David Cameron vows ‘bold action’ on under-25s

The Conservative Party will look at axing housing support for under-25s as part of its manifesto for the next election, the prime minister confirmed this week.

Setting a clear direction of travel, David Cameron told delegates at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Wednesday that he wanted to see ‘bold action’ in ending welfare dependency among young people.

‘Today it is still possible to leave school, sign on, find a flat, start claiming housing benefit and opt for a life on benefits,’ he said. ‘It’s time for bold action here. We should ask, as we write our next manifesto, should this option exist at all.’

In a plea to be allowed to ‘finish the job’, Mr Cameron said if the Tories won a second term he would introduce a policy that would force under-25s to be either ‘earning or learning’.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that, as of February 2013, 368,347 under-25s were claiming housing benefit, of which (168,652) were single with children.

The proposed sanction on non-working young benefit claimants was branded a ‘dangerous move’ by the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Grainia Long, chief executive of the CIH, said: ‘How do you build the economy without a young, mobile workforce? It would mean that young people would be unwilling to take risks, such as moving for work, because there would be no safety net for them.

‘It also fails to take into account the reality of many people’s lives - many under-25s will have paid tax and national insurance for several years before needing to claim benefits.’

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, the umbrella body for homelessness charities, said: ‘Many young people don’t have the option of living with their parents. For them housing benefit provides a vital safety net if they face abuse at home or their family has fallen apart. It also helps young people in low-paid jobs who face high rents.’

Mr Cameron’s call followed the announcement of a pilot scheme to force unemployed benefit claimants to spend a minimum of 35 hours a week applying for jobs and a help to work scheme which would force long-term unemployed people to do 30 hours a week of community work or job placements.

Housing featured prominently in the keynote speeches of Mr Cameron, chancellor George Osborne and London mayor Boris Johnson, after Labour last week brought housing to the top of the political agenda - but there was little new policy.

Responding to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s pledge to double house building by 2020, Mr Osborne brought forward the government’s controversial £8 billion mortgage guarantee scheme by four months to start next week.

Mr Cameron defended the scheme - which has been criticised over its potential to cause a house price bubble - arguing that ‘millions’ were ‘stuck renting when they’re desperate to buy’.