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31st October 2013

Nagging the NEETs might not be such a bad idea…

Are the plans to change the way the under-25s receive benefits a step in the right direction? Shanda Moorghen thinks so

Last week, the Conservative Party’s annual conference opened a huge debate for the young people of Great Britain. The Conservative leader David Cameron has suggested the removal of benefits for the under 25s. We have all wondered about David Cameron’s attempts to divert attention away from the real problem right now, the cost of living for English families still suffering from the recession. However, are we calling his bluff or is he actually onto something with this proposal? Mr Cameron plans on creating what he himself calls “a land of opportunity” for the generations to come and he might just be spot on with this one.
The National Insurance Act 1911 was implemented nearly a century ago to provide social welfare benefits to the sick, to the disabled and to the unemployed. In 2013, unemployment has reached 7.7% under Mr Cameron’s leadership. One of the ways Cameron has attempted to get the country’s economy back on track is reassessing the role of the welfare state. The first group he has taken aside for consideration is the ‘Neets’, who are people between the age of 16-25 who are not in education, employment or training. Those people are living off unemployment benefits and the Conservatives want to put an end to that.

The current state of affairs allows a youngster to leave school, move out, find a flat and start claiming their “rightful” life on benefits. More than being the fault of the youngsters or their parents or their environment, Mr Cameron believes it is a failing of the State to give them a choice between a life of employment and a life off benefits. The welfare state has led a to a lazy generation that would rather stay at home during an economic boom and collect benefits.  “Think about it: with your children, would you dream of just leaving them to their own devices, not getting a job, not training, nothing? No – you’d nag and push and guide and do anything to get them on their way… and so must we” belted out Mr Cameron during his party’s conference in Manchester last week. When we consider this dilemma simply on the basis of choice, Mr Cameron is probably right in wanting to lead them towards employment in the short-run or even the long-run rather than just living off the dole.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that the proposal to remove state benefits for the under 25s does not stem simply from a vague idea to improve the way of living of the young British. This is after all a tory government, for all intents and purposes, and thus the reduction of taxes always remains a priority. Despite the slightly better current economic state, the obliteration of state benefits for the ‘Neets’ would be more than welcome and would considerably ease the burden off the average income earner’s tax contribution and subsequently improve standard of living.  Even more than that, the Conservatives have a vision of a brighter England with a higher graduate influx and higher employment rate. It has also been assumed that many of those youngsters living off  the dole are willing to go to school, to have an apprenticeship or to go to work. For them, the transition will be seamless and the increased prospect of having employment will come as a relief.  “We can achieve great things if we can get people to work. Languishing on benefits from 16 is no way to realise your full potential. It is a national scandal. There are some people for whom you need not so much a ‘nudge’ as a ‘dunt’ towards the workplace” retorted Michael Gove, education secretary, when asked about the proposal.
Moreover, some of the basic criticism that has been thrown onto the Conservative proposal can easily be dealt with. The case of young single parents with housing benefits comes to mind. Senior Tories have moved to quash reports that the benefits for those parents will be taken away. Moreover, the idea that the Government is piling on the pressure on the less fortunate during a time of economic recovery is based only on a vague idea of a concept.

This transition towards no benefits for the youngsters will not be a brutal one. It will take time. Time for many youngsters to get off the couch and do something with any skill that they are blessed with, be it manual labour or academics. The country is at a crossroad of ideology between the Conservative party and Labour party. Nonetheless, from the time Tony Blair’s Labour party took over power to 2009 when Labour finally gave up power, they made a promise to reduce the ‘Neets’ by reinvesting the money they obtained from privatisation. However, over the years, the ‘Neets’ have continued to grow in number even during the years of economic boom. Is it not time to give in to this Conservative approach? It might just be.

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