Born in the 90s? Then this Budget is not for you
“This is a one nation Budget,” announced the Chancellor in his introduction to today’s Budget, before announcing reforms that exclude under 25s from higher pay and 18-21 year olds from housing benefit, scrapping maintenance grants for students, and permitting elite (“high-quality teaching”) Universities to increase tuition fees.
The TUC of course welcomes the government move to increase the national minimum wage so substantially – something we have long campaigned for. But young people are excluded from these reforms, meaning someone born in 1995 will be paid less for doing the same job as someone born in 1989. The rate for the under 25s must rise sharply in the next review if discrimination is to be avoided.
One in three graduates get non-graduate jobs – a trend that has persisted for more than 10 years. Young people now pay £9,000 a year for tuition fees and are expected to still be paying these loans back in their 40s and 50s. Yet maintenance grants for students from the poorest backgrounds will now be converted into further loans, adding an even bigger debt burden on people who most need financial support and are just starting out. The UCU has warned this will act as a disincentive to participation.
Among many others including the TUC, the youth homeless charity Centrepoint gave stark warnings to the government over the risks associated with scrapping housing benefit for 18-21 year olds in its May Budget. It is tragic that the government has confirmed it will be taking the benefit – used in the majority of cases as a lifeline in times of crisis – away in the name of austerity, whilst lowering corporation tax for big businesses, and giving thousands to the richest families with their inheritance tax reforms.
There was one piece of good news for apprentices, however, which should not go unmentioned in this post. The government is introducing an apprenticeship levy – something the TUC has called for for over 50 years, and which we believe will increase the number of young people being taken on. It is now vital government, employers, trade unions and training providers ensure this delivers what it ought to for young people.
However this news does not overshadow the other exclusionary measures announced by the government today.
These are all compounded by breathtakingly-high and sustained inflationary trends in social rent costs over the last parliament. With annual inflation at around 6 per cent outside London and 8 per cent inside the capital (every year for the past 5 years), the Budget has given no comfort to the 90s generation whose age is preventing access to a decent wage, a fair education and an affordable place to live.