Government cuts creating a generation without hope say campaigners

Youth unemployment high, tuition fees creating huge debts, services and benefits being cut. Is this the worst time ever to be young?

Youth unemployment in the North East is to be tackled
Youth unemployment figures remain high

Successive Government policies that unfairly target the young are making this the worst time to grow up in decades, campaigners say.

High levels of youth unemployment, increased university tuition fees and the difficulty of getting a mortgage have been cited as problems affecting young people, along with changes to the benefit system and cuts to youth support services.

People working with young people in the North East say they are being disproportionately targeted in the Government austerity cuts so that Ministers can protect older people who are statistically more likely to vote.

And there have been warnings that the situation is creating a “a generation without hope” who do not feel part of society.

Liz Emerson, co-founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a national charity set up to ensure fairness between the generations, said: “This is the first period in recent history where children will have worst standards of living than their parents and their grandparents.

Peter Byrne/PA Wire Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron

“Successive Governments have put the interests of older generations before the interests of younger ones. They’ve taken away the EMA, they’ve taken away Sure Start schemes for young people, they’re taking away their travel concessions.”

Concerns about the young being unfairly targeted came earlier this month when Chancellor George Osborne signalled benefit cuts for the under-26s just a day after Prime Minister David Cameron said he would “triple lock” the state pension, which accounts for half of all welfare spending.

Jeff Hurst, who runs the Newcastle YMCA and is vice-chair of the city’s children’s trust board, said: “I was brought up in a generation where anything was possible and everything was positive. Now we are creating a generation without hope.

“What I see is fantastic young people who are motivated, who are clever, who are innovative who are able, but who are very frustrated.”

This week The Journal will be running a series of features looking at the challenges faced by people in the North East.

Earlier this year, we reported on research from the Prince’s Trust which showed that one in five young people in the region have experienced symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of unemployment.

Jeff Hurst, Chef Executive of the YMCA
Jeff Hurst, Chef Executive of the YMCA

One in four said they felt like a “waste of space”, one third felt like an “outcast”, and 13% said they had “nothing to live for.”

Mr Hurst said the combined effect of higher pension ages, more graduates, and a flood of axed public sector workers were squeezing the young out of the labour market until far into their twenties.

The situation is particularly acute in the North East, which has the highest rate of youth unemployment at nearly 24% and the worst score of any region on the Intergenerational Foundation’s age fairness index.

Geoff Mount of the charity Barnados, which has a number of youth projects in the region, said: “Times are tough for young people. Funding for courses is being cut, young people now are having to take out loans, and EMA has been taken away. We’ve got a bursary scheme in place but that doesn’t meet in my opinion the needs of those young people in greatest financial need. There are fewer job opportunities out there than ever before.”

Workers also cited a squeeze on housing, with last week’s ONS figures showing a quarter of 34-year-olds are now living with their parents.

The number of “boomerang children” has soared by 25% in the last 17 years, despite the youth population remaining the same, with under-24s in the North East the least likely in the country to have a mortgage.

 

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