When bringing to mind the image of the struggling and vulnerable in our society the picture that jumps straight into thought is that of an elderly person. Sat at home with many layers on, a little radiator nearby whilst an elderly man or woman tries to warm his or her hands about the meagre heat. It is an image that the news media reinforce every winter and an image that of course bears some truth.
Whilst some elderly people don’t have the full power of heat to warm their homes they do have one asset at their disposal and that is their vote. Yes indeed, that one vote per one person that sits ominously in wait for five years akin to some sort of private hedge fund ready to pounce and turn the tide when the best market moment demands it. It is a powerful resource and can gain all sorts of benefits ranging from winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, favourable pension returns and a promise to keep hands off by the government whilst the austerity takes it bite on the wider economy.
Hyperbole aside it is of course necessary that we look after the old and fragile who are vulnerable in their own homes but it is even more necessary that we look after the burgeoning underclass of young people who don’t expect to be able to even own a home by the time they’re old enough to retire. Indeed in a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which has already been mentioned on this site the over 65’s as an age group now have the lowest poverty rate in the country.
The poverty rate amongst 16-19 year olds is a worrying 34% and the 20-24 year old age bracket fare no better with the poverty rate for them being 29%. This is a 6% rise in the last decade and looks set to get worse. The facts speak volumes, but experience hits harder. I don’t have to read the report to know that things aren’t easy for my generation. A recent trip to Bristol where I saw a surprising number of homeless people who were only a few years older than me really did shock me. Sadly, I have grown used to seeing older people living on the streets, but the what I imagine to be 25/26 year old sitting in a sleeping bag with a Styrofoam cup of coffee, watching helplessly as the throng of people passed by made me feel genuinely fearful that there was a chance that could be me.
The economy is growing, but it is growing for the wrong people. It isn’t meant to be easy for young people. We want to prove ourselves, we want to graft and work hard. Most of us have worked supermarket, part time jobs that some older people shy away from. Most of us have worked hard through three years of study and done a job alongside it, most of us have done an internship for no or little pay and at the end of it all what awaits is a zero hour contract and a minimum wage that can barely cover the rent. The statistics say it all. An Ipsos MORI poll details that in 2010 only 44% of 18-24 year olds voted compared to 76% of 65+. In politics that 32% difference means a lot.
A poor, disillusioned underclass of young people are being created in this country, steadily and surely. The Government must pay more care to us for this generation will be the one that assumes the mantle of either a ‘Middle Britain’ in ten years’ time, the bedrock of the nation or instead another name shall arise, a ‘Broken Britain’, a generation of let-down, disaffected citizens with a long memory and broken dreams.
By Connor Smart
Junior Writer for Daily Political View