Imagine, for me, your average 18-25 year old….
Ok, let’s narrow this down a little – let’s imagine the unemployed part of this group. It shouldn’t be too difficult – this group accounts for roughly 1 in 4 of our young people.
Let me take you away from all that – let’s imagine the better off folk in our society – for example the chief executive officers of the FTSE 100 companies.
Imagine winning the lottery every year….that just about covers that…
David Cameron and I differ in what comes to our minds eye when given prompts like the ones above.
When he thinks of folk under 25 in receipt of housing benefit he sees people renting huge houses – bringing up their young children in this something for nothing culture.
He sees hard working Brits, struggling to make ends meet, looking across at these houses, seething at the fact that they have to go to work while those lazy bastards lie in bed living off government money.
Quite frankly, it’s bad for morale.
My imagination takes me elsewhere. I know that housing benefit is controlled by a local housing allowance – an allowance that is set by each local authority. This sets the levels paid towards rent.
Of all the local authorities I know – for your average 25 year old – housing allowance will pay for a single room in a shared house.
When I think of this group I think of young people coming out of care – folk who have relationships with their parents so fractured that neither side can tolerate living together whether it be because of disability, illness, neglect, abuse whatever – we couldn’t reasonably ask these folk to continue on in this situation….
I also think of young people in low paid work. Work that could never put them anywhere near the first rung on the property ladder.
A world where the average house costs £160 thousand and the average wage for men is £30k and for women a shocking £20k.
These young people have no choice.
They have to rent homes, they rent rooms in houses – they account for the vast majority of under 25’s who are in receipt of housing benefit.
I think of people on workfare – people who are told that being paid nothing to work is good for them. That this valuable work experience will vastly improve their opportunities in this work barren society we live in.
Imagine feeling that you are at the bottom of the pile only to have the piss taken out of you so blatantly…
I think of the people who actually receive housing benefit. Some of the wealthiest people in the UK have reached those dizzying heights through getting paid housing benefit through the conduit of the poor.
Such inequalities can have a profound effect on the mental health of the nation.
In countries where top CEO’s only get paid up to 11 times the average salary, such as Japan, the incidence of mental health problems is far lower than say the United States where it is not unknown for CEO’s to earn 450 times the average salary.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that where 1 in 10 Japanese can expect to experience a mental health problem, that figure is greatly increased in more unequal societies such as the US and the UK where 1 in 4 of us will experience some manner of mental malady.
Take a look here…
There are countries, like Denmark, who legislate to prevent such high levels of corporate opulence – keeping the maximum salary down to a mere 20x that of the average.
That would mean £600 thousand in the UK – hardly putting our economic elite into penury.
So yes, let’s talk. Sure there are some people pissed off when they perceive others living in a something for nothing world.
But let’s also talk about the huge swathes of folk who are stuck in poverty – stuck in a world where there are no jobs and yet, through some wonderful sleight of hand by the government, they are told that their situation is of their own making.
We are told that we live in a society where we require a flexible and mobile workforce – and yet, if housing benefit is stopped for under 25’s, we’ll have millions being forced to stay with their parents.
David Cameron talks about a culture of something for nothing. Let’s borrow a bit of information from GCSE Sociology.
What is a culture?
In this context it’s
“The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society” (Oxford dictionary)
So by trapping our under 25’s at home – if they are already living in a home where unemployment is an inter generational thing – if they’re living in an end of town where unemployment is the norm, by stopping housing benefit we will be actively preventing them from being mobile, which would allow them to move away from this negative subculture and towards a more positive world of mobile employment.
I imagine huge groups of young folk feeling so disconnected with society they’ll be thinking – ‘fuck it – I’ll collect my kings ransom from the government…’
(approx £60 per week – plus any housing benefit that goes straight into the pockets of (mainly) wealthy business folk)
‘…and not bother to work…’
With no housing benefit they’d be caught further in the web of ‘something for nothing’ – they couldn’t move away no matter Jo hard they tried.
I think, more realistically, they’ll be thinking, ‘Where on earth do I fit into this world? I’ve failed at the school that has low expectations of me and my mates – all the MP’s in the cabinet are millionaires – what could they possibly know about me and my life? Those greedy bastard bankers are continuing like some bizarre parody of the film ‘Mars Attacks’, where the aliens spend their time reassuring the earthlings that they’ll be good this time only to whack them between the eyes with their death beam at the next opportunity… they’re thinking how can I ever participate in this ‘Big Society’ ?
Of course, there’s always the payday loans – the 4 thousand percent apr loans that these folk can buy (?) into to allow them access to the widgets that folk in the mainstream society have access to…..
The fact that countries like Japan have a system whereby their wealthiest are not a ridiculous distance from their poorest shows a cultural cohesion that appears to be lacking in our economy.
It shows respect for it’s people.
That would be a nice start.
To the casual observer it looks like we see everyone as the enemy…and everybody believes that everyone else sees them as the enemy (let me exaggerate, I’m on a roll here) …which leads to this crazy individualistic, screw anyone who’s different from me, mentality…
Walk a mile