2 Oct 2013

‘Earn or learn’ – Cameron’s message to under-25s

The Conservatives could prevent young people from claiming jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit if they win the next election.

The party says under-25s would have to “earn or learn” if they are elected in 2015, with those not in work, training or education losing their entitlement to some benefits.

David Cameron told the Conservative conference: “There are still over a million young people not in education, employment, or training.

“Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits. It’s time for bold action here. We should ask, as we write our next manifesto, if that option should really exist at all.

Young people suffered most in the recession. Today the prime minister has pledged that they will suffer most during the recovery too. Frances O’Grady, TUC

“Instead, we should give young people a clear, positive choice: go to school, go to college, do an apprenticeship, get a job. But just choose the dole? We’ve got to offer them something better than that.

“So this is what we want to see – everyone under 25 earning or learning.”

In his speech to the 2012 conference, Mr Cameron said the government was “going to look at ending automatic access to housing benefit for people under 25”.

A review led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is looking at training and education for under-25s, with reforms to support people while they are in training.

The Tories are concerned that young jobless people lose their benefits if they are in training for more than 16 hours a week, but are able to claim benefits if they are not in training.

Full details of the reforms are expected to be included in the Tory manifesto for the 2015 election, but Downing Street aides said that young people who are not in work, education or an apprenticeship and decline to take up training places can be expected to lose their automatic entitlement to benefits, including jobseeker’s allowance and housing benefit.

‘Awful record’

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Given the government’s awful track record of helping young people find jobs, the prime minister’s threat to ban the dole for under-25s will simply push hundreds of thousands of young people, including those with young families, even deeper into poverty.

“Young people suffered most in the recession. Today the prime minister has pledged that they will suffer most during the recovery too.”

The Tories were taken a bit by surprise by the press interest in that. It was meant to be an indication of the sort of stuff you get if you elect a majority Tory government not held back by the Lib Dems in coalition. Read Gary Gibbon's blog.