Posted: 29 June 2012

Net result: The importance of a safety net for disadvantaged young people

This week David Cameron announced that he wants to radically reform the welfare system in this country. He said he wanted 'a real national debate and ask some fundamental, searching questions' about the welfare system.

As the prime minister said in his speech, we believe the welfare system should provide a genuine safety net for those who need it. In our programmes and children's centres we work with vulnerable young people across the country who often lack this basic level of support.

We believe every child has the right to this support no matter what circumstance they are born into. The welfare system has already seen significant cuts and we are concerned that additional cuts will have devastating consequences for disadvantaged young people and will lead to the further denigration of this safety net.

The new universal credit system

This desire to restructure welfare is also coming at a time when the government is already delivering what they term a 'fundamental reform' of the welfare system.

As the secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, stated: 'Universal credit is the most radical redesign of the benefits system this country has ever seen'.

We are broadly supportive of this new, more integrated system to be introduced in 2013, although we have concerns that it includes cuts in support that will have a significant impact on both disabled children and young carers. We believe the government should focus on delivering the current welfare reforms and ensure that they provide adequate support for vulnerable families.

Support for vulnerable young people

While David Cameron made it clear that his speech was intended to spark discussion and did not put forward any definite proposals, he referred specifically to the system in Holland where there is not provision for under-21s as a default.

Going down this route could lead to significant problems for vulnerable young people including care leavers moving out of foster care or residential homes, young runaways from unstable backgrounds and young people who have experienced destructive home lives.

Where would these young people turn if there is no safety net to support them?

If the government intends to take the welfare system through another fundamental overhaul, we must ensure that vulnerable children and young people are protected and do not slip through the net.

By Laura Rodrigues - Policy team

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