Graduates who are unemployed – or earning wages so low they are unable to afford private sector rents – are to be stripped of their housing benefit, if new proposals are accepted. Struggling under-25s must instead live with their parents, even if that’s in an area where there are few opportunities to develop their career.

Currently there are just over 380,000 housing benefit claimants under 25, including many graduates who are either jobless or doing jobs that are so low-paid they are unable to support themselves.

The proposal came shortly before concerns were raised that a huge number of young people are trapped doing ‘precarious’ low-paid, part-time or casual work because so few employers are offering decent jobs that pay proper wages.

A freedom of information request by the Guardian revealed that more than 2,000 jobs currently being advertised by job centres were for “zero hour” or “as and when” contracts, which readers of Graduate Fog have been complaining about for some time. These are jobs – often in the retail sector – which offer no regular or guaranteed hours, but which often require employees to be available at short notice any day of the week, and at virtually any time, effectively ruling out other part-time work due to their irregular hours.

In response to this news, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, called for the government to stop pretending the youth unemployment crisis was under control make it a priority to help with the creation of “proper jobs paying decent wages.”

The idea for cutting housing benefit for young people was floated by Number 10 earlier last week but is yet to be developed into a concrete proposal. It was announced just before a speech on Thursday in which David Cameron praised recent changes to the benefits system as “the most radical, long-term reform” in the UK for a generation. A Downing Street source said: “We are always looking at ways to change the welfare system to reward hard work and make work pay.”

But there are concerns that going home to live with their parents may not be practical for many young people.

A graduate from Bath Spa university who only wanted to be known by her first name Sarah, told the Guardian that claiming housing benefits had stopped her from declaring herself homeless as living with her parents just wasn’t an option.

Three years ago, she was working 12 hours a week in a shop for minimum wage and was supported by housing benefits to live in a shared flat whilst looking for full time work in the South West. Sarah explained:

“Being given the chance to live separately was invaluable – it saved my life. If I had been told that receiving housing benefit was not an option, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Matt Griffith of campaigning group Priced Out told the Guardian:

“The proposal is targeting the least politically vocal group of recipients in an attempt to claw back savings. They will also be part of the age group that faces the worst housing offer in living memory.”

It has also been pointed out that this proposal appears to conflict directly with another recent proposal, that families who depend on benefits and find themselves with a ‘spare’ room should be forced to downsize. In other words, by the time graduates finish university, their parents may have been relocated to a smaller property, meaning they no longer have a ‘home’ to return to.

Graduate Fog shares these concerns that young people – already being disproportionately impacted by the unemployment crisis – are once again being targeted for cost-cutting, on account of being the least likely to vote. We also have questions about the practical implications of these proposals. Now that many supposedly ‘graduate’ roles do not pay enough for people to live on – like the Queen’s internship at Buckingham Palace – bright, hard-working young people have no choice but to remain dependent on either the state (in the form of housing benefit) or their parents (in asking to be put up for free).

Hey, here’s an idea – why doesn’t the government start putting pressure on businesses to pay young workers a salary you can actually live on, so you can pay your own rent?


Is it fair that unemployed or low-earning under-25s should be expected to live at home with their parents? Are graduate salaries too low to live on? Are young people being unfairly targeted for cost-cutting – or will these measures encourage you to look harder for well-paid work?

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