Sian Berry

Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Sian Berry has pledged to pilot a new financial support scheme for young Londoners if elected Mayor of London in May. The scheme – dubbed the Creative Autonomy Allowance (CAA) – would give 1,000 young people an income of around £10,000 a year to support them to pursue a career in the arts and creative industries, and for getting started in business.

Berry’s proposals mimic the Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS) introduced across the UK in 1983 before being terminated under John Major’s government. The EAS provided over 300,000 people with regular income to start a business. Many of the recipients went to carve out successful careers in the arts sector.

According to Berry, introducing the CAA would put young people “at the heart” of London’s economy. She said:

Young people are paying the price of so many things – the legacy of austerity, the current coronavirus crisis, the climate catastrophe which looms on the horizon. They deserve to be given something back.

 Working with support services and young people, we’ll prove the benefits of giving people a start in life that isn’t based on struggle but on showing faith in their abilities.”

 Greens have a mission to transform London’s economy, and young people must be at the heart of it. Young people have the ideas, they have the potential, they have the ability – they just need the support to get on and do it.

Berry’s proposals would see funding allocated not on the basis of judging applications, but instead by a trial designed to demonstrate the benefits in increasing the life chances and opportunities for cohorts of young people. Berry says that such a selection process would be devised in consultation with relevant researchers and youth services.

Berry claims that the CAA would support the life chances of young people affected by the economic impacts of austerity and the coronavirus crisis. In 2019-20, unemployment was higher in London across all age groups than the average across England, and was at 16 percent among 16-24 year olds – making them the group with the highest unemployment rate. The pandemic has had a further impact on youth unemployment, increasing by 3.1 percent nationally over 2020.

The CAA has received the backing of young Londoners who are in the process of setting up social enterprises and other businesses.

Marissa Hussain is a 26 year old personal trainer who is seeking to build an online enterprise which promotes fitness while challenging unhealthy diet cultures and beauty standards. Hussain says that the introduction of Berry’s CAA would be “an amazing support”:

The scheme would be an amazing support – to support living costs whilst in the stages of building my business before it’s making a profit. This is what’s holding me back at the moment as I need to take on enough paid work to live but this gives me less time to work on building the business.

Berry’s announcement comes as the London Mayoral election creeps closer. Londoners will go to the polls on May 6 to elect a new Mayor for the city, as well as members of the London Assembly. These elections coincide with an unprecedented batch of local elections taking place in the rest of England, as well as elections for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, other Combined Authority Mayoralties and England’s Police and Crime Commissioners.

Image credit: Centre for London – Creative Commons