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Five Ways The New Government Can Heal Divisions Between The Generations

11/06/2017 19:08
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The 2017 general election has been characterised as a battle between younger and older voters, ending in a score draw or hung Parliament.

But divisions between the generations need to be healed to build a stronger Britain.

United for All Ages has proposed five ways in which the new government can bring older and younger people together and end the growing age apartheid in Britain.

These include a new social contract between the generations; better communication between the generations; a commission on fair taxation; housing and care for all ages; and shared sites for young and older people.

Demographic splits in voting were deeply entrenched at the 2017 election, reflecting the lack of integration between the generations. One survey shows the 18 to 24 year old vote went 66 to 18 for Labour over the Tories, the widest divide since 1987, while those aged over 65 split 58 to 23 the other way, also the biggest divide since 1987.

Political parties have long skewed policies towards older people, because their turnout at elections has been much higher than younger people. But given the higher turnout in 2017 amongst younger people, policymaking needs to shift towards future generations.

United for All Ages proposes five ways to help make this happen:

a) Developing a new social contract between the generations: with guarantees on pensions, health, care and housing for the taxpayers of today, underpinned by transparency and a better understanding about the financial pressures facing each generation from pension entitlements to debt;

b) Supporting better communication between generations: establishing a national council for all ages supported by an intergenerational convention bringing older and younger people together from across the country to discuss big issues of mutual concern like welfare reform, housing and climate change;

c) Establishing a commission on fair taxation: intergenerational fairness must be underpinned by fairer taxation that redistributes from the wealthiest older people to the poorest youngsters; fairer taxation will shift the balance of taxation from income to wealth to reduce the burden on those of working age, end anomalies that favour older people like national insurance, review inheritance tax and include tough action on tax evasion;

d) Creating housing and care for all ages: a massive housebuilding drive, with some 300,000 affordable homes a year, needs to be complemented by more retirement housing to give older people options to move, thereby freeing up more family-sized homes; this could be boosted by tax incentives to downsize, such as exemptions on stamp duty; Homeshare schemes should be scaled up to enable older people with spare rooms to let them to younger people in exchange for practical support and companionship; the reform of care needs to be funded through fair taxation as above;

e) Creating shared spaces for all ages: making better use of community facilities and bringing people of different ages together; children's centres and schools, care homes and retirement villages, and other age-related centres could become community hubs, meeting places and service delivery points, that also increase contact and understanding between the generations; shared spaces and interests can enable people of different ages to spend meaningful time together by opening up community facilities from universities to older people's housing schemes for all ages and co-locating childcare and eldercare schemes.

The generational divide in political attitudes seen at the general election reflects a wider lack of trust and understanding between older and younger people. Britain is increasingly divided by age and by generation. Ending age apartheid and promoting social integration between generations can help build communities and a country for all ages, where we are united not divided. This should be a key priority for the new government.

Tackling intergenerational inequity is the challenge of our times. Economic measures are required urgently to address the housing crisis and develop fairer taxation. But we also need to bring older and younger people together to discuss mutual concerns and provide shared spaces which can promote stronger understanding and trust between people of all ages.

Stephen Burke is director of United for All Ages and Good Care Guide

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