Last month the Youth Select Committee published its report on transport provisions for young people. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to be a turncoat in my response to it.
Now, I fully support the idea that young people’s views should be respected and genuinely considered by parliamentarians. Why should the mere biological factor of age discriminate citizens from voicing their opinions? This is why I don’t think the government should go soft on us young people and just accept all of our generation’s demands. That would be misguided and condescending. I want the government to treat us as no different to a fifty year old.
What struck me was the sense of entitlement that underpinned each of their recommendations made to government. Why should young people automatically get a cheaper bus fare? Have they contributed to the taxes that fund this reduced fare? Probably not. Yes, they might not be earning a living yet, but if they still live at home and are in full-time education at the local school down the road, should 16 year olds really benefit from a reduced train fare in order to go and see Beyoncé at the O2 in London? I don’t really think so.
I agree wholeheartedly with the report when it makes clear that young people absolutely must not miss out on educational advancement because they can’t afford their bus fare. But rather than rolling out a one-size-fits-all fare system for 16-25 year olds, surely a means-tested approach would provide a much fairer system? If you have to pay to travel to your school or apprenticeship placement, you should definitely be entitled to a reduced fare, since you have demonstrated a sense of responsibility and a willingness to contribute to the economy in the future, and the amount paid to apprentices will not always be enough to cover everything.
Now, perhaps it would be prohibitively expensive to develop a method of means-testing for such a scheme, and there will always be a problem with people slipping through the net, as EMA stood testament to, and as we continue to see with the provision of university grants. But some families can easily support their children through their education and training, and any reduction they get just for being young is an added bonus, rather than a necessity. Our economy cannot afford to give out added bonuses.
BY: Kirstin Fairnie