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It’s hard being young

October 28, 2011

It was George Bernard Shaw, that most quotable of authors and playwrights, who said, “Youth is wasted on the young”. He had a point, but the young don’t have it easy, and while I wouldn’t mind having youth, I wouldn’t want to be young again today.

Getting an apprenticeship isn’t easy

My nephew has not had the easiest start in life. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he grew up as part of a loving family, has a doting mother and four gorgeous siblings, and a fantastic auntie and uncle who took him on all sorts of adventures (guess who that might be). But he suffered with “glue ear” when he was young, ended up having to have grommets and now has mild hearing loss; he also has mild dyslexia. So his education wasn’t the easiest. He dropped out of sixth-form college after having been badly hurt in a car accident – as an innocent pedestrian I should add.

Since when he’s had a series of jobs, none of which really offered him the career potential that he is capable of. Earlier this year, inspired by a friend of his, he decided he’d like to qualify as an electrician, and started looking for an apprenticeship.

Well, you would think, with all the politician’s talk about creating new apprenticeships, that wouldn’t be too hard. What they don’t tell us is that in order to qualify for an apprenticeship, and register at a suitable educational establishment, you have to have a job first! Yes, you have to persuade an employer to take you on, pay you a sum of money (the amount seems to vary between different colleges, but it doesn’t have to even be as much as the minimum wage in some instances) and then agree to release you one day a week for three years to enable you to get your qualification.

How does having to find a job before you can become an apprentice help create jobs?

Anyway, Mrs Meadowend emailed just about everyone we know over the summer; some of our friends responded very helpfully (you know who you are – and thank you) and my nephew secured a couple of interviews. We were all delighted when he was offered a job, as an apprentice trainee, at an electrical engineers and contractors near where we live in Buckinghamshire. The company has been very generous; they are paying him a bit more than the minimum wage and also for the day he spends at college – neither of which they are obliged to do. So he registered at our local college for his apprenticeship training just in time at the start of term in September.

Now, find somewhere to live

OK, that’s one hurdle over. Now he, his partner and adorable four-month old daughter (I know, I am her great uncle, so I would say that, but she is adorable) need to find somewhere to live nearby – they had been staying with Mrs M’s sister – nearly an hour’s drive away when the roads are clear – not really conducive to getting to work by 7:30am.

And here we encounter another problem. There’s no chance round here of them finding social housing, so they have to find somewhere to rent in the private sector. Because he’s on such a low wage, and his partner is on maternity leave, their total income entitles them to receive housing benefit.  “That’s handy.” you might think.

However recieving housing benefit automatically disqualifies you from renting from most private landlords! You see, if you’re a private landlord there’s a good chance your insurance won’t cover you if you rent to someone with income from a “third party”. This is because councils, which are responsible for paying housing benefit, often change their mind and reduce their estimate of the rentable value of a property, and therefore reduce the benefit. So as a landlord you may have accepted a tenant in good faith, believed their income plus their housing benefit would enable them to afford your rent only to find that your tenant, through no fault of their own, suddenly becomes unable to pay the rent you’ve agreed with them. And you may have difficulty terminating their tenancy agreement. Because this has happened a lot many insurance policies now implicitly exclude those receiving housing benefit.

I guess insurance companies gratefully accept premiums and then do their utmost to avoid paying out if they can possibly find a hole through which to wriggle.

So my nephew, partner, and adorable daughter are staying with us. And may be staying with us for a while yet.

It’s no surprise that young people won’t leave home these days. Many of them can’t if they wanted to. All this while they’re still idealists, consider themselves to be immortal, and believe the world is a wonderful place if only us old people would stop screwing it up for them.

It’s hard being young – I wouldn’t want to do it again.

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