Today
Fri 17 September 2021

New polling has revealed high support among young Conservatives for a stronger social safety net at a time when the Government is set to cut benefits for the poorest families

The majority of young Conservative voters want to see more investment in public services, a new poll has found, putting their values at odds with the Government’s plans to cut the £20 Universal Credit uplift. 

Polling conducted on behalf of a coalition of women’s rights groups found that 69% of the young Conservative voters surveyed supported better funding for early education and childcare, while 65% supported investment in free social care for older people and disabled people. Nearly three-quarters (73%) wanted more funding for affordable housing and security for renters. The voters polled were aged 18-30.

Young Conservative voters are therefore much closer than their Labour peers than many perhaps thought – 73%, 75% and 77% of young Labour voters supported the respective policies. 

The support for social security for children, older, and disabled people – as well as greater investment in social housing – does not reflect the Conservative Party’s recent agenda, despite its 2019 manifesto promises to “level up”. 

Although the Treasury spent huge amounts during the pandemic to support people and businesses, there has been increasing concern the Government’s plan to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit will lead to families struggling to make ends meet. 

Currently, joint claimants aged over 25 receive £460.94 per month – although the allowance can change depending on other factors. 

The benefit was increased by £20 per week to help low-income families during the pandemic. The decision to cut the benefit back is the biggest overnight cut to the basic rate of social security since World War Two, and has been criticised in an open letter from 100 charities, doctors, public health experts and a Conservative think tank.

The cost of the cut to some families will be as much as £1,040 a year.

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The Government has defended its decision by saying the uplift was only ever temporary and it would prefer to see people supported into work. This ignores how 40% of Universal Credit claimants are already in work. 

The support for housing and early-years from young Conservatives is also at odds with the last ten years of Conservative Government. During the Coalition, Cameron and May administrations, austerity policies led to the closures of SureStart centres and other young people’s services. 

Cuts to the welfare state also focused on housing, with under-21s excluded from housing benefit and the introduction of a benefit cap and the “bedroom tax” which requires social housing tenants to pay an extra fee if they have a spare room. A room is considered spare if a tenant has two children under-12 who have their own bedrooms. 


An Insecure Future

The support for social security from both young Labour and Conservative voters reflects the anxieties of people aged 18-30 who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

The poll found that 28% of young people surveyed were worried about losing their job while 39% were concerned they would be unable to find work in their field should they lose their job or try to leave their current employer. 

Half (51%) expressed concern that should they lose their job, benefits would not cover their living expenses. The impacts of this shortfall include debt, forcing people to move back in with their parents if that is a possibility for them, or, worse, homelessness. It can also delay young people getting on with their future plans – for example choosing to have a baby or get married. 

Young women polled had greater anxiety about their economic future than men. More than half (54%) of young women said their mental health had become worse during the pandemic, compared to 42% of men, and a third were afraid of losing work hours when returning to work from furlough. Mothers were 1.5% more likely to have lost or quit their jobs during the pandemic than fathers, and were more likely to be furloughed. 

Women were also more likely to be working in frontline roles such as social care, teaching and retail during the pandemic, and more likely to have taken on extra caring responsibilities in the home. 

The poll was conducted by Survation on behalf of Close the Gap, Engender, Fawcett Society, Northern Ireland Women’s Budget GroupWomen’s Budget Group, and Women’s Equality Network Wales.

Dr Sara Reis, Head of Research and Policy at the Women’s Budget Group, explained how “our polling highlights the overwhelming support particularly from young voters, including Conservative voters for investment in a social security system that is a true safety net. Behind this support is a high number of young people for who the £20 uplift has been a lifeline and who are now facing the possibility of hardship and adversity.”

Director of Communications at Young Women’s Trust, Caroline Bernard, added that “young women have been left to pick up the pieces during the pandemic, juggling insecure work, caring responsibilities and loss of income. As we approach the autumn, they face enduring even more as the Government scraps both the furlough scheme and the uplift to Universal Credit. Young women have told us how much of a difference these measures have made to their lives and how important they are in the face of an uncertain future. This polling shows that young voters from across the political spectrum want to see better support in place and the Government must listen to their voices.” 

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