At last nights hustings in St Brelade a very searching question was posed about the discriminatory treatment by Social Security of young people seeking jobs and university returners, depending on living at home or independently .It seems an arbitrary decision has been made to automatically exclude all young people at home from any support , regardless of circumstances.
The question got confused with another about support for University and in two minutes was not sufficient to reply effectively, so i followed this up with the questioner by email, and am posting an edited reply for wider benefit .
I think we need to have a fairer scheme to help those seeking work and one for returning university students , in neither case to aid an alternative lifestyle of not working which is bad for society and the individual, but to bring them into the productive economy.
The Social security Minister policy to exclude over 18’s living at home gaining any financial support for job-seeking is a crude attempt to reduce social security spending.
I would want to have a fair system of such benefits for unemployed youngsters which recognises that living at home being a member of a single household means the household circumstances need to evaluated as a whole. Whereas the young person living as an independent household, which is almost certainly necessary in some family circumstances, or perhaps where the young person has a child, then the means of the young person would be assessed. In these cases there should be no age distinction regarding benefits.
My support for job-seeking allowances for young people living at home is conditional on an assessment of the household financial circumstances, and this should never fall below support sufficient for the practical expenses of job seeking. It would also be conditional on the young person meeting all the requirements of the job seekers scheme, attending interviews etc. To do otherwise would be providing an incentive for a lifestyle choice of not working, which I do not want to see.
I think there is a case for a variation of the system to encourage young people to come back to Jersey after university. I like the idea of a year tax free year and we could add Social security credits.
The scheme should also recognize that a period working in the UK after Uni. , is good for career and youngsters who return say 28-30 with work experience bring big benefits to Jersey. I would therefore keep that tax allowance open for them say, 10 years. We could also give preference in a new work permit policy introduced for controlling our population.
So a whole package of measures for uni. students is needed – not just a job seekers allowance.
The bigger picture is that our local young people have a bad deal from my generation. No access to affordable housing, unsatisfactory access to tertiary education in education, no opportunity to build up a decent pension, narrowness of employment opportunity and for many low wages.
All these policy failures need tackling. One example is reforming our pension scheme which is stuck in the 1960’s when life expectancy was much shorter. I want to encourage young people to accrue decent pensions early in life. More flexibility for private pension’s schemes under tax rules is required. And we should examine the feasibility of setting up a government run tax free supplementary pension scheme run with excellent fund managers and low admin costs to provide a voluntary alternative to local private schemes.