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Removing housing benefit for under-25s will help glue families together

10 October 2013

People who support removing housing benefit for young people always focus on two arguments: finance and fairness. The former concerns the amount of money the government could save by not paying out to those who haven’t paid much in yet, while the latter points out that those who have jobs must often live at home and save before they can move out, unlike housing benefit claimants.

But both these arguments are wrongheaded. The main reason we should support this policy has nothing to do with any desire to economise or to equalise – it is because it stops families from being driven apart. Certainly there are times when there is no option but for a young person to move out from their home (abuse, for example), and ministers have already taken note of this. But, for many, the option of housing benefit gives a gratuitous incentive to detach themselves from their families.

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This detachment robs families of the chance of undergoing the processes by which they are glued together, and is essentially unstitching the social fabric at the most basic level. For obvious convenience, we can take a personal case: I (along with the vast majority of my peers) have just graduated from university, and found my first full time job, and I expect to be a burden on my family until I am stable enough to step out on my own. In the same way, when my family are old and vulnerable, I expect them to be a burden on me. Young people are “burdens”, if we must call it that, upon the entirety of their family throughout childhood, through all kinds of trauma and change, and ultimately most families do become the stronger for it.

It is not stealing to take housing benefit away from the young, but it would be theft to deprive young people of the formative experiences which provide the bedrock for secure, loving, supportive families.

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  • Two Bob

    Glue them with what?

  • Edward Harkins

    This article reads like someone clueless about real life is having a cruel laugh… straight from the ‘let them eat cake’ stable!

    • Hello

      The context of the author’s argument is his own “real life”. You on the other hand don’t seem to have an argument, just sniping accompanied by a exclamation mark to add gravitas to your muddled musings.

  • Mike Barnes

    Why 25?

    It’s a number plucked out of thin air for no reason at all? Why not 30? Why not 22?

    You can get it from age 16 right now, so you’d better have a good reason for changing it, and nobody does.

    It’s just shameless vote grabbing from a party where the average age of their members is 68.

  • Smithersjones2013

    This detachment robs families of the chance of undergoing the processes
    by which they are glued together, and is essentially unstitching the
    social fabric at the most basic level.


    1) If a family is not ‘glued’ together by the time the children reach adulthood then I don’t see that changing much if those children are forced to stay at home when they or their parents would prefer them not to (the logical assumption if the young adults moved out in the first place).

    2) With the growing need for independence that young adults understandably need (particularly in a contemporary society designed to take advantage of such youthful independence) forcing young people to stay or return home could cause far greater issues which break the family apart rather than glue them together..

    3) I would also imagine that young adults who have lived away from home for any period and have experienced the freedom that adulthood brings and who are then forced to return to the family home to live for the long term would have a certain difficulty with that. I think there is something questionable about young adults who seem as content as young Byrne to return to the nest having tasted the freedoms of adulthood at University.

    4) Its not just the children whose freedom one has to consider. Having been parents for 18 years many parents enjoy the freedom that getting the kids off their plates means. Now whilst I have no doubt most parents will happily take their kids back in an emergency the likes of Byrne need to realise just how much of a burden they might be.

    If I was Thomas Byrne’s father I’d need to put him straight about his ‘expectations’! It is wrong to take one’s parents for granted. Not only that but there comes a time when it is appropriate to kick the little chicks out of the nest for their own good so to speak!

    And let me advise young Mr Byrne of a couple of other things. My father died when I was 26. You may not get the chance to share much of your life with them. I cared for my mother during her palliative care. Neither of my parents was ever a burden upon me. If people are a ‘burden’ they tend to be all their lives. Mr Byrne needs to do some soul-searching about the motivation and the veracity of his views

    I will not comment on the rights and wrongs of denying young people
    housing benefit other than to say it seems wrong to single out any age
    group (one could not do the same if it was gender, nationality or
    ethnicity) but lets be realistic about its effects good or bad and not
    try and wrap it up in what is nothing more than shallow superficial
    unconvincing spin as Mr. Byrne does.

    • Thomas Byrne

      I think you would have to speak to my father, if you’re willing to get a flight to the other side of the world. I don’t particularly want to bring my personal circumstances into the argument, but I would just ask you don’t make assumptions about my own background.

      I personally work, and intend to move out and rent as soon as possible. But I’ll be doing that when I am in a financial position to do so.

      For an explanation of the word burden, while the topic is different, Giles Fraser offers a good idea of what it means here:

  • itdoesntaddup

    So, a young married couple with one or two children deserve benefit because they attain 25 years of age, but before that deserve no support?

    • HookesLaw

      I do not think that is the policy – is it what she is suggesting?
      The suggestion as I read was to cut dole, and childrens benefits would not be stopped. Also I believe that provided they were in training they would get some benefits. But there should indeed be some committemnt from over 25’s in return for benefits.

      1.09 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 are not in work, education or training. This is a terrible situation and its not uncommon across Europe.
      There is an issue and its all pervasive.
      Only today I read that young English footballers lack ambition and committement.
      There is a culture of easy expectation. A wannabee, something for nothing, culture.
      Benefits come too easily.

      • Thomas Byrne

        What has been thrown about although the full details have not come out isn’t a blanket removal of benefits. So far we’ve seen the idea you would only be able to claim them if you were either in education, or you did community work which was set by the job centre.

        This addresses the fairness point: If you’re doing either of those things you are contributing, but it also means it’s likely you have a stake in the area you’re living as a result of claiming housing benefit.

        No-one is suggesting a blanket removal, as it would likely be unenforceable, unfair, and for some would do more damage than good. It’s a shame it’s mostly been reported in this way.

      • itdoesntaddup

        The issue is housing benefit, not dole. It is hardly family friendly to make housing so expensive that a normal young family in work can’t afford it unless it is subsidised, and then to tell them that as a family, they can’t have a subsidy until they are 25. There is sense in not subsidising single people to have a property of their own – but a family?

  • dalai guevara

    Why not just send better people to Bruxelles and fight for higher bankers’ boni? Then those could trickle down and pay for everything. Job’s a good’un.

    • Hello

      Brown is no longer in charge of the Treasury.

      • dalai guevara

        which is a good thing
        oh, hang on…

  • vi_sa

    “In the same way, when my family are old and vulnerable, I expect
    them to be a burden on me.” Very interesting. I wasn’t born here so I
    haven’t seen many examples either way but the impression I get is that
    old people here are left to their own devices and then depend on
    whatever care the council can provide.

    Sometimes it is not
    possible for children to regularly care for their parents simply due to
    distances but even otherwise, I get the impression that society here
    just assumes the elderly are the government’s responsibility.

    • Liberty

      Unfortunately, the last government [building on many previous governments] was happy for people to look to the government for everything – the more dependent they are more important the government is. Its called building socialism.

  • Hello

    It was still a stupidly designed policy, it seems punitive to those under 25. On what grounds should a person be denied this benefit at a particular age if they are working? It should have been proposed as “not being eligible for housing benefit unless you have worked for x years”. Is it fair that someone that has been working for 7 years is denied housing benefit, but someone who lounges around in their parents council house for 7 years will be entitled to it as soon as they turn 25?

    The Tories need to chase the 18-24 vote, it will bring a chunk of women voters with it, mums that want their children to do well, and the way this policy was designed does the opposite. There is no clear signal that this policy is about opportunity or fairness.

    • telemackus

      Why on earth should the government be paying anyone housing benefit,
      least of all those who are young, fit and able to work? In my youth I
      shared bedsits with 2 others and lived in grotty flats because that was
      what I could afford. I traveled the country and overseas to work and
      never once looked to anyone else for support. What is fair about
      building welfare dependency?

      • Hello

        I didn’t say that. I said that it would have been better to have a policy where people were not eligible for housing benefit unless they had worked for, say, 7 years. It would have achieved the same ends (very few people under 25 would be eligible), it would have been seen as fairer, and it would have restored a contributory principle thereby discouraging welfare dependency — a 35 year old may still not be eligible.

        If there is no contributory principle, and if the government is not suggesting one, then why is it fair to remove it from a particular group?

        • telemackus

          I repeat, why on earth should the government pay anyone’s rent? We hear today of the couple with 13 children who have been given a 6 bedroom house and over £52,000 a year in benefits (what welfare cap?). Who does this benefit? What sort of society have we created where 53% of the population are net recipients of benefits and just 1% of taxpayer provide a third of the income taxes?

          • itdoesntaddup

            If the government has policies to make housing unaffordable it is inevitable it will end up subsidising it. If it got rid of the property bubble then much of the need for subsidy would disappear.

    • HookesLaw

      So – are you suggesting the tories should bribe the 18 – 24s… with your money?

      • Hello

        No. Under 25s are pro free market. Few people come out of school or university wanting to fail, they come out with ambition wanting to make their own mark on the world. They don’t want government to take credit for their successes. They should be natural Tory voters. Labour only has a message of what you can’t achieve, what might go wrong in your life, and how that will probably be the case, so you might as well start preparing for that now.

        Too often when the Tories talk about “hardworking people”, it seems to be aimed at the beaten middle-aged slogging on for eternity. They need to speak to younger voters about hard work, and what it can achieve. They should be speaking more loudly and more positively to that group about entrepreneurship, and facilitating that.

      • Two Bob

        I think the voting limit should be raised to 21!

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