Last week (23 November) Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, revealed the 2016 Autumn Statement. While there were many important social issues addressed in the Statement, there was one voice, one part of society, that was missing- young people.
It’s a bit contradictory being told that we are the future, yet not being included in important decisions which affect the future. If we’re the future then surely it makes sense to listen to what affects us, and what we want and need to make the future as ideal as possible? Some of the young people being excluded today are the politicians of tomorrow.
On top of this, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have forgotten that there are other things that affect young people besides education. It’s not just school and education policies which affect young people as they grow up and venture adulthood, it’s also access to housing, access to NHS services and access to youth clubs. Access to housing and the NHS do not only become important once people reach the age of 30, or even 25.
If I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would prioritise youth work, youth employability provision, and improving young people’s access to NHS services. All of these areas deserve just as much attention as education.
Youth work is important because for many young people, youth workers are a valuable support system in their lives and youth clubs are the only safe space they have. Therefore I would make sure that money was put in place so that youth clubs were able to stay open and that they had enough resources to be successful. Secondly I would make sure that mental health, sexual health and disability services for young people are funded well, so that there are no ridiculously long waiting lists and that young people get the support they need. While the NHS is brilliant, there aren’t enough resources around mental health services for young people, despite it being a major problem.
Finally, with employment, I would make sure that the ethos of a programme like Talent Match London are incorporated into other youth employability programmes and in job centres, so that every young person gets personalised support particularly those with additional needs.
The Autumn Statement also revealed a slight increase in the minimum wage. However for young people this slight increase resulted to no more than a 5p increase. A minimum of £3.50 per hour for apprentices; £4.05 per hour for 16-17 year olds and £5.60 per hour for 18-20 year olds. Compared to the London living wage these amounts are very small. While I appreciate that many young people live at home with their parents, the added income that their jobs bring may be the extra money that their family desperately needs.
Young people have been locked out the Autumn Statement and locked out of Westminster, but one day, with determination, motivation and aspirations that will change. I hope the next statement is one which takes account of the needs of all members of society.