Clifford Fleming, Co-Chair of the Young Greens, on what the budget means for young people.

This budget, it seems, was an opportunity for the government to send a reminder to the young people of the UK: ‘we don’t care about you.’

It is not enough for Cameron and Osborne that homelessness has increased 55% under their governance, and that over half of those sleeping rough are young. It’s not enough that young people are now three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population; or that one in three young workers is on low pay.

The young, it seems, have not yet been hit hard enough by austerity.

This budget held little to celebrate for many in the UK, with Osborne’s ‘living wage’ pledge – at best flimsy and at worst deceptive – masking a raft of measures guaranteed to widen inequality and increase poverty levels. But its prospects for the young are particularly bleak.

No housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds. No maintenance grants to help the poorest students through university without accumulating huge debts. Tuition fees allowed to increase beyond the already-extortionate £9000. And the much-trumpeted ‘national living wage’ won’t apply to the under-25s. Not only are these policies deeply damaging, they’re also totally illogical: an under-21 on minimum wage will get less support in keeping a roof over their head than a 25-year-old, despite earning significantly less. And a student from a poorer household will be forced to borrow more from the government to support themselves through university than their richer course-mates, thus graduating with significantly more debt.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the government regards young people as a secondary class of citizen – less deserving of basic rights than those older than us, less trusted to seek employment, and our labour less valued when we do.

This treatment is outrageous, and it’s also dangerously short-sighted. Such large-scale neglect of this generation isn’t only a problem now, it’s a profound failure to invest in the future. The kind of treatment young people are currently receiving at the hands of the government is damaging to our educational attainment, our mental health, and our prospects for employment.

That’s why the Young Greens are campaigning for a new settlement for young people. We’re calling for an end to tuition fees, the introduction of full living grants, and more training opportunities for unemployed young people. The Green Party would keep housing benefit for 18-25s, introduce a living wage that applies at all ages, and make renting affordable for young people. Because we recognise that young people are not a burden – we’re the future.