Polling Shows A Complete Cut Of Benefits To Under 25s Is Not Politically Savvy, and So Unlikely To Happen
Back in June 2012, David Cameron launched a major speech on welfare reform at Bluewater in Kent. You can remind yourself of the full transcribed content and see the speech if you are so inclined on the Telegraph’s website here: On behalf of the Mail on Sunday, Survation polled pretty much every policy suggestion Cameron floated and the results came back with almost universal approval from the public, except that is, where young adults’ benefits were concerned.
Today’s announcement – that benefits like housing benefit and job seekers’ allowance could be docked from young people not ‘earning or learning’ is not in our view likely to be a full ban for all under-25s from claiming benefits – rather a sanctions policy for those rejecting offers of employment or training. This would not perhaps be a significant departure to the current set-up and far from the original plans Cameron floated in his Bluewater address – which was cutting all benefits to under-21s and scrapping housing benefit for most under-21s.
Our polling showed that when asked whether responders agreed to “Cutting almost all benefits to the under-21s, requiring parents to support them instead” only 35% agreed with 50% disagreeing. Scrapping Housing Benefit for most under-25s was also not a particularly popular suggestion either, with only 39% agreeing while 43% disagreed.
These figures stood in marked contrast to reforms such as:
“Removing council housing for families on incomes of more than £60,000 a year” – AGREE 80/13
“Capping child related benefits at a certain maximum number of children” – AGREE 67/24
Sanctions Type Policy Has Approval
When we polled the public on “sanctions type policies” there was clearly more support. When we asked:
“Cutting off jobseekers allowance to people who have been on it for over a certain period of time (eg six months) unless they agree to undertake full-time community work” – 51% agreed to this policy, 36% did not. Conservative 2010 voters agreed with this policy framing by 68% to 19% against with a decent 38% and 41% of Labour and Lib Dem 2010 voters in agreement. “Cutting off jobseekers allowance to people unless they agree to undertake literacy / numeracy training” – also similar to today’s announcement, was also popular – 66% agreed, 22% disagreed and was supported by 82% of CON 2010 voters, 53% and 63% of former Labour and Lib Dem voters.
In short, public opinion is just too against arbitrary removal of benefits from the young for the execution of today’s announcement to not be significantly watered down from Cameron’s June 2012 ideas for younger people.
As we saw with the moderations of the original “bedroom tax” plans, when the public are presented with further policy “difficulties” by those in opposition to a policy, exceptions and change would seem likely. Withdrawing benefit from groups such as young people in genuine poverty who are unable to be assisted by parents or young single parents living alone, given the public’s reservations could be politically toxic and the Conservative party would be wise to take note.
Damian Lyons Lowe