Lansdowne Crescent Methodist Church Question Time on ‘Intergenerational Fairness: What is the Future
This Question Time Event was led by a panel composed of Chairperson Chris Reed (MHDC Councillor); Peter and Maisie, two students from the Chase School Debating Society; Fahmed Rahman (an expert from the Resolution Foundation), Councillor Sarah Rouse and Professor Barry Jones. The panel represented a cross-section of the generations that make up our society.
Fahmed discussed the fundamental expectation that the living standards of each succeeding generation would better than the ones that preceded them. Even before the financial crash of 2008 and the years of austerity that have occurred since, this premise was starting to breakdown. For instance, members of the Millenial generation (birth years early 1980s to the early 2000s) and later generations are four times more likely to live in rented accommodation than the Baby Boomer generation (birth years 1946 to 1964). Also, they are living with more risk than the previous generation in other areas such as job security; pension provision and healthcare.
Peter and Maisie, representing the generation born after 2000, highlighted their fears for the future after years of austerity, cuts in services for young people, particularly in mental health provision and the pressures they are facing. These feel disproportionally high relative to previous generations. The imminence of Brexit does not reflect the way young people voted in the 2015 Referendum, where 71% of people under 25 voted to remain in the EU, but this was overtaken by the higher proportion of votes cast by older generations to leave, leading to a feeling their voice was not heard on an issue that will affect the rest of their lives.
Sarah representing Generation X (birth years 1965-1980), had an optimistic childhood, freedom had increased, jobs were seemingly readily available at 16, grants were available to take advantage of higher education and generally there was a lack of awareness of bad news from the wider world. However, later in life, getting on to the housing ladder became very difficult; jobs for life disappeared; the need to work into old age is increasing and there is no way of avoiding bad news. At the same time there is an increasing lack of truly affordable housing, loss of apprenticeships, increasing debt and a relative lack of care about the environment. Thus, there is a massive need for a different approach to improve prospects for succeeding generations.
Barry representing the Silent or Traditionalist Generation (born mid 1920’s to 1945) discussed the way people of all generations rallied round after World War II to get the country back on its feet and how this generated a real sense of community. There was a wave of house building, the NHS was set up, Social Services provided real benefits, leading to a sense that things were improving. We seem to have lost this sense and now, people in our country do not listening to one another, with so much negative media coverage, hope that things can improve is in short supply. As a nation we need to change the cultural climate and change these negative behaviours to allow both young and old to flourish.
In the Question Time that followed, many questions were raised by the audience. These included, should children be allowed to attend rallies about addressing climate change, during school time? The general consensus of the panel was in favour on a limited basis, as attendance at such rallies is educational and are part of the democratic process. How can the older generations in Malvern help the younger generations? Several suggestions were made by the panel, such as individuals and businesses could increase donations to provide the resources to fund activities and institutions that support work with young people such as the Malvern Cube. At a national level, it was stated that benefits for the older generations have been protected but funds for youth services have been cut. Many felt that the taxation system needs fundamental revision to allow more funds to be made available for such work. A question was raised on how can we encourage young people to stand for elections as local councillors in Malvern? Efforts are being made by current councillors to go into local schools for discussions on citizenship and to engage pupils on the wider issues. Such initiatives should be encouraged to help show that young people can help address the issues that concern them and perhaps to consider standing for council at some point. The event finished on a positive note where it was recognised that in general, younger people recognise that the care of the elderly should have a high priority and older people recognise that the young should be supported to do well in life. Initiatives that bring together both ends of the generation spectrum such as those connected with environmental concerns, visits to residential homes by groups of young people to do things together etc do occur and should be encouraged.
Many thanks to the many Lansdowne members for their help in making this event a success.
David Tweats, Lansdowne Crescent Church and EngageMalvern April 2019