Meeting the Low Pay Commission

Wednesday 18 February 2015

How many young people can rely on parental support? 

Catherine CoxIt is a question that came up when, along with two other Young Women’s Trust Advisory Panel members, Jenny and Kerri, I attended a meeting with the Low Pay Commission to talk about the minimum wage, rates of pay and living.  I found this quite fascinating as Jenny, Kerri and I all have very different backgrounds and different stories to tell regarding home life, work/wages, living environment and support that we can access in hard times.

At the meeting, Neil Carberry, one of the Commissioners, said: "There seems to be an (oversimplified assumption) that young people can rely on parental support." Well, is that the case for everyone? NO it is not.

At the end of 2013 I lost my job and had to apply for Housing Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) as I was living in a one bed flat, the Housing Benefit didn't cover the rent so I had to take it out of my JSA. In August this year I had to move back in with my parents - I found a new job but it didn't pay me enough for my rent, bills and food.  I was lucky being able to move back home but not everyone is able to do that, including my other panel members.  
  
Jenny told the meeting: “My Mum was a single mother and when she passed away I was on my own. I have no family to support me.” Kerri explained: “After my Mum died when I was 20 years old, I had the responsibility of trying to ensure the running of my household.”
 
So, is it fair to assume we can all just fall back on our parents and we all have that support there if needed? I was able to move back to my parents but wouldn't have been able to ask my parents to lend me money as I wouldn't be able to pay them back. 
 
Last year Young Women’s Trust did a survey of 859 young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) that showed one in five had been offered jobs below the minimum wage. Paying below the minimum wage is illegal yet it is still happening all over the UK.  One of the Commissioners asked if we had heard about the support link set up to provide help and advice about the right amount of tax and National Insurance to pay, or unsure about contracts, sick pay, holiday pay, wages or working hours. If you or someone you know needs help with any of these click on the link below to find out more:
 
https://www.gov.uk/pay-and-work-rights-helpline

The minimum wage goes up almost every year but is high enough? Is it fair to pay a 22-year-old more than a 20-year-old for doing the same job and shouldn’t increases be the same?  In 2013 the Minimum Wage for 21 and over was £6.31 and for 18 to 20 was £5.03 but last year’s increase only gave the 18 to 20 year group a 10p increase whereas the over 21s got 19p.  The cost of living and the minimum wage don't increase together and nor does the level paid to each age group.  And can you believe the apprenticeship wage has only gone up 8p from 2012 whereas the over 21s’ has gone up by 31p? I’m 23 years old and even I don't think that is fair.  

So I say it's time to increase the minimum wage; even to find a balance between the cost of living and the minimum wage. 

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