Compared to the US and some European countries the UK is relatively weak in the enforcement of its labour laws. If you’re an employer and you decide to pay your staff cash in hand or you ignore the minimum wage, or don’t provide a contract, proper sick pay or personal leave, it’s quite likely you’ll get away with it.
Sadly it’s the same for rogue landlords. In the private rented sector it’s still far too common for tenants to move in without contracts, pay only in cash and live in sub-standard conditions. They are vulnerable to random rent hikes and eviction; they don’t pay council tax or go on the electoral register.
In the twilight world occupied by unscrupulous employers and landlords, young people are often the biggest victims. They move from job to job and place to place on low, insecure wages. Organisations like Citizens Advice and specialist money advice services see those in the most acute need but for many young people the hassle of taking on an employer or a landlord is more than it’s worth – it’s easier just to move on.
The Money Advice Service has rightly pushed the importance of providing financial capability advice and support at key moments in people’s lives. Moving away from home and starting work are such moments when the importance of managing money and helping young people to do so can make a real difference. NYA’s My Money Now, grant funded by MAS, is working with young apprentices to support them at the crucial point when they enter work. Here the difficulties young people face are more likely to be low wages and poor adaptation to the work environment and sadly too many young apprentices drop out early. We need to know more about why this is and we hope My Money Now will help in shedding light on this.
Providing good quality financial education for the young should be part of the skills set for youth workers and others supporting young people in housing, employment and social welfare programmes. Providing this support early on before young people reach crisis point is surely the best approach.
Jon Boagey is an associate director at the National Youth Agency and member of MAS Young Adults Steering Group.