Carrots and sticks – and when they don’t work

Posted by AfC Policy and campaigns / Friday 29 May 2015 / Government spending
Young people on laptops

Measures in the Queen’s Speech could cause unintentional harm

The Government laid out its plans for new legislation in the Queen’s Speech. It’s not the sum of its intentions, but the content and presentation speak volumes about the tone of the coming political year.

The Queen described the Government’s vision as “helping working people get on, supporting aspiration, giving new opportunities to the most disadvantaged and bringing different parts of our country together”. These are all ambitions that Action for Children can sign up to. Most of our services are helping to deliver at least one of these ideals – from parenting support classes to youth employment training.


"We will work with the Government to ensure that it really can deliver the ‘support, skills and experience they need to fulfil their potential’, and does not unintentionally force them out of society altogether."

Action for Children

Echoing the election campaign, ‘hard-working’ people featured prominently in the Speech. Much to the amusement of Twitter, even the Psychoactive Substances Bill promised to “protect hard-working citizens from the risks posted by untested, unknown and potential harmful drugs”. Who will protect us lazier citizens?!

Accidental humour aside, the ‘hard-working’ narrative has a consequence. If this group deserves protection and support, what about those who are not working hard? Those who cannot find work? Who struggle to keep work? Who are caring for children or relatives who cannot care for themselves?

The Full Employment and Welfare Benefits Bill promises to ‘help move young people into paid employment by giving them the support, skills and experience they need to fulfil their potential’. It also heralds changes that include the loss of automatic entitlement to housing benefit and the introduction of a Youth Allowance for 18 to 21 year olds.

We know from many years of working with some of the most vulnerable children and young people, that the events of childhood will follow them into adulthood. For some, this means years of missed school, delayed emotional and social development, a tendency towards living in the moment or risk-taking behaviour, low self-esteem and lack of trust in authority. Equally, not all young people have a home or family to turn to for support. Each of these makes finding and keeping work a greater challenge than for their peers.

The Youth Allowance will have tougher tests than the standard Job Seeker’s Allowance. Job Centres are already tough on the soul – even for those of us lucky enough to be articulate, overflowing with self-esteem and secure in our entitlement. Our fear is that the young people who most need flexibility and understanding as they build an independent life will quickly fall victim to the rigid demands of the new programme. We do not know what will happen to those unable to meet its conditions.


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