Monday 27-04-2015 - 13:26
Want to keep on track of what’s been said by the political parties about the community and what it means for students?
We've analysed the political parties' General Election manifestos to you don't have to. This handy cheat sheet focuses on the policies relating to the community, looking at some of the main promises made so far…
All four of the main parties have placed an emphasis on increasing support for young people experiencing mental health problems. NUS research has shown that 20 per cent of students consider themselves to have a mental health problem; but cuts to both NHS funding, and to funding in the local authorities and universities, have seen services for young people squeezed. The Liberal Democrats have promised to increase NHS spending for mental health, and introduce a two-week standard wait time for young people experiencing psychosis. The Green Party have promised round-the-clock access to support young people experiencing a mental health crisis, and Labour will set out a strategy to ensure that both young people and adult have direct access to appropriate therapy. Only Labour volunteered how their promises would be funded, using money collected via tax on tobacco products and a mansion tax.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which was enacted during the coalition parliament, introduced drastic changes in the way NHS services are provided. The Act has meant that private companies can bid for, and have won, contracts to provide health services which would have previously been delivered by the NHS. Both Labour and the Greens have pledged to scrap the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and to reverse its affect. The Lib Dems have promised only to repeal parts of the Act that make the NHS particularly ‘vulnerable’ to privatisation. The Conservatives, on the other hand, intend to continue with the provision of services by private providers, offering ‘greater choice’ for patients about their care.
NUS has partnered with teaching unions and sexual health charities to promote adequate sex and relationships education for young people, as part of the Sex Education Forum. The Greens, the Lib Dems and Labour have all promised to introduce compulsory Personal, Social and Health education (PSHE) into the curriculum in state-funded schools, which will contain ‘age appropriate’ sex education. The Conservatives have said previously they are committed to delivering a high standard of PSHE for young people, but have stopped short of introducing mandatory sex and relationships education in schools.
Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems all identified reforming the private rented sector as an important policy area for their parties. A substantial proportion of students rent their home privately, and all too often properties in the private sector are of a poor quality, are vulnerable to pests, and occasionally hazardous to tenants’ health. The Greens were the only party committed to introduce a mandatory licensing scheme for landlords to improve standards, with Labour and the Lib Dems favouring less-stringent registration schemes. Licensing schemes are potentially more effective in forcing up standards, but can result in higher costs for renters; alternatively, registration schemes are more affordable, though they may not have the same enforcement powers against landlords that breach their terms.
The private rented sector is largely unregulated and often letting agents and landlords charge prospective tenants extortionate fees. Both Labour and the Greens pledged to ban letting agent fees, and the Lib Dems promised to ban fees if other control measures they plan to introduce failed to make them more affordable. Similarly all three parties promised to introduce measures to control rent increases, with the Lib Dems and Greens linked rent increases to inflation and Labour offering a ‘ceiling’ on excessive rents.
Though not mentioned in their manifesto, in previous comments the Conservative Party have championed the existing ‘flexibility’ in the private rented sector, and rejected measures to control rents or introduce ‘unnecessary’ regulation.
Immigration has been one of the more hotly contested issues in this election, and the policies suggested in manifestos will have wide ranging implications for both EU and Non-EU international students. Reflecting their previous positions the Conservatives and Labour are coming down hard on immigration, with new rules specifically for students and new laws for migrants in general, including EU migrants, featuring in both manifestos. The Lib Dems and Greens both want to increase international student numbers, with the Green Party committing to removing the net-migration target and improving the system for migrants with families including students.
The Conservatives have a commitment to overhaul the student visa system, which has been in a constant state of change since 2010. Their proposals to fine institutions for international students who don’t comply with the terms of their visa will mean universities and colleges will be expected to be responsible for more aspects of students lives such as where they work, how much they study and ensuring they leave the UK at the end of their course. The Conservatives have also made a commitment to “Deport first, Appeal later” which would create significant barriers to international students accessing the justice. Currently over 50 per cent of appeals are upheld. Finally, the Conservatives propose to require an EU citizen without a job within 6 months of becoming a job seeker in the UK, for students that would be after graduation, to leave the UK.
The Green Party has proposed to re-introduce the Post Study Work Visa for a full two years, and to widen the Youth Mobility Scheme to allow those from poorer countries to participate in it. While no party had committed to increasing access for asylum seekers in the UK, both Labour and the Greens are have spoken about making the system for those seeking asylum better by ending indefinite detention (Labour) and introducing a process for irregular migrants such as children who have never had their immigration status declared, to gain legal status to remain in the UK (Green).
Want to learn more about how the main manifesto promises relating to work, community and liberation? Download our bumper General Election party manifesto cheat sheet now!