The purpose of this article is to explain why young people simply cannot afford to be apathetic about this government. I want to explain to you in the simplest terms, why you should be aware, if not angry, at what this government has done.
I am a 17 year old undergraduate, hoping to go to University at some point in the next two years. So I know that the one thing that most of my peers are tired of hearing is how awful it is that University fees were allowed to be increased to £9000.
Everyone knows that they’ve been capped at £9000 since 2010. Around about half of people know that you only start paying off that loan once you start earning over £21,000 per year. A few less people know that any University that can charge the maximum amount, will do so. Almost no one has considered the implications of this.
The Conservatives have used all these techniques to downplay the horrific nature of University fees. Have you ever sat and thought exactly what this means for you? Well, the first implication is £27,000 worth of debt. Horrible, but not horrendously damaging to pay off, right? But, I’m telling you now; that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the budget (which outlined Conservative government policy) it was announced that Universities that demonstrated standards in line with what Jo Johnson (Universities minister for this government) expected, would be allowed to “increase tuition fees in line with inflation”.
What does this mean? Well, basically that £9000 cap means absolutely nothing to the government. They can, and will, raise tuition fees. William Hague (Conservative leader of the House of Commons) said they had not ruled out the possibility of increasing tuition fees to £11,500.
So, it’s fairly safe to say we will have at least £34,000 of debt coming out of university.
But thanks to the government, our joys don’t stop there. Maintenance grants were offered as a free gift (of £3000 per year) to help poorer students with their living costs while they are at university. But, thanks to Mr. Cameron, those are a thing of the past. Now, you can take out a loan of up to £8,000 per year. Not a grant. Not a gift. A loan.
You see, the government are good people; they’re really doing their best to encourage people to go to university…oh no…wait, they’re just kicking us in the teeth again!
£3000 is a good estimate of how much it costs for a year of maintenance at university, assuming you were able to find a job. That would mean your debt levels are likely to be £43,000 at the time you leave university.
£43,000 is a lot of money. Yes, the government can accept that. They’re human too! It might take a decade, but you’ll pay it off eventually, right? It’s not impossible. And you’ll only start paying it off once you earn over £21,000 per year (which is about £9 per hour), right?
But there’s a lovely little thing called “interest rates”. Currently, interest on student loans is capped at 2.5%… so let’s make it easy and say 2%. That means that (currently) every year you don’t pay off your fees, the debt that you owe the loan sharks increases by £690 and the debt that you owe them for your maintenance grant will increase by £180 per year.
At current levels.
However, it is likely that interest rates will soon be commercialised- meaning they go up.
£43,000. Add £870 per year in interest rates. So, £43,870 within one year. And I remind you: all this is being offered to us by ministers who were not charged a single penny for their university education. And, if they were in financial trouble, could get £3000 per year in maintenance grants.
Our right to a free education is being taken away, because these people and the bankers they supported buggered up the economy.
The good news is, the debt will be written off after 30 years. Thank you so much Mr. Cameron. Nothing says “caring for our young people” like jamming them under a fricking poverty barrier until they’re 50.
What use is it going to be writing off the debt after 50 years of my life has been and gone?
Why did I say “poverty barrier”? Well, the loan essentially stops you earning over £9 per hour. Unless you already have the money to pay it off, then you are stuck below a poverty barrier.
One of David Cameron’s favourite phrases is “the best route out of poverty is work”. Not with £43,870 of ever increasing debt, it isn’t!!
Regardless of whether you’re going to university or not, the government have plenty of new changes to smash you over the head with:
First of all, no 18-21 year olds will be able to claim housing benefit. Many times when I tell people that, the response is something along the lines of “Yeah, that’ll stop them scroungers moving onto a life of benefits.” I usually rub my temples slightly before I gently explain that housing benefit is only to subsidise the cost of owning a house.
Most people who use this benefit (because they have a right to, having paid into the tax system) are working, but struggling to make ends meet. It’s largely used by the very large numbers of 18-21 year olds who have been kicked out of care homes or run away from homes that they couldn’t live in, due to abuse or any number of problems that would make you and I feel sick to the bone. Most people could scarcely imagine what a young person in that situation has been through.
But it’s okay to steal from these people and those who need help staying in private accommodation at university, right?
Those damned kids, thinking they have a right to eat and get a good education! Mr. Cameron says you’re not doing this austerity thing right! Bad peasants!
Minimum “living” wage
Thankfully, David Cameron (or rather, his chancellor George Osborne) decided to introduce a living wage that will gradually increase, starting at £7.20 from April next year… (…but it’s not actually a living wage; the living wage [ie. What you’d need to survive with a decent standard of living] was £7.85 this year. And it increases every year with inflation. Also, because of various changes to tax credits, the average family will be £1000 worse off. In order to subsidise this, the “living wage” would need to be £11 per hour, just at current levels. Not much of a pay rise at all.)
But do you know the best thing about this “pay rise”? It doesn’t apply to you. The young ones. Or me. That’s right! You only get this new “living wage” (which replaced the minimum wage) if you are over 25. 18-25 year olds just have to suck it up and hope they get a reasonable employer.
But, we have unions, right? Thanks to Unions, the working man (or woman) has a limit on the number of hours they can work per day, lunch breaks, a right to holiday, a right to safety in the work place, and a whole list of worker’s rights. Surely they can help if employers start abusing their power over a young work force?
Well, that’s a thing of the past now too.
The government have decided that Unions must have 50% of all members (that are eligible to vote for/against a strike) vote in favour of a strike, before a legal strike can happen. It doesn’t sound like a lot.
Put that into context though; imagine getting half of the people in your school/ college/ sixth form to walk out, in order to defend your rights. They have to be willing to give up their pay (go hungry if they must) to defend your rights. I would struggle to find 20 people, let alone the (round about) 200 I would need, who would even consider the idea. It’s ludicrous!
The government, as you may know, only won the election with just under 30% of the vote. Around 40% of the people eligible to vote usually don’t vote. So they got 30% of 60% of those who could have voted.
And now they have the nerve to make strike action (and the possibility of demanding your rights) ten times harder. Wake up! This is not good!
Times of Sickness
But, despite all this cost, at least you have free healthcare, right? Well, that’s going down the bog too.
For years, the left have been telling us the Tories (Conservatives) have been ripping apart the NHS and selling it off. Lots of people ignored them, and I can understand why; unless you are a GP, have a serious condition or work in the NHS, everything seems relatively normal. But recently, Jeremy Hunt (Health secretary) has said we must “look at the possibility of a pay NHS”.
What he is suggesting is that the NHS is unsustainable in it’s current form. A bit rich coming from a party that gave £93 billion of tax breaks to big companies in the year leading up to the election. Of course, anyone with a brain knows that the NHS cannot move to a “pay system” (although we already pay through taxes).
In America, they have a “pay system” of healthcare. They also have an average life expectancy of 20 years less than in this country. They live to around 60 on average, we live to around 80. It’s not a question of money. It is, first and foremost, a question of how healthy we want the British people to be.
And then, David Cameron has suggested that the state should no longer give you what you paid for through National Insurance…that’s right, no more sick pay! Why should the government give you what you paid for through your taxes? Unless you’re willing to pay £5 per week into a private “sick fund” for your company and it’s employees.
If you don’t pay into it, or you don’t earn enough to pay into it, there is another option for when you are ill; you can starve!
All in all, I would say that the government does seem to have a grudge against us young people. It must hate us. I can’t see why else it would do this.
It’s out to take away our support barriers and do us real harm. According to IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies), 2/3 of children living in poverty are from families who work full time. Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis (the homeless charity) said “Under 25s already make up a third of homeless people and there is a real danger that these changes (to housing benefit) could make things even worse.”
Make no mistake. We are a vulnerable group. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, the government is playing political games with people’s lives.
I have no sympathy with rich Tory toffs who decided that we should suffer because of the mistakes that their generation made.
I’m sorry Mr. Cameron. It simply isn’t our fault. I have a right to be angry. It’s personal. And yes, I am angry.