Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fighting The Cuts

Government all set to abolish a generation of young people

But trade unionists and students are rallying to resist the cuts

STUDENTS are among the many who are being hit hard by the Conservative-led, LibDem-enabled Coalition Government. Combined with the rising youth unemployment figures, considering the impetus and encouragement that has been given to young people in recent years to get themselves to university to enhance their employment prospects, the overall impact has been to raise fears of a lost generation of young people in the UK.

"[G]rim jobless figures show that rising unemployment is more than an Autumn blip, and that it could get much worse in 2011," said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), commenting on unemployement figures released by the Office of National Statistics.

"With more than a fifth of young people out of work, we face a real danger of losing another generation of young people to unemployment and wasted ambition. By abolishing EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance), pricing young people out of university and cutting support to get them back into work, the government is punishing youngsters for a mess they didn't cause.

"Employment is now falling at its fastest rate since the recession and many of those finding work are settling for insecure temporary work. With the worst of the cuts still to come, this government risks making high joblessness a permanent feature of our economy. It must change course before it's too late."

 Last year, the country saw massive protests against the Government, with dramatic scenes played out as students stormed Conservative Party HQ. Even schoolchildren have been getting in on the protest act. If nothing else, it appears likely that an entire generation has become radicalised; at the very least their faith in the conventional political system has been sorely dented.

Later this month, trade unionists will be rallying in support of students: it's all part of mustering a society that faces an onslaught of austerity in order to save political and financial elites from their own sins. 

The TUC will hold a rally in Manchester next Saturday (29 January) to protest against the severe impact of the cuts and the government's austerity programme on young people.

A Future that Works: A TUC National Rally for Young People -- organised in partnership with the NUS and UCU -- will highlight the effect of the recent recession and the government's cuts programme on students and young people both in and out of work.

Since the election last May, and the Comprehensive Spending Review in October last year, many of the cuts have disproportionately affected young people, and the TUC believes they face a bleak future. Among its concerns, the organisation is worried that:
  • The weekly £30 Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) payments for young people from lower income families to stay on in 16-19 education have been scrapped. This grant was worth £3,120 over two years. Research published by UCU earlier this week found that 70 per cent of EMA recipients surveyed said they would not be able to stay on in education without it.
  • The Connexions programme -- which provides a range of support and advice to young people -- has been drastically cut or abolished in many local authority areas as councils try to reduce spending. It looks as if by the end of this year there will no longer be a national youth service and it will only survive in pockets of the country, says the TUC.
  • Student fees are set to rise from around £3,125 a year to £6,000-£9,000 a year, and as a result universities are likely to become no-go zones for young people from ordinary backgrounds. NUS research shows 70 per cent of current students would have avoided going to university if tuition fees had been set at £7,000 -- with the poorest students the most likely to be put off.
  • There is a crisis in youth unemployment. The number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds is 951,000, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992, and more than one in five young people aged 16-24 are jobless. However, the government has scrapped the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund programme for young people, getting rid of 100,000 jobs at a stroke, leaving record numbers of youngsters on the dole with insufficient support to get into employment.
  • Young people who are able to find jobs are more likely to find themselves in insecure work -- as an intern, on a temporary contract or in a company with no union representation -- leaving them at greater risk of exploitation in the work place and with no entitlement to some of the most basic employment rights.
"While champagne corks are popping in the city as the banks announce another round of huge bonuses, young people in the UK are being left to pick up the cost of a recession they didn't cause," said Barber.

"Cutting education maintenance allowances will put college education way out of reach of young people from low-income families. We face an American-style free market in higher education where the top universities are reserved for the privileged few and everybody else has to make do with second best.

"We are facing not just massive cuts in higher education funding, but the prospect of our universities becoming no-go zones for the poor and low-income families. Soon what will matter will not be a young person's academic potential but the size of their parents' wallets. In addition there are simply not enough jobs for young people to do. It is particularly alarming that the government has cut funding for the Future Jobs Fund, which would have provided an additional 90,000 positions for unemployed young people across the country."

NUS President Aaron Porter added: 'Students and teachers have led the way in resisting government cuts that will force the next generation to pick up the bill for others' mistakes and shut the door on opportunity. It is crucial now more than ever that NUS and UCU stand together with the TUC and fight to ensure our collective future is protected and funded.

"Our life chances and those of our brothers and sisters are at risk, and together we will stand up to defend ourselves and each other. The Government's cuts to youth opportunities, including tripling tuition fees, scrapping the EMA and demolishing the Future Jobs Fund will have a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities across the country. I am proud that NUS will be bringing students together with unions in Manchester to show unity in the face of savage cuts, and as we broaden and deepen our national campaign to resist them."

UCU (Union of College & University) General Secretary Sally Hunt said: "Every single cut made by politicians has a human consequence. Cutting access to education and support for the most vulnerable will create a lost generation and do long-term damage to our economy and society.

"It is a national scandal that our young people are paying the price for a crisis caused by others. I am proud that UCU and NUS are standing together with the TUC, not just for their own members but also for those who come after us."

A Future that Works will promote the union, student movement and partner organisation campaign against the cuts and for the alternatives. Speakers in Manchester will include TUC Assistant General Secretary Kay Carberry, British Youth Council Chair Liam Preston, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack, GMB National Officer Sharon Holder, NUS National President Aaron Porter, NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt, Unison Young Members' representative Graham Smith, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, and representatives from ATL and PCS.

Category: POLITICS



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