Although David Cameron’s speech was deliberately light on policy, it did contain one hint about a manifesto commitment for the 2015 general election. The Prime Minister told the conference that ‘we should give young people a clear, positive choice: go to school. Go to college. Do an apprenticeship. Get a job. But just choose the dole? We’ve got to offer them something better than that.’
The party is clear this afternoon that this will be a fully fleshed-out pledge in the Conservative manifesto, and that it is linked to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood’s review of training and education for under-25s. The benefits that could be docked for young people who aren’t ‘earning or learning’ include housing benefit and job seekers’ allowance.
This is not a full ban for all under-25s from claiming benefits: it is a sanctions policy whereby if you do not take up an offer of work or training, you will lose your benefits. It is more nuanced now than the original plan to remove housing benefit from the under-25s full stop that David Cameron floated in June 2012. I reported back in December that an internal party consultation with members had found that while they backed the principle, they were worried about care leavers and other claimants who didn’t have family to fall back on. If the party has decided it is going to use these benefits as a sanction tool, then it can’t very well remove them from under-25s across the board. So the policy has shifted a great deal.