Rather than pitting young people against older people, politicians and the media are urged to help build a Britain where people of all ages can prosper with a new contract between the generations.
The vision of ‘a Britain for all ages’ with action from cradle to grave – not ‘war between the generations’ – is set out in a new report, Building a Britain for all ages, published today (14 July 2014) by the think tank, United for All Ages.
The report focuses on ten ways to create a Britain for all ages, bringing older and younger people together and tackling some of the country’s biggest social and economic problems including:
Loneliness – more than one in ten older people say they are lonely all or part of the time while many young people have little or no contact with older adults
Care – our growing population means increasing numbers of young children and older people need care but fewer are getting help as childcare places fall, eldercare is cut and costs rise
Housing – older people have few housing options in later life while young people are struggling to find affordable homes to rent or buy, creating a housing crisis for all ages
Work – almost a million young people are not in work while many older people need and want to work longer, with millions more people of all ages under-employed
Technology – many older people are increasingly excluded by lack of digital access and know-how while young people could share their knowledge and skills
The report, Building a Britain for all ages: time for a new contract between the generations, sets out how a new contract between the generations, underpinned by fair and effective taxation, could address these and other problems.
Ten building blocks for the contract between the generations highlighted in the report are:
Centres for all ages – making the most of community facilities by opening up children’s centres, schools, older people’s housing schemes and care homes to people of all ages creating 5000 centres
Family policy for all ages – ensuring that family policy and other policies take much more account of the wider, multigenerational family and supporting relatives to do more to help each other
Homes for all ages – creating new housing options for older people to support downsizing and free up family-sized homes for young people while recognising the rise of multigenerational households
Care for all ages – developing universal childcare and eldercare systems that recognise the changing nature and needs of modern Britain and enable family carers to have a life while caring
Work for all ages – encouraging employers to be more supportive of staff with caring responsibilities and building multigenerational workplaces where skills and experience are shared
Volunteering for all ages – enabling people of all ages to volunteer with each other in their community to meet local needs and share skills, knowledge, experience and time
Charities for all ages – breaking down the silos between children’s/young people’s charities and older people’s charities to promote early action across the life course and tackle ageism
Neighbourhood Watch for all ages – encouraging local schemes to look out for older people and young people and children who need help and provide companionship and practical support
Shared interests for all ages – using common interests from sport, art, music to gardening, cooking and technology to bring older and younger people together to share skills and enthusiasm
Innovation centres for all ages – university-based centres that support and promote entrepreneurial and innovative businesses and social enterprises
The report argues that many of these building blocks for a new contract between the generations would make better use of existing resources and maximise the contributions that people of all ages can make.
But it also calls for fairer, effective taxation for all ages which would shift the focus from income to wealth and assets and onto wealthier older people. It calls for a review of inheritance tax and ‘gifts’ together with action to tackle tax avoidance.
Stephen Burke, director of United for All Ages and author of the report, says: “If you landed in Britain today for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking that we are a country where there is a civil war between generations.
That’s what the media and many policymakers would like us to believe as they pit young people against older people and seek to divide the generations.
Pick up a newspaper, go online or read the latest think tank pamphlet, and you will see countless myths and stereotypes about older and young people never having had it so good or so bad.
“Promoting intergenerational conflict is not the answer to tackling the profound problems and inequalities in Britain today. What’s needed are cross-generational solutions to these issues that benefit all ages and our whole society as part of a new contract between the ages.
“Action by and for all ages can be the basis for a national prevention strategy from cradle to grave. From active ageing to tackling obesity and giving children a good start in life, we must help people of all ages to help themselves. We are much stronger as a society and in our communities if we are united, not divided, from cradle to grave.”