Young people and housing

A new report by the Resolution Foundation has found, up to a third of young people face living in private rented accommodation all their lives.

The think tank said 40% of “millennials” – those born between 1980 and 1996 – were living in rented housing by the age of 30.

That was twice as many as “generation X” – those born between 1965 and 1980.
The government said it was already putting policies in place to improve the housing market.

The Foundation’s Home Improvements report said “generation rent” needed much more help. It called for more affordable homes for first-time buyers to be built, as well as better protection for those who rent.

Although renting is often a reasonable choice for people who have few ties, the private rented sector is “far less fit for purpose” for those with children because of a lack of security.

The report reveals that a record 1.8 million families with children rent privately, up from 600,000 15 years ago.
It adds that while housing benefit should be able to help millennial families, its value has been reduced relative to the generation who came before them. Read more

Firms relabelling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships

According to the study by centre-right think tank Reform fast food giants, coffee shops and retailers are relabelling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships and gaining subsidies for training.

The report says many firms have rebranded existing roles after being obliged to contribute cash to on-the-job training. It adds that 40% of government-approved apprenticeship standards do not meet a traditional definition of them.

The government says “quality” is at the heart of its apprenticeship reforms. As part of the changes, it introduced an apprenticeship levy on organisations paying more than £3m in salaries a year.

They have to pay 0.5% of their wages total into a “digital account” held by HMRC. They then “spend” these contributions on apprenticeship training delivered by registered providers. They can also get back up to 90% of the cost of training.

Low-wage roles
But they are also entitled to pay apprentices lower than the standard minimum wage. The minimum rates range from £3.70 an hour for anyone in their first year of an apprenticeship to £7.38

The report says: “As part of the government’s wider package of reforms to apprenticeships, groups of employers came together to write the new ‘apprenticeship standards’.
“Some used this opportunity to generate high-quality standards, but others appear to be simply rebadging low-quality, low-skill and often low-wage roles as ‘apprenticeships’ instead.”

In 2013, the government said apprenticeships had to be skilled roles, requiring substantial and sustained training of at least 12 months, leading to full competency and should provide the apprentice with transferrable skills in an occupation.

But a quick glance at the government’s official apprenticeships website shows many high street firms advertising for apprentices in what appear to be unskilled roles.

For example, KFC is advertising for an apprentice hospitality team member. The advert describes the apprenticeship as “a structured, learner and employer-focused development programme designed to create opportunities for lifelong knowledge, skills and behaviours”.

But the role is described as cooking “fries” and other products and serving customers front of house, or cooking and assembling KFC products, while maintaining clean, sanitary working conditions.

It says training is based around day-to-day duties, but will also involve one-to-one interactions with a specialised trainer every four to six weeks.

KFC said the apprenticeship existed before the levy was introduced and met all the key standards, and that the firm paid more than the minimum apprenticeship rates. Read more

Student loan repayment threshold rises

Former students will be able to earn more before they have to start paying back their tuition fee loans.

English and Welsh students who took out loans from September 2012 onwards – when fees in England rose to up to £9,000 a year – will now start to pay back when they earn £25,000 a year instead of £21,000.

The government says the move could save graduates up to £360 a year.
The National Union of Students said the change was “welcome relief” for many.

Are you paying off a student loan? Join BBC News’s Affordable Living Facebook group here.

Who will benefit?
The Department for Education says some 600,000 graduates will benefit over the next financial year alone.

Previously, the repayment threshold for post-September 2012 loans had been frozen at £21,000 until 2020-21, but last autumn Prime Minister Theresa May announced a rise in the threshold from this new financial year.

The change will also lower the repayments of those earning over £25,000, as the percentage of salary paid back will be on a smaller amount.

Research carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found raising the repayment threshold to £25,000 benefits middle-earning graduates the most, saving them up to £15,700 in repayments over their lifetimes.

Lower-earning graduates, who are likely to earn below the threshold for a significant part of their career, will see a smaller reduction in lifetime repayments, the IFS calculates.

While high-earning graduates – who would repay their loans in full – will see a reduction in yearly repayments, this will merely extend the period of time for which they have to repay and so will make little difference to their lifetime repayments. Read more

Child poverty in various parts of England and Wales

Malnourished pupils with grey skin are “filling their pockets” with food from school canteens in poor areas due to poverty, head teachers say.

The heads, from various parts of England and Wales, described differences in the appearance of some pupils.

One head said: “My children have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair; they are thinner.”

The government said measures were in place to tackle poverty.

Lynn, a head teacher from a former industrial town in Cumbria, who did not want to give her full name, was one of a number of head teachers speaking to reporters at the National Education Union conference in Brighton.

They were highlighting the issues faced by an increasing number of children growing up in poverty, and how their experiences affect their education.

Grubby clothes
Lynn said that hunger was particularly apparent after the weekend.

She said: “Children are filling their pockets with food. In some establishments that would be called stealing. We call it survival.”

Another head teacher from Nottinghamshire, Louise Regan, said: “When you take children out to an event, maybe a sporting event, you see children of the same age from schools in an affluent area.

“It’s the grey skin, the pallor. It’s the pallor you really notice.” She went on: “Monday morning is the worst.
“There are a number of families that we target that we know are going to be coming into school hungry. Read more

Young people and loneliness

“There can be so much disappointment and loneliness because we are encouraged to aspire and have ambitions – and then what happens when we fail?

“Maybe exam results aren’t good enough. The ideal you’ve been built up for – like being a footballer, being a doctor – doesn’t happen.”

This 20-year-old woman, interviewed for a study on youth loneliness, captures the sense of pressure and isolation many young people say they feel.

The research, by Manchester Metropolitan University and the young person’s mental health charity 42nd Street, suggests youngsters often feel isolated and lonely when they fail to live up to expectations.

The youth-led research project – which specifically recruited young researchers aged 14 to 25 to interview 140 youngsters from a diverse range of backgrounds – found a range of issues increased levels of youth loneliness, particularly:

* the fear of failure and disappointing others
* pressures from social media
* major life changes, such as family break-up or moving away from home
* poverty
* and feeling different, particularly for LGBT youth.

The report – Lonliness Connects Us – says that “loneliness itself is often a source of shame and stigma in a world which seems to require the performance of happiness and success”.

I still feel very lonely
The 20-year-old woman interviewed said: “Old connections are broken. Who do you turn to? Not your family because you don’t want to add to their sense of disappointment.

“Online, happiness is compulsory. Looking happy online with a drink in your hand. You can’t say, ‘This is really hard, and I’m missing you.’

“And sometimes, even when I’ve now done everything I was meant to do, and I’ve succeeded in school and pleased my family and gone to uni, and I still feel very unhappy and lonely… what now?”

A recurring theme in the research was the loneliness that stems from a fear of disappointing those who have invested their hopes in a young person, if the path of education or career “success” is not sustained.

A 21-year-old man said: “If you asked me what represents my feeling of loneliness most, it’s when I’ve been in all weekend on my own and there’s leftover pizza in the fridge at the end of the weekend, because I’ve ordered a pizza but I can’t eat it all.

“I came here to go to university, but it didn’t work out. I’ve left home and don’t want to go back to the country town I come from, but I’m new here. Anyway, I’ve lost contact with my school friends.

“I don’t have a steady job. I get bits and pieces as a freelancer. But at the moment I’m working at a call centre, where I have to put up with a lot of rudeness.

“It’s all turned out so much harder than I expected, and I’m not making much money. I feel a failure at times, and I don’t want my parents to know.” Read more