NYA Update: Comment - Too close to home?
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
When you think about the people who have "made it" after starting at the bottom of the social and economic ladder, very few of them have done it on their own doorstep.
They have had to move away from the safe and familiar to other places with new challenges and opportunities. For middle- and upper- class young people, leaving home in a planned and supported way has always been an option. After all, university halls of residence provide an excellent service for this group.
So, when Mr Cameron talks about removing an entitlement to housing benefit for under-25s, he may recognise that we need to take account of the particular needs of care leavers or those from disruptive homes. But, what he is failing to see is that for many young people housing benefit is a cornerstone of the mechanisms that enabled them to be geographically, socially and, ultimately, economically mobile.
As a young worker in the Scottish Borders, I met many young people who had never been to Scotland’s capital even though it was less than 30 miles away.
In Bradford, years later, I met workers engaging groups of young Muslim men living in peripheral estates who never went unaccompanied into the city centre.
Living in a confined world, not aspiring to move on and out, to know and experience other people and places, leads, in my view, to parochialism and potentially to prejudice. Entrepreneurialism is not born in those who know only the square mile in which they were born and raised. The global citizens of tomorrow will not be forged by staying at home with mum and dad.
That’s not to say I don’t agree with welfare reform and removing benefit traps. But, at a time when opportunities for young people – and particularly for the most disadvantaged young people – seem to be shrinking, let’s challenge any policy that so clearly fails to recognise the appalling consequences it will have on us now and in the future.
Fiona Blacke, chief executive, National Youth Agency