Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Austerity Generation: Sharing Shoes and Sharing Roofs

My second eldest son is 21. On my advice after seasonal unemployment on the stark N Wales Coast and exploitation by employment agencies who sent my son turning up at the doors of factories for "ghost jobs" I have advised him to go back to college which he has this last month. He is doing an access to University course for 1 year, followed by 3 years at Uni. He will be 25 by then. It is now down to his dad and I to support him, although he has managed to find bar work on weekends to help predominately with transport and materials to college.

David Cameron is almost word perfect on "doing the right thing" - go to school, go to college, go to University, get a job, buy a flat..." It's became his mantra. Life is certainly not allowed to get in the way of his idyll. He makes no mention of already stressed parents having to support adult children aged 18+. We are happy to help our son find a route out of low paid, zero hours contract, agency work, but we know it is putting an enormous strain on stretched family finances and with our younger sons who both want to go to University in 2 and 3 years time respectively we wonder just how we will struggle to support them all. There is no help for parents. Child benefit will end, but we will still have substantial costs in order to help our children out, and as we are the Working Poor, I wonder how we will manage.

My sons friend is in a low paid  zero hours contract factory job and also combines this with a bar job mid week. My son works weekends. They could not afford a suit and shoes for interview each, so as they are of the same build and shoe size they bought a suit and shoes between them. The shoes are worn by my son on a weekend and then handed over to his friend mid week. The suit is passed for occasions and any upcoming interviews. I must admit to a few laughs when I heard of the arrangement. Some friends on twitter congratulated their thinking over the deal. I then reflected and wondered how had we got to this when 2 young men, in Cameron's own words "struggling to do the right thing" had come to this. Sharing a suit and shoes.  It's 2013 not 1946!

But for many young adults of this generation whose parents are not well off and are struggling to pay their own bills and keep a roof over their heads this is the reality. Cameron has ominously pledged to stop all housing benefit for under 25's if elected in 2015. Of the Tories own admission they haven't worked out how to "deal" with 169,000 single parents living alone aged under 25.  We don't all  live in a society where all can go to school, Uni, get a well paid job, get a flat. This is only on Planet Tory! Why should young adults who may have low paid jobs and are working poor who perhaps may consider marriage at 23 or 24 and need a small percentage of their rent paid in housing benefit  be denied a life? Just because the Robber Baron Landlords have seen an opening in Tory society where they can charge extortionate rents, should that deny a young couple the chance of a roof over their heads? The Tories have brought in market rents for council and housing association homes too which in some areas are out of the range of affordability for those on minimum wage. Cameron is saying to parents, you have no choice, you must keep your adult children supported until 25+. Many parents will do this, but many will not. The outcome will be soaring homelessness and family life stressed to the hilt.

My eldest son is 24 and he lives in a rented house with his partner. They both work full time in Care Homes for the elderly, and I am so proud of my son who has qualifications in Health and Social Care and believes passionately in making the lives of older people rewarding. If anyone is "doing the right thing" my son and his partner are. Regularly paying £750 per month to a greedy landlord for a tiny 2 bed house. Yet supposedly they do not earn enough to get a mortgage. Yet they are paying out a mortgage in rent every month. Where is the help for them Mr Cameron? They can't afford to save up the 5% deposit required under your Help to Buy Scheme, they are on minimum wage and wouldn't qualify anyway! Yet they do a job the vast percentage of the population would refuse to do and they do it well. If anyone deserves a Living Wage care staff do. Andy Burnham has this completely right to enhance the status, qualifications and wages of people who care for our elderly.

Cameron asked the electorate to let him "finish the job" in his speech to the Tory faithful at conference. For the sake of our young adults and the next generation don't let him. Or he will finish many jobs for many people and throw Generation Rent onto the scrap heap: the first generation to be far worse off than their parents.