10 October 2022
After a long policy hiatus over the summer, Liz Truss, MP became Prime Minister in early September and has just emerged from a stormy Conservative Party Conference. MPs now return to the House of Commons tomorrow after the conference recess.
New ministerial team
Just ahead of the conference we had confirmation of key positions in her team. Youth sector policy remains in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), led by the new Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan.
- The new civil society and youth minister is Lord Kamall,
- The new sports and arts minister is Stuart Andrews MP
- Kelly Tolhurst MP is the new minister for schools and childhood at the Department of Education
- Dr Caroline Johnson MP is the new ministerial lead for mental health at the Department for Health and Social Care
- Victoria Prentis MP is the new ministerial lead at the Department for Work and Pensions for youth employment
With the escalating cost of living crisis as an urgent backdrop, the following measures were announced in the first weeks of the PM’s tenure:
- Energy: An Energy Price Guarantee meaning a typical household will pay an average of £2,500 on their average bill for the next 2 years, from 1st October 2022, with a factsheet here, followed by An Energy Bill Relief Scheme to cut energy prices for businesses, charities and public sector organisations, The scheme will run for six months and cover energy used from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023
- Mini-budget: this was a fiscal package, announced by the new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. It focused on a growth push focused on tax cutting initiatives, including a reduction in basic income tax from 20 pence to 19 pence in the pound from April 2023. However, the overwhelming financial advantage, reserved for the highest earners, provoked a sharp backlash, and a subsequent withdrawal of the proposed cut from the 45% rate in the highest tax band down to 40%.
- Interest rates: as a result of galloping inflation at nearly 10%, the Bank of England also announced increases in the interest rates, from 1.75% to 2.25%, with further hikes anticipated. For the average first time buyer in London that equates to further £1,500 annual repayment on their mortgage, which will flow through to the rental sector
- Benefits: these were due to rise in line with inflation under the previous Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and looked to be in jeopardy in speeches over last weeks. Facing a similar backlash by parliamentarians and civil society alike, the signs are that this earlier pledge may be honoured.
The Chancellor’s main fiscal event has now been brought forward from 23rd November to 31st October.
What does this mean for the youth sector?
The energy price guarantee was a vital intervention for domestic users and charities alike. However, for non-domestic users this is only a six-month reprieve, with a review after three months. Youth clubs are already struggling to meet rising demand, where young people have nowhere else to turn to, with rising costs and falling income. Decisions about whether they can afford to light football pitches in winter are just one of many harsh realities facing community clubs.
We set out the weight of the pressures currently faced by London Youth members here
The mini-budget also failed to offer targeted support for those who will still struggle to pay their bills, pay their rents or mortgages, heat their homes and feed their families. London youth has previously supported the Mayor of London’s calls for free school meals to all primary school children, uplifting Universal Credit and ensuring the most vulnerable are protected. It is a blight on our capital city, that 210,000 of its children live in poverty who are not eligible for free school meals. This is 41% of all children in London, and a full 3 per cent higher than any other region in the UK according to latest figures
Many youth workers also do not have full time employment so may be disadvantaged by a tightening of benefit rules for part-time workers, requiring them to work longer hours or take steps to increase their earnings. Similarly, many parents who also care for children may not have the bandwidth to increase their working week.
London Youth is making approaches into new ministers, renewing our calls for:
- sustainable long-term funding for the youth sector, informed by the needs of under-resourced grass roots organisations, serving vulnerable young people
- an accompanying workforce strategy to ensure that open access youth work is resourced, and that youth workers get the right training with adequate supervision
- a more inclusive approach to left-behind communities in London in future youth investment funding, one which is not constrained by the current levelling up eligiibilty criteria
- an urgent focus on unrestricted funding rather than capital spend, to address the urgency of financial intervention for the sector
- a long term mental health strategy for young people facing crisis, and which focuses on preventative measures; we set out our earlier recommendations here
London Challenge Poverty Week
The fifth annual London Challenge Poverty Week starts on Monday 17 October. It’s an opportunity for us all to come together and increase visibility of the reality of poverty in London, encourage positive debate and discussion, show what is being done, and call for the changes we need. London Youth wants to amplify your voices and highlight your work. To take part, email us a 2 min video (taken on a phone is absolutely fine, landscape preferable) of you or a colleague answering one or more of these questions: What are the practical and financial realities you are currently facing as an organisation, and as youth workers? What are young people telling you about their daily experiences? How do you think the next few months are going to affect your provision? We will share this on our social media next week and tag your organisation. Please email or whatsapp to natalia.rossetti@Londonyouth.org 07736619606 by Sunday 16th.