Ed Miliband has announced that under a Labour government, some 18- to 21-year-olds would no longer be eligible for Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA), but would instead be in receipt of a conditional “youth allowance”.
Speaking at the Institute for Public Policy Research, the leader of the Labour Party stated that 18- to 21-year-olds who do not have A Levels or equivalent Level 3 training will only be eligible for the youth allowance if they agree to begin extra training to an AS Level or equivalent standard. If they do begin training offered to them they would qualify for a £57-a-week allowance, the current JSA rate for under-25s. The youth allowance would also only be eligible for young people whose parents combined incomes are less than £42,000 a year, as Miliband expects that most NEETs – young people not in education, employment or training – will be living with their parents. Miliband also endorsed an increase in JSA of £20-£30 a week for those who had been in work and paying National Insurance for five years.
The policy is aimed at tackling almost one million NEETs wh0, according to Labour, cost the country £65 million a year, affecting roughly 100,000 young people in the UK. “Britain’s young people who do not have the skills they need for work should be in training, not on benefits”, Miliband said.
Miliband’s plan comes after a YouGov poll suggested as many as 60% of voters think he is not up for the job of being Prime Minister, and 78% believe the welfare system is failing to reward people who have worked and contributed to it.
Miliband claimed that the current welfare system for young people valued “the 50% of young people who go to university more than the untapped talents of the 50% of young people who don’t.”
The Labour candidate for Norwich South, Clive Lewis stated that: “As the seventh richest country in the world I don’t think it’s too much to ask that young people are given a chance for decent training and a job at the end of it. This policy announcement begins that process. It faces up to the real problem of the “forgotten 50%, who were unable or chose not to go to university”.
However, Lewis also mentioned that “Whichever genius thought that headlining some genuinely constructive youth policy proposals with the Tory rhetoric of sanctions and punishment needs their head examined. Young people didn’t cause the economic crash… Any suggestion that they want a life of benefits is a travesty”.
Miliband’s plan has been opposed by some, with the Green Party arguing that “Young people need social housing, decent jobs and a Living Wage – not benefit cuts”. Andrew Boswell, leader of the Green Party group at Norwich City Council, said “This announcement shows Labour’s lack of vision, and how Ed Miliband would continue David Cameron’s assault on the poor and those on welfare”. He added that the Green Party wanted a “radical new vision” for the whole economy.