range.
If a young person refuses the community service, then they could risk their youth allowance being docked, leaving them with no money to live on.
In a recent speech, reported by the BBC, David Cameron said that one of the reasons for doing this was to ensure that young people “don’t get sucked into a life on welfare.”
The Labour MP and shadow Work and Pensions Minister, Stephen Timms, criticised the pledge, saying:
“The proposal the Prime Minister has made today will do absolutely nothing to get young people into real jobs.”
Labour have offered a different scheme, guaranteeing a taxpayer-funded job for the same group. Under their scheme, unemployed 18 – 24 year olds out of work for a year will be guaranteed a 25 hours a week minimum wage job and training from the employer. The £5.5 billion scheme will be funded by a tax on bankers’ bonuses.
David Cameron said that the sort of work the youth could be, “making meals for older people, cleaning up litter and graffiti, or working for local charities.”
From this list, it appears that the jobs being offered are jobs that would normally get paid at least minimum wage for (as opposed to just voluntary positions), for example a Hertfordshire Community Meals driver position offers £8.54 an hour.
Lord Dover, a second year Astrophysics student vitriolically criticised the policy promise, “Workhouses are coming back into fashion.”
Andy Marshall, a second year Physics student showed cautious support for the idea:
“The actual concept of the idea is good and many many people agree…There are a lot of people who aren’t attempting to get work – I understand that people who are attempting are also affected by this – and if they are made to do things such as charity work for their benefits then fair play.”
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