‘We might never buy our own homes’ - fears from Sheffield first time voters

General election constituency profile for South East Sheffield at Peaks College, Waterthorpe Greenway. Pictured are students Jade Trigg and Shannon McLoughlin.
General election constituency profile for South East Sheffield at Peaks College, Waterthorpe Greenway. Pictured are students Jade Trigg and Shannon McLoughlin.
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They say young people aren’t bothered about politics – but then they haven’t met first-time voters in Sheffield South East.

Switched-on health and social care students at Peaks College campus, in the heart of the constituency, have a wealth of concerns to consider when they make their debut visit to the polls this Thursday.

Future fears over job opportunities, the cost of higher education, housing and wages were at the core of their questions.

“I don’t think people should be in a situation where they don’t want to go into higher education because you can’t afford it,” said Jade Trigg, aged 18, of Woodhouse.

“Employment for young people is really difficult and costs are stopping us from going to university. My partner is an apprentice and his wage works out at about £2.60 an hour – I think that’s disgraceful.

“It’s also really tough for people who want to move out now, I work in Meadowhall and some of my colleagues are 27, still living with their parents because they can’t afford to move out.

“We might never be able to buy our own house and have to rent forever.”

Sheffield South East was created in 2010 but the previous Sheffield Attercliffe seat has been consistently held by Labour since the 1930s.

This year there are eight candidates vying for votes, including the city’s only Cannabis is Safer Than Alcohol candidate.

Shelby Birkby, 18, of Hackenthorpe, has a pressing question for the hopefuls.

She said: “What I want to know is whether they are going to slash the disability benefit, and whether they will make it a little bit easier to give support for disabled people to get back into work.

“My dad is a disabled amputee, he went to university and he’s been looking for work for two years and he’s not been able to find anything.

“He says it feels like people are just ticking a box when they interview him so they can say they have interviewed a disabled person.

“I don’t think any of the parties are really addressing this issue, it’s like if they don’t talk about it it will go away.

“I’m not 100 per cent sure how I’m going to vote yet but definitely not Conservative because David Cameron has said he is only going to stay on for one more term. I don’t think it is right to vote him in, make all the changes and then pass on the responsibility to someone else.”

Fellow 18-year-olds Hannah Shortt, of Intake, and Natalie Knapp and Courtney Aheran, both from Hackenthorpe, were most concerned about the minimum wage as they all work part-time.

They also felt jobs were still tough to come by, despite claims of the economic recovery creating more employment.

Courtney said: “If we didn’t have our parents and grandparents to help, earning £5 an hour for a few hours a week on top of full time college is not enough to live off. It’s really hard for people to find jobs as well. I handed out so many CVs and the only place that got back to me was McDonald’s.”

The students said they felt more people would benefit from learning about politics – and the different political parties – through education rather than just through Facebook and media coverage.

Shannon McLoughlin, 18, of Intake, said: “How are you supposed to know who to vote for? Sometimes it feels like the parties just say what they want to get the votes and then don’t do anything.”

And Jade added: “There should be more education about voting because it is so important.”

2010 results

Clive Betts, Labour – 20,169

Gail Smith, Liberal Democrats – 9,664

Nigel Bonson, Conservative – 7,202

Christopher Hartigan, British National Party – 2,345

Jonathan Arnott, UKIP – 1,889

Steven Andrew, Communist – 139

2015 results

Jen Battersby – Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol

Clive Betts – Labour

Linda Duckenfield – Green

Matthew Roberts – English Democrats

Matt Sleat – Conservative

Gail Smith – Liberal Democrats

Ian Whitehouse – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

Steven Winstone – Ukip