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Young workers and in-work benefits

by on August 13, 2015

There was plenty of coverage earlier this week (see here in The Guardian)  of the story that the Government is considering plans that would prevent young British workers (aged 18-22) claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and child benefit. Introducing a four-year residency test only for migrants to stop them claiming benefits during their first four years in the UK (part of the Tory manifesto pledge) is argued to be illegal on the grounds that it would amount to direct discrimination.

To get round this, the rule could be introduced and applied to all UK benefit applicants from the age of 18. As explained on the BBC News website, this would mean that, even if young workers had lived in the UK all their lives, they would be ineligible for the benefits for four years until they reached 22. The Daily Mail estimated this could affect 50,000 young British workers, ‘mostly single mothers being helped back into work’.

The mooted action attracted criticism from across the political spectrum (and 2596 reader comments in the Daily Mail). It was argued (e.g. by Carole Easton, from the Women’s Trust) that “young people are already at the bottom of the pile”. Now the Politics Home website reports that ministers accept that they won’t be able to stop benefit payments to migrants. It quotes Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin as saying that EU renegotiation “must be going very badly if the only way to stop EU migrants claiming benefits is to stop our own people getting them too”.

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