A fraying net

The role of a state safety net in supporting young people develop and transition to an independent, healthy future

Young people have fared poorly in terms of their incomes, earnings and housing prospects in recent years. In this context, the state safety net is of central importance to those young adults who are unable to look to their families, or elsewhere, for support, if they are to avoid being left behind. This report, commissioned by the Health Foundation as part of its Young people’s future health inquiry, reviews the state-provided financial safety net available to young adults, and how it has changed over time.

It finds that young people have always relied more on benefits than working-age adults. But this gap has narrowed over recent decades, as governments have increasingly deprioritised welfare support for young people. A combination of historical changes to out-of-work and housing benefits, the switch to Universal Credit, and post-2010 cuts to the benefit system have reduced the amount that young people are entitled to, relative to older working-age adults. Together these changes to the benefits system add up to a much less-generous offer for under-25s today compared to both older adults, and previous generations at the same age.