Real Families: Crucial For Policy Change

22/09/2017 10:04 BST | Updated 22/09/2017 10:04 BST

The family unit has undergone big changes over the last 50 years. Today, almost half of UK adults aged between 20 and 24 are still living at home with their parents. In addition, attitudes towards retirement are also changing with more than 1.1 million over 65s still in employment.

The family unit remains as relevant today as it always has done, but there is no denying that the notion of "family" - and our roles within it - are continuing to change as rapidly as the world around us.

With such wholesale evolution, modifying state support and policy to match can be difficult. That's why it is vital that we listen to families to better understand how people actually feel. Only then can we ensure that proposed solutions and support mechanisms are fit for purpose.

In recent years, the Scottish Widows Centre for the Modern Family has uncovered some of the major challenges and opportunities facing different generations, in a bid to help shape policy changes.


The millennial generation was raised with the internet and digital communication embedded in their lives. As such, their outlook on the world is very different to their parents' generation. And yet, the global financial crash in 2007/08 has had an equally large impact on how they live their lives.

Half (50%) of 25-34 year olds who are delaying their plans to start a family are doing so due to affordability concerns. This is a bigger barrier than getting married (42%) or career goals (37%) and shows a marked difference to their parents' view on marriage and children. Yet, we cannot ignore the role of parents in supporting this generation. With young adults remaining at home for longer, parents are making important sacrifices in helping their children depart the family home and could be putting their own financial future at risk.

Changing retirement

The shape of Britain's workforce has changed significantly over the last decade. Since the Government abolished the default retirement age four years ago, more and more of us are working into what would once have been considered our retirement years.

While this may be a positive trend driven by older workers who don't feel ready for retirement, it may also be driven by need. As we've seen above, parents are supporting their children far beyond the age of 18 and contending with financial obligations beyond what they had planned or budgeted for in their later years.

Evolution of the workplace

As the family changes, it's important that society changes with it. In some ways this is most important in the workplace. Almost one in four UK workers (23%) told us they'd be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for more flexible working hours. However, although employers are positive about introducing flexible working policies, many are failing to offer them. Almost half (47%) say the type of work they do makes it difficult to work remotely or from home.

The growing impact of social care

Research from Independent Age recently found that nine of 10 MPs believe the social care system is 'not fit for purpose' and our research shows that people in the UK significantly underestimate how much it would cost to pay for care for themselves or a loved one. This means we could be facing an annual deficit of £7bn.

This lack of awareness is having a real impact on families, both financially and emotionally. Almost one quarter (23%) of those caring for a family member say it has put a strain on their finances. More than this, (27%) admit the stress of caring has put a strain on their close relationships too.

Working with real families to bring about real change

While the government recognises some of these issues, the family perspective is vital to truly understanding their impact.

This year, in light of what we've learned about the changing face of UK families, we've recruited a panel of families to help us delve even deeper into the financial and emotional pressures facing our nation today.

As society changes, their situations will likely change too. As policies come and go, their lives may get easier; they may get harder. What's crucial is that we continue to listen to what they tell us, fight for their rights and do everything we can to allow families of every shape and size to prosper.