Housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance will be denied to people under the age of 25 if the Tories win the next general election as part of a “bold” move to prepare school-leavers for a tougher economic world, David Cameron has said.
In one of the biggest shake-ups of the welfare system for young people, a majority Conservative government would strip school-leavers of the right to sign on to the dole and would tell those under the age of 25 they need to be “earning or learning”.
Tory aides insisted that the proposal, aimed at around 1 million of the so called Neets who are not in training, education, employment or training, did not amount to a punitive crackdown on the young. Sources insisted that the prime minister’s proposal was an illustration of his determination to prepare school-leavers for the “global race” in which Britain can succeed by becoming a “land of opportunity”.
In his keynote speech to the Conservative conference, the prime minister said: “In place of the broken education system, one that gives every child the chance to rise up and succeed. Our economy, our society, welfare, schools all reformed, all rebuilt – with one aim, one mission in mind: to make this country, at long last and for the first time ever, a land of opportunity for all.”
Downing Street said the speech was a development of the prime minister’s pledge last year to create an “aspiration nation” and was not a response to Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference. Miliband alarmed many Tories with his populist pledge to freeze household fuel bills for the first 20 months in office.
But Cameron criticised Miliband for moving to the left. He described his plans to in increase corporation tax as a “damaging, nonsensical economic policy”. The prime minister also dismissed Miliband’s pledge to introduce a freeze in energy prices for 20 months. He said: “We’ve heard Labour’s ideas to help with the cost of living. Taxes on banks they want to spend 10 times over. Promising free childcare – then saying that actually, you’ve got to pay for it.
2nd October 2013