As a (relatively) young person, at 23, I have spent roughly half my life under a Tory government, and the other half under a government which, although claiming to be Labour, was ideologically anything but. I was born in 1995, when John Major was in power. When I was 2, Blair got in, and when I was 14, the coalition began.
Whilst I was too young to really understand New Labour at the time, I definitely can remember the actions of Cameron and Clegg’s coalition of chaos.
I lost out on EMA (the grant given to low income students) because the Tories cut it.
I could no longer expect to pay a reasonable sum for University (and I’m now in over £60k worth of debt), because despite promising not to, the Lib Dems enabled the Tories to raise tuition fees.
My friends and peers who needed support for mental health issues, through CAMHS, waited ridiculous periods of time for help – because of Tory cuts to health services. It has only become worse since then.
I went to University, enthusiastic about getting a job in the justice system upon graduation. But the Tories have cut the justice budget by 48% since 2010 – meaning there are fewer jobs, and many are contracted out to private companies.
It’s not just my teenage years that have been blighted by austerity. It is happening all across the country. I was lucky enough to grow up in the South East – an area pretty protected by the Tories because the Home Counties make up much of their core vote. I lived in Maidenhead (May’s own constituency), where the funding wasn’t cut as badly as places like the South West or the North East – but services still struggled.
Since austerity began in 2010, funding for children’s services has fallen by over a third – in real terms that’s about £3billion lost. 1000 children centres have been shut down, 700 youth clubs closed. Libraries are closing at an alarming rate, and families with young children are being pushed into poverty. School resources and funding are so lacking, some schools (like the one Labour MP Jess Phillips sends her child to) are having to close at 1pm on a Friday to save money. All the while, private schools are benefiting from their charitable status which means they don’t have to pay tax. Education inequality is rife.
Kids and young people have no chance of engaging in meaningful activity – unless they’re lucky enough to be from families with money. Over half term, kids have nothing to do so end up roaming the streets – in inner city areas, this provides rich pickings for predatory gangs – who may end up exploiting such young people to be part of their county lines operations. Is it any wonder, when we’ve lost over 21,000 police officers since 2010, knife crime is on the rise? A whole generation of young people living in fear in some parts of the UK, that they’ll end up just another statistic on the news, as someone who had their life cut short.
It’s not happening evenly across the board either. Areas with more deprivation are having children’s services cut almost twice as fast as those in more affluent areas. The poorest areas are having the most children taken into care.
But it’s not all bad news. When these young people who have suffered at the hands of the Tories are old enough to vote, the Tory party could be in real trouble. With an ageing support base, the Conservative party has very little support with young people, and they certainly don’t resonate with us. They oppose lowering the voting age to 16 for this reason – they know they could never compete with progressive parties that identify with the youth far more. Years of cuts could mean that when our young people come of age, they’ll keep the Tories out of powers for generations. Young people will not forgive – and they certainly will never forget.
Our social fabric is crumbling before our very eyes. What happened to having a country and government that invests in the futures of our young people, and provided them opportunities to succeed, no matter their background? I’ll tell you what happened – the Tories and their ideologically driven cuts to the very social and welfare programmes we hold dear.