Intergenerational Foundation https://www.if.org.uk Your Future Now Tue, 23 Feb 2021 18:49:16 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Students encouraged to think big when making complaints https://www.if.org.uk/2021/02/24/students-encouraged-to-think-big/ Wed, 24 Feb 2021 09:00:51 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12748 The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has reopened its consultation into the process by which students can make Large Group Complaints. IF intern Hugh Nicholl explores the implications of the OIA’s latest proposals for students affected by COVID-19 It has not been a fun twelve months for students. Some have not… Read more »

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The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) has reopened its consultation into the process by which students can make Large Group Complaints. IF intern Hugh Nicholl explores the implications of the OIA’s latest proposals for students affected by COVID-19

It has not been a fun twelve months for students. Some have not been back to university for nearly a year. Many made a brief trip in the autumn only to be locked up in cramped halls, lured in by promises of in-person contact. None have had the experience – academically or socially – that they hoped for.

Yet students have made little progress in the struggle to get their concerns addressed, leaving many exasperated. Indeed, for all the petitions, open letters, and meetings with universities that have been organised, students remain overly reliant on the goodwill of universities – and ultimately the government – in recognising and solving the huge issues that the coronavirus pandemic has raised.

With the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) reopening its consultation on Large Group Complaints from students, however, a new route to redress may be opening up, and when the OIA’s new rules are implemented, they could provide a much-needed mechanism for students to collectively launch complaints against higher education providers.

What is the OIA consulting on?

The OIA is the body that runs the higher education student complaints system in England and Wales. Superficially, the OIA seems designed for just this kind of moment: rather than leaving students powerless when mistreated by universities, the complaints watchdog provides a formal means by which students can escalate their concerns once they have been dismissed by a provider’s internal complaints procedure.

In addition to its existing mechanisms for individual students to make complaints on matters such as university teaching, assessment, accommodation, and welfare, the OIA has been developing its own set of procedures to deal with Large Group Complaints, defined as complaints shared by at least 100 or so students “where there is a high degree of commonality between the complaints”.

The development of these rules has taken on a renewed significance in the wake of COVID-19 and the collective disruption of higher education it has caused. The OIA’s consultation – initially launched last November – provided a welcome recognition that a collective, streamlined process was much more appropriate for dealing with large-scale complaints shared by many students. 

Why is the consultation needed?

The need for a Large Group Complaints procedure was recognised before the COVID-19 pandemic, with industrial action in 2018 and 2019 the main reason for its launch. Of course it is in the interests of higher education institutes for large group complaints to be streamlined, since it provides a cost saving – cheaper than having to hire extra staff to manage individual cases.

But the issue has taken on a new urgency over the past year because of the huge collective impact that the pandemic has had on students. In December the Office for National Statistics reported the results of a set of student surveys undertaken during the preceding term. With regards to mental health, three separate surveys all found that over half of students reported a deterioration in their well-being and mental health, while 29% described themselves as dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their academic experience.

Many students have also suffered financially due to the pandemic. Of particular concern has been the rent students are being charged for accommodation they are not legally allowed to travel to. The 2021 National Student Accommodation Survey, published this week by Save the Student, estimated that so far this academic year nearly £1 billion (£930,270,890) has been spent on unused accommodation, even once any discounts and refunds have been taken into account.

The government has done little to address these problems. In fact, with no apparent awareness of the pressing issues facing students today, the government’s latest higher education announcement concerned a new “free speech champion”, when what students really need is a champion for mental health. The government might argue that it has offered compensation to students in the form of its recent £50 million package of additional support for financial hardship. Yet at the equivalent of just £21 for each of the UK’s 2.38 million students, it is clear that this support does not go far enough. The UK’s student population, then, has found itself notably lacking in support and resources for addressing the problems caused by COVID-19.

What does this mean for students?

It is far from simple at the moment for a student to get their complaint investigated by the OIA: complaints must first be launched by an individual against a provider, and generally must have exhausted all internal complaints procedures before being escalated to the watchdog. The new rules for Large Group Complaints would simplify this process by allowing students to participate in a shared complaint without first having reached the end of a provider’s internal complaints procedure.

This marks a welcome change to what can be a tiresome procedure for students to conduct by themselves. After all, if many students are facing the same problems, it should not be down to every individual to wade through the bureaucratic swamp of internal complaints processes, especially at a time when students already have more than enough to be worrying about.

When these rules do come into effect, then, students will benefit from a simplified and streamlined complaints procedure that allows them to share the administrative burden of navigating complaints rules. To the students who have been reluctant to complain on an individual basis in the past, look to the OIA’s Large Group Complaints procedure!

Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@kochangbok

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

 

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Vaccine passports: a recipe for intergenerational resentment https://www.if.org.uk/2021/02/19/vaccine-passports/ Fri, 19 Feb 2021 15:46:24 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12741 As mass vaccination raises the prospect of releasing society from COVID-19 lockdown, there is much talk about introducing vaccine passports to hasten the process. But would the introduction of vaccine passports be intergenerationally fair? No it would not, says IF volunteer Samuel Rowland, for reasons of public health – and it will cause intergenerational resentment… Read more »

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As mass vaccination raises the prospect of releasing society from COVID-19 lockdown, there is much talk about introducing vaccine passports to hasten the process. But would the introduction of vaccine passports be intergenerationally fair? No it would not, says IF volunteer Samuel Rowland, for reasons of public health – and it will cause intergenerational resentment

Finally, a return to relative normality feels like it is on the horizon. The development of a range of effective vaccines has given us the confidence to begin planning how this normality might be achieved. One policy move that is being toyed with as a way of fast-tracking this process is the introduction of vaccine passports, which could be used to give the vaccinated portions of the population a range of freedoms, from international travel to relaxed restrictions to socialising.

Vaccine passports

According to google, the use of the phrase “vaccine passport” seems to be climbing up the media agenda, and is getting close to knocking “the new normal” off the top spot in COVID-related articles. Interest in the phrase has spiked, thanks largely to Boris Johnson calling vaccine passports an “inevitable” requirement for international travel. As of early February, this seems their most likely application, especially in light of Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi’s statement which ruled out the use of vaccine passports “for our domestic economy”.

However, this government has shown itself to be more than U-turn happy, with high profile corporate lobbyists also adding their weight in order to justify the domestic use of vaccine passports to fast-track the reopening of their businesses. So it is worth considering the implications of all potential applications of such a passport.

The economy and vaccine passports

Allowing some consumers back into industries that have been crippled by the virus would undoubtedly alleviate some of the economic pressures facing businesses shut down during the national lockdown, but is there an elephant in the room? Although the vaccines deliver personal protection from the virus, with an efficacy of 82% from Oxford-AstraZeneca and 95% from Pfizer, their effectiveness in reducing transmission is far more uncertain. For example, the first indication from Oxford-AstraZeneca suggests a potential reduction in disease transmission of up to 67% – significantly lower than the personal protection they provide.

We are also likely to be confronted with a range of variants that could be even more evasive than those currently circulating. If the vaccinated population of the country are let loose, either internationally or domestically, they may well be personally protected from the virus, but there is far less evidence to suggest that they will not spread it to the unvaccinated.

Intergenerational fairness

From a young person’s perspective, we have willingly sacrificed a year of our youth so far in order to protect the health of older generations and the clinically vulnerable, even though we are much less likely to be medically affected by it. We have also supported the prioritisation of older generations to being vaccinated before us.

It would be a massive intergenerational injustice, then, to discriminate against my generation by using vaccine passports as a barrier to our generation’s exiting of lockdown.

New variants and the young

The perception has been that younger people are not at risk from COVID-19, yet newer variants have shown to be more likely to result in moderate-to-severe symptoms in younger people. Releasing older generations from lockdown with passporting, while providing them with some level of personal protection, may well increase transmission of new variants among the young.

The government has repeatedly emphasised that its Number One priority is the prevention of pressure on the National Health Service. This, largely, has been at the expense of the economy. The trade-off has been that economic normality cannot at the moment coexist with public health normality.

If vaccine passports are introduced, it would show that that trade-off no longer applies – that the health of younger people is worth sacrificing for the sake of the economy, unlike the health of older people.

Intergenerational resentment

Vaccine passports are a one-way ticket to intergenerational resentment.

If older generations are allowed to travel internationally once they are vaccinated, then who will be driving their taxis to the airport? Who will be staffing their flights or cruise ships? The answer, as it stands, is unvaccinated young people.

If vaccine passports were to be applied domestically, to pubs, restaurants and venues, this would require a further army of unvaccinated young people to staff. These staff would have to work to serve older generations, whilst being locked away in their free time.

Boris Johnson’s consistent narrative has been that “we are all in the same boat”, but in a world of vaccine passports there is a big difference between sleeping in a cruise ship and sleeping in a bedsit.

Photo by Roman Nam on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@romannam

Help us to be able to do more

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reducing emissions through carbon pricing: how far have we come? https://www.if.org.uk/2021/02/08/reducing-emissions-through-carbon-pricing/ Mon, 08 Feb 2021 13:00:10 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12733 World leaders have taken some key steps forward regarding climate change over recent months, thus restoring some public confidence in global cooperation. One of the most effective ways in which countries can work together to reduce emissions is through emissions trading. IF researcher Melissa Bui looks at progress made on this front What has the… Read more »

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World leaders have taken some key steps forward regarding climate change over recent months, thus restoring some public confidence in global cooperation. One of the most effective ways in which countries can work together to reduce emissions is through emissions trading. IF researcher Melissa Bui looks at progress made on this front

What has the pandemic crisis taught us about international cooperation? German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered an answer to this question in her virtual speech to the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda Summit on 23 January: “industrialised nations have become too inward looking… Shutting themselves off against others will not help tackle either the climate crisis or COVID-19.”

Angela Merkel’s words come at a time when – at least with respect to international cooperation on climate change – the winds appear to be shifting. For instance, alongside rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, America’s new president Joe Biden has ordered that plans be developed to implement “the most aggressive” cut to emissions possible. China has also set in motion its new national carbon emissions trading system as of 1 February.

These are certainly significant moves in the right direction, given that China and the US are respectively the first and second largest emitters in the world. However, to be able to reduce global emissions effectively in the long run, countries need to work together.

One of the ways in which nations can cooperate is through linking their emissions trading systems, but how widely has this policy been adopted and how far have we got with ensuring that the different systems are compatible with each other?

Cap-and-trade 

Since 2005, European Union member countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have been participating in the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).

This system requires firms involved in energy production, aviation or industries whose activities are energy-intensive to emit within the limits allowed under their permits. Permits either can be bought from the government or are provided for free in special circumstances, and any excess allowances can be sold to other firms either domestically or overseas.

This essentially sets a price on carbon emissions. Given that the quantity of permitted carbon emissions will reduce gradually over time, companies are therefore incentivised to transition into using zero- or low-carbon technologies. Auctioning carbon permits also generates money for the government. Such a scheme is more generally referred to as a “cap-and-trade” system.

Unfortunately, it typically takes time for carbon prices to become high enough to be able to impact investment decisions. For years the EU ETS carbon price was depressed, partly because the financial crisis had reduced the output of firms to the extent that there was little need to buy more permits. The provision of free allowances to firms expected to struggle competitively because of increased costs also further drove the price down.

These trends have changed drastically over the last few years. As a result of several reforms to cut the cap on emissions more drastically, the price of carbon has more than trebled over the past two years, reaching the record price of €31 per tonne in December.

Barriers to cooperation

The EU ETS was, until recently, the largest carbon market in the world. However, its position has now been superseded by China, which is aiming to incorporate around a third of its market in its national emissions trading system. As with the EU ETS, prices will take time to rise. For now, emission allowances are being allocated to companies for free, but over time they will be phased out to allow carbon prices to rise enough to have a meaningful impact.

It’s important to note that China’s ETS is not yet compatible with the EU ETS. China’s system currently sets a cap on carbon intensity and not on carbon emission levels, meaning that only the most environmentally inefficient firms will be affected in the short run. Total emissions can still rise as long as firms also increase their output. This is because China’s economy is still developing and its emissions have not yet peaked. It is predicted that a cap on emissions will be introduced once this peak has been reached, which is estimated to be in 2028.

The reason why this matters is that if carbon trading markets are not compatible, there is a risk that firms will be incentivised to relocate their production processes overseas where the cost of carbon emissions is lower. This is referred to as carbon leakage.

One way in which this issue can be avoided is by introducing carbon duties on imports from countries that have yet to adopt a compatible carbon pricing system (either through a similar emissions trading system or through a carbon tax); however, countries have largely been hesitant to implement a carbon border tax because of the potential tensions it can raise in trade disputes.

Carbon leakage is also a concern in the UK. Since leaving the EU, the UK government has decided to separate from the EU ETS with the aim of pursuing more ambitious climate targets through a UK version of the emissions trading system. The UK ETS will supposedly aim to reduce the cap on emissions to 5% below the UK’s share under the EU ETS system. These more ambitious targets, while commendable, increase the risk of firms moving production elsewhere to avoid higher prices.

Difficult disputes

The risk of carbon leakage is even higher if no carbon pricing mechanism has been introduced at all. For instance, in the US, although a number of US states have already introduced a cap-and-trade system, a national system has yet to be implemented. Introducing a carbon border tax with the US would be difficult.

US government officials have already questioned the fairness of a EU carbon border tax (also known as the carbon border adjustment mechanism) which is expected to be tabled in June. They question whether there is a need to impose carbon duties on US imports if progress is already being made with reducing carbon emissions through other means. As the UK hopes to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, it is unlikely that we will take this step.

The US is not the only nation to have expressed their opposition to the idea of a carbon border tax. A senior Chinese diplomat has also called for more consultation on whether this policy will truly benefit trade and the environment.

If a border tax is not implemented, then the only other effective method for reducing emissions worldwide would be to make emissions trading systems compatible with each other so that a global carbon price can be formed. In the words of Lídia Pereira, a member of the European Parliament delegation for relations with China, “We can only win together, or we will lose together.”

Photo by Andreas Felske on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@andreasfelske

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

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Economic impact of COVID-19 continues to disadvantage younger people https://www.if.org.uk/2021/02/05/covid-19-disadvantages-younger-people/ Fri, 05 Feb 2021 12:13:20 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12728 Last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published new data detailing the current state of the UK’s labour market and businesses. This has revealed not only the damaging impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have on the UK’s economy as a whole, but also the disproportionally negative impact that it is having… Read more »

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Last week, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published new data detailing the current state of the UK’s labour market and businesses. This has revealed not only the damaging impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have on the UK’s economy as a whole, but also the disproportionally negative impact that it is having on younger people. Lizzie Simpson, IF Researcher, explains

Employment

The latest ONS figures from September to November 2020 reveal the worrying statistic that the UK employment rate has risen to 5.0% – 1.2 percentage points higher than in the same period the previous year.

For younger people, the situation is even more dire. The unemployment rate for 16–24 year-olds is now at 14.2%, up from 11.3% compared to the same period last year. This is a rise of 2.9% – more than double the average rise for all age groups.

Additionally, the number of employees on the payroll has fallen by over 800,000 since the beginning of the pandemic, which is higher than the reported 570,000 fall in employment. The ONS suggests that this is due to the significant section of the working population who are employed casually, many of whom are younger and normally work casual shifts or have zero-hours contracts. While these workers may still be reporting as employed, they are not being paid and are not eligible to receive furlough money. Therefore, the actual negative economic impact for younger people is likely to be even higher than the reported unemployment figures show.

During this three-month period, the overall redundancy rate also reached a record high of 14.2 per thousand people. This was highest for the 25–34 age cohort of Millennials, which had a redundancy rate of 16.2 per thousand people.

It is also worth noting that these figures cover only the period up until the end of November, and as such do not yet show the full impact of further closures of the hospitality and retail sectors during the December tier restrictions and the national lockdown in January 2021.

Businesses

New experimental data released by the ONS also show the impact that the pandemic has had on businesses. The number of business closures in the last quarter of 2020 was 37% higher than the previous year, and higher than any fourth quarter over the past four years.

Interestingly, the number of businesses created in this period was 24% higher than the previous year. We can only speculate about why business start-ups have taken place mid-pandemic. One reason may be that lost income in paid employment has pushed people to think about earning money for themselves rather than for someone else. Another reason may be that employers have moved people from paid employees to self-employment in order to drive down their staffing costs. Whatever the reasons, businesses created at the end of 2020 were on average smaller and employed fewer people than in the same time period of previous years, reflecting that many of these businesses are in industries where fewer employees are required, such as online retailing.

This indicates that although business creations have been higher than normal, this does not mean there have been enough new jobs created from these to replace those that have been lost.

NEETs

Another key indicator of the economic impact of COVID-19 on younger people is the percentage of young people who are “NEETs” – 16–24 year-olds who are not in education, employment or training.

Prior to the pandemic, the percentage of NEETs had steadily decreased from 2011 to 2017 and had been fairly flat from 2017 onwards. The latest figures reveal that between July and September 2020 there were an estimated 757,000 young people who were NEET (11% of this age group), the lowest level since records began in 2001.

However, rather than being a cause for celebration, a closer look at the data reveals that this figure is largely due to a much higher rate of younger people staying in education. Unemployment among NEETs has risen considerably, as there were an estimated 344,000 unemployed NEETs in July to September 2020, up by 27,000 from the previous year.

This indicates that rather than attempting to secure a job in such a challenging labour market, younger people are choosing to stay in education for longer in order to try to wait out the worst of the economic crisis – a similar phenomenon also occurred after the 2008 financial crisis.

Kickstart Scheme

One positive step for young people’s employment prospects is the Kickstart Scheme launched by the Government last September, which provides funding for employers to create placements for young people who are at risk of long-term unemployment. This scheme has so far created 120,000 temporary placements, and the recent removal of the 30-job threshold is great news for smaller businesses who want to take part in the scheme.

However, the actual uptake of the scheme has been slow and, as of 15 January 2021, only 1,868 young people have actually begun their work placements. It is likely this scheme may need a review to discern why its high numbers of placements are not yet translating into higher numbers of young people in employment.

There is also uncertainty whether these temporary placements will translate into long-term jobs, as this was a problem with the Future Jobs Fund – a similar scheme set up to help young people into employment after the 2008 crisis.

Why this matters

IF has previously drawn attention to the fact that younger workers have been more likely than any other age group to have been made redundant or to have been placed on furlough. There is also evidence that being unemployed as a young adult can lead to “wage-scarring”, whereby periods of unemployment can negatively impact on employment and wages in the longer term.

These new statistics add to the mounting evidence that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are not affecting everyone equally, with younger age groups suffering the most from redundancies and lack of employment opportunities.

With this in mind, we recommend that policies geared towards the UK’s economic recovery should take an intergenerational equity-based approach which demonstrates an awareness of the unique challenges that COVID-19 is causing for younger people.

The young people of today are the taxpayers of the future and are likely to be the generation footing the bill for much of the debt accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is therefore especially important that young people’s employment prospects are a priority for policy-makers, to ensure that this generation will not be left alone to struggle with the economic burden of the pandemic throughout their working lives.

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/OBmBHmrc3pw

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

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Time to Talk Day: treat young people better https://www.if.org.uk/2021/02/04/time-to-talk-day/ Thu, 04 Feb 2021 12:32:16 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12717 To mark this year’s “Time to Talk Day” IF researcher Melissa Bui  (author of our “Costing Young Minds” paper) starts a conversation about how the negative attitudes towards children and young people during the COVID-19 crisis have had negative consequences – whether directly or indirectly – on their mental health “Time to Talk Day” is one… Read more »

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To mark this year’s “Time to Talk Day” IF researcher Melissa Bui  (author of our “Costing Young Minds” paper) starts a conversation about how the negative attitudes towards children and young people during the COVID-19 crisis have had negative consequences – whether directly or indirectly – on their mental health

“Time to Talk Day” is one of the most anticipated mental health days in the calendar. Falling on a day during Children’s Mental Health Week every year, its theme centres around encouraging more open discussions on mental ill-health, tackling stigma as well as all of the struggles that might arise as a consequence – such as a sense of worthlessness, shame, guilt and embarrassment.

Since the last Time to Talk Day in February 2020, children and young people have faced an unforeseeable increase in the risk of developing mental health problems as a result of the pandemic. Mental health services have been disrupted, families have faced blows to their income, face-to-face social interactions have been restricted for extended periods of time and school life has largely shifted online. These changes are thought to be responsible for increasing the prevalence and severity of mental health problems among children and young people.

As an organisation that exists to make sure that young people are treated fairly, IF has also observed a disappointing rise in the negative and unsympathetic rhetoric surrounding younger generations. For instance, children and young people have previously been blamed for the rising number of COVID-19 cases. We would like to take this opportunity to emphasise the importance of shifting the discourse away from scapegoating and towards more positive discussions on how to treat mental health problems and the factors that are exacerbating them.

Using young people as a scapegoat for rising COVID-19 cases is not helpful and is potentially counterproductive to encouraging young people to seek help for their mental health problems. To minimise the mental health consequences of the pandemic, steps need to be taken not only to directly tackle the issue, but also to address the root issues that are triggering declines in mental health too.

The mental health cost of COVID-19

In early September last year, around the time when the new academic year was starting, the Health Secretary of the UK, Matt Hancock, had some not-so-comforting words to offer to children and young people: “Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.”

This kind of language is an example of the lack of empathy for younger generations observed over the past year – despite the fact that younger people are also bearing the brunt of both the mental-health and economic cost of the pandemic.

For many children, and particularly those with pre-existing health conditions, distance-learning is proving to be extremely challenging, and potentially damaging for their mental health. A YoungMinds survey, conducted with 2,011 young people with a history of mental-health conditions between mid to late September 2020, demonstrated that a higher percentage of respondents reported poor mental health since returning to school (69%) compared to before they came back to school (58%).

Pressure on students

In another example of pressure on young people, university students are being forced to pay for term-time accommodation that they are not allowed to use as well as full tuition fees for learning that is either largely or entirely delivered online.

In early December, students were offered a period of around six days to return to their non-term time address for the Christmas break. Government guidelines were updated during this window and students were advised against returning to face-to-face teaching unless it was important for their course. Return was later completely prohibited under the new national lockdown rules.

Recent ONS survey results reveal that 63% of student respondents reported worse mental health since the start of the academic year. According to the figures, students who are living under different arrangements in the current term compared to the autumn term (which mostly refers to individuals who had gone home and couldn’t return) were more likely to indicate a decline in their mental health than those who were still living in the same place.

Time to talk about funding

It’s also time for us to have an honest conversation about funding for mental health services.

While the rapid provision of digital mental health treatments has been commendable, many services are still lacking sufficient funding to be able to fully meet the increasing needs of young people during lockdown. In the latest episode of our podcast What IF? (Episode 2: What IF the Government invested more in young people’s mental health?), Emily Price, a third-year history student from Newcastle University, explained how she was no longer eligible for mental health support from her university because she had already received her allocated three hours of therapy over the phone during the first lockdown.

Unfortunately, Emily’s experience is not an isolated case. The YoungMinds survey mentioned above also revealed that around 40% of young people claimed that their school had no school counsellor available to provide support. A different YoungMinds survey of GPs prior to the pandemic also showed that only 20% felt that they had adequate training in responding to mental health problems exhibited by infants, children and young people.

Although some may question the economic feasibility of increasing spending on children and young people’s mental health under current circumstances, previous research by the Intergenerational Foundation has shown that it makes economic and, more specifically, fiscal sense to do so. We have estimated that the government loses approximately £2.9 billion from a single cohort of individuals as a result of depression. This would be enough to pay for 350 sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy for each individual – much more than an individual with a mental health disorder typically needs for treatment to be effective.

The silver lining?

Despite these worrying statistics, there does seem to be a silver lining. The government has recently announced a £50 million support fund to help university students facing loss of employment and/or additional costs for alternative accommodation, or to support access to remote teaching amid COVID-19. This is certainly a step in the right direction and it is likely that the campaigns for rent discounts will have played a role in this decision.

Experts have suggested that, as an unintended consequence, it is possible that the shared experience of living under national restrictions could have increased general public awareness of mental health issues, and thus potentially reducing mental ill-health stigma. According to a group of researchers from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, “the awareness of COVID-19’s universal threat to our wellbeing has connected people in a new way worldwide. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating effects, going forward, this pandemic could dramatically reduce mental health stigma leading to increased mental health help-seeking globally; talking about our mental health will become a new norm.”

Both examples are a further testament to the benefits of talking more openly about mental health disorders. We need to make sure that these positive trends do not disappear with the pandemic once the situation improves.

 

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

 

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Students, don’t hold your breath for a student fee reduction https://www.if.org.uk/2021/01/26/dont-hold-your-breath-for-a-student-fee-reduction/ Tue, 26 Jan 2021 11:11:35 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12703 Liz Emerson, IF Co-founder, runs through the Department for Education’s interim response to the Augar Review The Augur Review, commissioned by Theresa May when Prime Minister in 2018, looked at post-18 education and funding, with the aim of ensuring that post-18 education gives everyone a “genuine choice between high-quality technical and academic routes; that students and… Read more »

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Liz Emerson, IF Co-founder, runs through the Department for Education’s interim response to the Augar Review

The Augur Review, commissioned by Theresa May when Prime Minister in 2018, looked at post-18 education and funding, with the aim of ensuring that post-18 education gives everyone a “genuine choice between high-quality technical and academic routes; that students and taxpayers are getting value for money; and that employers can access the skilled workforce they need.” Unsurprisingly, thanks to a General Election, Brexit, and a worldwide pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) has only now responded with an interim conclusion. So, what should students know?

Student fees

While Augar recommended the reduction in fees to £7,500 a year, the government has sadly ignored that recommendation and instead announced the freezing of student fees for the next academic year. That means that they will remain at £9,250.

IF has long called for lower student fees and the return to a more equitable sharing of the cost of higher education in which the State invests in the higher education of our young people, the cost of which is already captured by our progressive tax system which taxes more the more people earn.

More worryingly for younger generations, the government also stated that it plans to reconsider student finance terms and conditions. Let’s hope that does not mean extending the loan term to 40 years, thereby trapping graduates into repayment for longer, leaving them facing marginal tax rates of 41% if earning above the current threshold of £26,575.

At least future loan book sell-offs are now off the table thanks to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) changing the accounting treatment for student loans, which meant that student loans could no longer be treated as assets that could be sold off to the private sector, but instead are liabilities that have to remain on the government’s balance sheet.

Lifelong learning

The government has committed to supporting lifelong loan entitlements and a lifetime skills guarantee which would follow students throughout their lives and allow them to use student loans to fund up to four years of upskilling later in life, both of which were key Augar recommendations.

How student loans taken out later in life can be paid back intergenerationally fairly within the current income-contingent loan system is yet to be seen.

Technical qualifications

The government’s obsession with channelling more students into “technical” and “useful” courses in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, healthcare and courses that meet specific market-led needs is made plain with the government stating that “our vision is that the substantial majority of post-16 technical and Higher Technical Education will be aligned to employer-led standards by the end of this decade.”

This will send alarm bells through many arts administration departments as Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, also used today to announce his intention to control the number of students studying particular subjects at certain institutions by using minimum entry qualifications as a means of accessing or being denied student loans, as well as reducing government funding for performing and creative arts, media studies and archaeology which will see 50% funding cuts. A sad day indeed.

Modularisation

Another key plank of a reformed higher education sector appears to be a move to mondularisation, which would allow students to complete their courses over longer periods of time by undertaking modules which can be taken at different institutions and further education establishments.

More money for 16–19 year-olds

One of the major criticisms of the current finance model has been the lack of financial support for sixth-form colleges, so a £291-million increase to 16–19 funding at the 2020 Spending Review was announced on top of £400 million announced in the 2019 Spending Review.

More consultations!

There will be yet another consultation this spring on student finance as well as consultations on a potential move to post-qualification admissions, and the Intergenerational Foundation will submit evidence calling for a fairer finance and admissions deal on intergenerational fairness terms.

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

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Why is action so far behind rhetoric on intergenerational fairness? https://www.if.org.uk/2021/01/21/rhetoric-on-intergenerational-fairness/ Thu, 21 Jan 2021 09:00:22 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12695 IF intern Hugh Nicholl investigates why the growing rhetoric of intergenerational fairness has not resulted in decisive action being taken to protect the interests of younger and future generations The prominence of intergenerational fairness in political discourse and debate is on the up. Previously a minority concern, the notion that policy today should reflect the… Read more »

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IF intern Hugh Nicholl investigates why the growing rhetoric of intergenerational fairness has not resulted in decisive action being taken to protect the interests of younger and future generations

The prominence of intergenerational fairness in political discourse and debate is on the up. Previously a minority concern, the notion that policy today should reflect the interests and rights of younger and future generations has, in theory, attracted a wide body of supporters across the political spectrum over the course of IF’s ten years of advocacy. Yet action on intergenerational justice remains well behind these advances in rhetoric. Why is it, then, that there is such a gap between the rhetoric and reality of action on intergenerational fairness? 

Rhetoric

When IF was founded in 2011, it would have been rather surprising for the Conservative Housing Secretary to draw on the language of intergenerational justice in setting out government housing policy. Yet last month the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, explicitly pointed to “intergenerational fairness” as one of the tenets on which the government’s aspiration to build more homes rested.

Jenrick’s use of the term illustrates the extent to which the notion of intergenerational fairness is gradually permeating throughout policy and political discourse. In fact, over the past decade and a half the belief that policy-makers today have a responsibility for future generations has become increasingly widespread. Figure 1 shows the number of references in Parliament to “future generations” each year since 2005 and demonstrates the extent to which intergenerational issues have grown in visibility.

The coronavirus pandemic has both accelerated and illustrated the extent of this shift. In October Chancellor Rishi Sunak went so far as to speak of the “sacred responsibility to future generations” that sound public finances constituted, placing the issue of intergenerational fairness at the heart of his commitment to fiscal prudence. Sunak is not the first Chancellor in recent years to use such language, though: having introduced his Spring Statement in March 2018, Philip Hammond declared himself “a great fan of the concept of intergenerational fairness” in response to a question on intergenerational injustices in the tax system.

Notably, this growing prominence of discourse on intergenerational justice has not been confined to the Right. Spurred on by the climate crisis, commitment to protecting the interests of future generations is gaining ground on the Left too. For example, in 2018 Ed Miliband  – the former Labour Party leader who has recently returned to the opposition front bench as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – wrote on Twitter that “We owe it to future generations not just to have good environmental principles but to act on them.”

The link between climate change and intergenerational fairness has also been noted by Conservatives like Alok Sharma, who recently moved from BEIS to become President of the COP26 climate summit: his opening remarks at December’s pre-COP26 Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit concluded by reiterating the importance of helping “preserve our planet for future generations”.

Cross-party talk on future generations extends beyond the issue of climate change, though. Over 70 MPs have already declared their supported for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, a private members’ bill sponsored by crossbench peer Lord Bird and Green MP Caroline Lucas that returns to Parliament for its second reading later this month. The Bill’s proposals include the establishment of a Commissioner for Future Generations for the United Kingdom, emulating Wales’s Future Generations Commissioner at the national level, as well as introducing a requirement for governments to consider how their legislation affects future generations through the publication of future generations impact assessments. Among the Bill’s supporters are MPs ranging from Jeremy Corbyn and Rosena Allin-Khan on the Left to influential Conservatives such as Sir Graham Brady and COVID vaccination minister Nadhim Zahawi, demonstrating the extent to which the momentum behind intergenerational fairness is building across the political spectrum.

Reality

If the rhetoric of intergenerational fairness has made significant advances, then what of the reality?

Despite the rising profile of intergenerational issues, 2020 arguably witnessed a new low for action on the matter through the dual crises of Brexit and the coronavirus. Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy has eschewed the compromise that an intergenerationally fair settlement would have entailed – only 29% of those aged 18–24 voted to Leave, after all – and in its place sought and secured a clean break away from the EU. Many young people feel not only that their political voice has been ignored, but that their employment and educational prospects have been harmed as a result.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated further shortcomings in government action on behalf of younger and future generations. While the effects of the coronavirus have, of course, been felt across all age groups, the implications for younger people have proved noticeably absent from government policy: from unjust exam algorithms to student accommodation lockups and often ineffective government spending deferred onto future generations, the intergenerational injustices of COVID policy have been numerous.

The failure to take action on issues of intergenerational fairness has certainly not been limited to the crisis year of 2020, however. On issues such as pensions, housing, tuition fees and climate change, the reality of intergenerational fairness has too often seemed insulated from the rhetorical advances of recent years. Despite the occasional glimpses of action on intergenerational fairness – for example, the government has recently announced a long-overdue move away from RPI, a highly punitive measure of inflation for those with student debt – the overall record on delivering on intergenerational fairness has failed to match its growing visibility.

Explaining the problem

How can this mismatch between the rhetoric and reality of commitments to intergenerational fairness be explained?

There is arguably a simple answer: future generations can’t vote. While it might be excessively cynical to presume that elected politicians have no considerations beyond their short-term electoral interests, it is hardly surprising that MPs prioritise policies that favour their odds of reelection over those that reap benefits long after their political careers have come to an end.

The neglect of younger and future generations is in part an amplification of the problem of comparatively lower turnout among young voters: just as politicians refuse to tackle intergenerational injustices in areas such as the pension system due to electoral impact of older voters, so too do they neglect the interests of future generations which they have even less of an electoral incentive to serve.

IF’s latest research on Britain’s ageing political class has shed further light on the institutional barriers to intergenerationally fair policy-making, uncovering the striking extent to which young people are not represented among politicians. For example, the median age of MPs elected in the 2019 general election was 51, while the median age of members of the House of Lords is now 72, far higher than the population median of 40. If policy-making is to become more intergenerationally fair, then a political class that is less dominated by older generations would be a good place to start.

This points to the broader question of how the gap between the rhetoric and reality of intergenerationally fair policy-making can be closed. Establishing institutional mechanisms that incorporate the interests of younger and future generations into the political process would certainly help, and IF supports the efforts currently being made to implement such measures through the Future Generations Bill.

In the short term, however, securing these institutional mechanisms will likely prove an uphill struggle, especially in the absence of government support. Yet if the growing prominence of intergenerational fairness continues on its current trajectory, then there are perhaps much stronger grounds for optimism. As long as advocates for intergenerational fairness continue to make their voices heard – as is increasingly the case already – then the calls to take decisive action on the part of younger and future generations may ultimately prove irresistible. After all, even if the last decade’s significant shift in policy discourse towards intergenerational fairness has not proved a sufficient condition for a transformation in how policy-makers see their intergenerational responsibilities, it may well still constitute a necessary one.

Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@amutiomi

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

The post Why is action so far behind rhetoric on intergenerational fairness? appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

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Homeownership denied: an intergenerational injustice https://www.if.org.uk/2021/01/19/homeownership-an-intergenerational-injustice/ Tue, 19 Jan 2021 09:00:21 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12686 There is real concern that the younger generation will have a lower standard of living than their parents – which violates a key principle of intergenerational fairness. One issue at the centre of this concern is housing. IF supporter Rosie Neville sees it from her perspective and offers some solutions The decline in the homeownership… Read more »

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There is real concern that the younger generation will have a lower standard of living than their parents – which violates a key principle of intergenerational fairness. One issue at the centre of this concern is housing. IF supporter Rosie Neville sees it from her perspective and offers some solutions

The decline in the homeownership rate among young and middle-aged adults in Great Britain has been a politically topical issue for the last few years. The drop in the proportion of young adults owning their own home is stark. Under-40s are half as likely to own a home as their parents were at their age. It is also projected that up to one third of Millennials will face living in private rented accommodation all their life. This compares to only 6% of the current over-65s being private renters.

There is a consensus across the political spectrum that it is much too difficult for young adults to get on the property ladder. As the ability of the under-40s to buy a house erodes, both intergenerational and interregional inequalities increase.

Is this the decline in homeownership actually a problem? 

The desire to be a homeowner is firmly rooted in the British psyche – “an Englishman’s home is his castle” etc. I too have an aspiration in life to own my own house. However, after looking at the housing situation, this remains an aspiration and is not an expectation.

But is this even a problem? Should young people, like myself, just get over it?

Historically, most people didn’t own a home. In medieval times kings and lords owned all the land and let people live on it in return for servitude. However, we live in the modern day – therefore medieval peasants may not be the most illuminating reference points. I believe that the decline in homeownership is a problem that needs to be tackled.

Declining homeownership among young adults is a problem because benefits from homeownership are several-fold. Owning a property outright means that you can reduce your living costs as there will be no rent or mortgage to pay. Linked to this, conditions in the private rented sector are often poor. Additionally, owning property brings with it financial security – particularly given house-price trends – as well as stability, which is especially important to those looking to start a family. Furthermore, a home is an asset and therefore can be used as collateral for future leverage on lower-cost loans.

We need to examine, and seek to mitigate, the social and economic forces that are locking young people out of the property market and off the property ladder.

What is causing the issue? 

There has been an explosion in house prices, especially over the last 20 or so years. Since 1997, the average real property price in England has risen by 173%, and by 253% in London. This rise has far outstripped average income growth, especially amongst the young.

Soaring house prices can be attributed to several factors, such as a chronic lack of supply and speculative demand from foreign nationals.

What does the government propose?

There have been many suggestions in the past few years, ranging from the radical to the ineffective. Back in October 2020, in his conference speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to put “Generation Buy” on the housing ladder and create two million new owner-occupiers with the help of low-deposit (5%) mortgages. The logic behind this proposal is that deposits are increasingly unaffordable, especially as the costs of renting increase.

However, I contend that such a demand-side approach will likely be ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. The issue of this proposal is that improved access to finances leads to higher house prices. Such a policy will therefore benefit those who already own homes, not those struggling.

What do I propose? 

Britain suffers from an acute shortage of new homes. The fact is that we are simply not building enough affordable homes. The solution, therefore, is to build more affordable housing.

However, this is easier said than done.

Housing supply is famously inelastic to demand. This is in part due planning restrictions and the attitude of “nimbyism” – “not in my backyard” – around housing. Most people are aware more houses are needed, but they don’t want them built near them and therefore oppose the building of new houses in their local community.

Here I want to consider two proposals that I believe can help: revisiting the Green Belt policy and the subdivision of existing large houses.

Although this is a controversial point of view, I believe that the current Green Belt policy needs to be reviewed. The Green Belt now covers around 13% of all of England’s land, compared to only 2.3% which is covered by urban areas. The Green Belt policy limits supply and therefore inflates house prices.

I am not suggesting we should tarmac the entirety of the Green Belt. Of course there is great value in preserving places of natural beauty and biodiversity. However, this does not describe the Green Belt in its entirety. Much of the Green Belt consists of brownfield land with little or no environmental value. Therefore I believe a pragmatic discussion around effective ways we can protect green spaces, alongside providing good-quality affordable homes, is needed.

Another approach which relieves housing undersupply may be the subdivision of big properties into smaller ones, such as creating a basement flat. In the last 20 years, under-occupation (having two or more spare bedrooms) has increased for owner-occupiers to 52%. Such an approach may be particularly appealing for older people who may wish to downsize but don’t want to leave their existing community. It may also have the added benefit of bridging the physical divide between young and old. Such “downsizing in situ” could be actively encouraged by government policy and financial incentives.

There is no magic bullet to solve the housing crisis. A judicious and imaginative mix of policy is needed. I hope the right action is taken in order to address the housing crisis… but I am not holding my breath.

Photo by Mika on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@mbaumi

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

 

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Can’t stay? We’ll make you pay anyway https://www.if.org.uk/2021/01/16/cant-stay-make-you-pay-anyway/ Sat, 16 Jan 2021 10:00:06 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12681 The private lettings market for students during the latest wave of COVID-19 is a case of flagrant exploitation, says second-year St Andrews student Rhiannon Woolford The UK student rental market has exploded in recent decades, benefiting from a dramatic rise in student numbers to almost 2.4 million who are loaned more than £17 billion a… Read more »

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The private lettings market for students during the latest wave of COVID-19 is a case of flagrant exploitation, says second-year St Andrews student Rhiannon Woolford

The UK student rental market has exploded in recent decades, benefiting from a dramatic rise in student numbers to almost 2.4 million who are loaned more than £17 billion a year to fund their studies.

The continued expansion of universities has resulted in the student rental market reaching an accumulative transaction value of £4.6 billion in 2017, a figure which is expected to continue rising, and an asset value of £43 billion.

Given the clear wealth of the sector, the lack of financial support for students stuck in rental contracts during the pandemic is astounding. Both higher education providers and the government have failed us and something must be done about it.

Students and the private rental sector

Typically, a student is accommodated in university-managed halls of residence during their first year of study. This is due to a myriad of factors, such as building a social circle and a more gradual transition to independent living, with halls often being bills-inclusive and having wardens to provide on-site assistance.

However, while many universities often have an accommodation guarantee for first-years there is rarely enough accommodation for all students to stay in halls of residence for the duration of their study. For example, St Andrews has just over 4000 bed spaces but around 10,000 students. This leaves students with two options: seek accommodation in a private hall of residence, provided by companies such as Unite and IQ, or seek a private let in the local community.

Most private landlords and lettings agents will use an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, usually for a period of 12 months. Within the agreed timeframe, tenants are liable for rent without the option to give notice to quit.

Therefore students who have been once again asked to return to their family home and remain there for the foreseeable future are being forced to pay for property which they are legally unable to access.

Left in lettings limbo by the government and HE providers

Many students have been left in this position since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK last March. Yet, while the situation last March was entirely unexpected and unavoidable, this one was entirely preventable.

The commodification of higher education in the UK resulted in universities last summer promising the undeliverable to students who were desperate to flee the constraints of living in their family home and to return to independent living at university.

Within mere days of returning, however, COVID-19 began spreading on campus like wildfire – resulting in many students questioning whether they should have  returned and now trapped in tenancy agreements.

While universities have often made provisions for those in their halls of residence,  private student renters have been left to fight for ourselves. From anecdotal evidence amongst my peers, this has been to limited avail, with many private landlords unwilling to give student tenants payment holidays, rent reductions or a clause to leave their assured shorthold tenancy agreements.

While universities are happy to continue to “lobby” the government to  provide us with support, they are unwilling to put their hands in their own pockets and provide us with financial rebate.

This is reprehensible: if we hadn’t been so fervently encouraged back to campus by our universities in the first place then we wouldn’t be in this position. Our HE providers have caused this mess, they need to fix it.

I have personally paid over £3000 for accommodation, and had less than 20 hours of in-person teaching.

No one is denying that – from a public health perspective – university and government policy makes sense but, for students lured to campus under false pretences and trapped in tenancy agreements, the announcement by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that we now should not return to campus until March at the earliest feels like another in a long line of back stabs by the government.

The new variant of COVID was spreading before we returned home for Christmas. The government and our higher education providers had a responsibility to tell us before we left that there would be a possibility we could not return. Had they done so, I and many of my friends would have remained at university.

The consequences of these communication failures and lack of financial support are very real for many students, some of whom are now facing personal financial crises. A recent survey from NUS Scotland has found that 25% of students have been unable to pay rent during the pandemic and 33% have been unable to pay bills. This will have a direct impact on students’ futures, with utility debts impacting credit ratings, and late payments making it more difficult to get a favourable reference from landlords.

It should not be a controversial opinion to believe that our young people’s futures shouldn’t be jeopardised by rent and utility bills in a global pandemic; we need immediate action.

What can be done to rectify this situation?

Ultimately, there are only two options which can rectify the appalling situation students have found themselves in. We must either be allowed to return to our term-time accommodation, which numerous students call home, to complete the lockdown there, or be financially compensated for our losses.

Allowing us to return under the stipulation of self-isolation upon arrival would ensure that students feel as though they have been treated fairly. That said, financial compensation is the most viable and safest option.

Financial compensation would go a long way to alleviating the anger we feel at being treated so differently to other groups of consumers. Couples who have been unable to get married have had the costs of their wedding refunded. Holiday makers who’ve had their holidays cancelled have received refunds.

Yet students remain paying full tuition and full accommodation fees for an experience which is a far cry from that which we signed up to.

Financial compensation could take a number of forms.

The government could step in to provide students with a direct refund or tuition fee forgiveness.

They could also provide mortgage holidays to student landlords under the strict and contractual stipulation that this payment holiday will be extended to tenants.

These measures would not only compensate students for their losses but also help prevent the spread of coronavirus. If the financial burden of paying rent for empty accommodation is alleviated, students will be far less likely to defy government guidance and return to university.

It is in the best interests of public health, support for government policy and the reputation of universities to financially compensate us for the mess we find ourselves in. If we can’t stay we should not be forced to pay.

Photo by Deborah Cortelazzi on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@deborah_cortelazzi

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

The post Can’t stay? We’ll make you pay anyway appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

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Why it’s time for a Future Generations Act https://www.if.org.uk/2021/01/15/time-for-a-future-generations-act/ Fri, 15 Jan 2021 10:00:59 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12676 The “Wellbeing of Future Generations” Bill returns to Parliament later this month. IF intern Hugh Nicholl explains the case in favour of the legislation The “Wellbeing of Future Generations” Bill – a private members’ bill sponsored by crossbench peer Lord Bird and Green MP Caroline Lucas – returns to Parliament later this month for its… Read more »

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The “Wellbeing of Future Generations” Bill returns to Parliament later this month. IF intern Hugh Nicholl explains the case in favour of the legislation

The “Wellbeing of Future Generations” Bill – a private members’ bill sponsored by crossbench peer Lord Bird and Green MP Caroline Lucas – returns to Parliament later this month for its second reading. If passed, the Bill would require legislation to set out its impacts on future generations, embedding the principle of intergenerational fairness into the practice of policy-making. For this reason, the Bill would be a welcome step towards addressing the problems of government short-termism and the neglect of younger and future generations that have been at the heart of IF’s mission. 

The case for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill

For ten years IF’s central purpose has been to advocate for the interests of younger and future generations, with a particular focus on the limited consideration of intergenerational fairness in policy-making. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill would require governments to take into account their impact on future generations, including through the publication of future generations impact assessments. The Bill also proposes the establishment of a Commissioner for Future Generations for the United Kingdom, following the example of Wales, which appointed the world’s first Future Generations Commissioner in 2016.

In seeking to cement the interests of future generations in the policy process, the Bill encapsulates much of what IF has campaigned for over the course of its ten years of advocacy. It is clear that the current system is not doing enough to protect future generations, with issues ranging from the neglect of the climate crisis, to the growing economic divide between generations. Mandating our politicians to move beyond short-term policy-making could be a central means of addressing the intergenerational injustices that our political system currently generates.

Evidence to support the Bill’s proposals

There is a strong theoretical case, then, in favour of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. But what of the evidence to support the Bill’s measures? Perhaps the clearest evidence to draw on is Wales’s experience following the passage of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Among the Act’s measures was the establishment of the world’s first Future Generations Commissioner, which the Bill currently before Parliament proposes to emulate at the UK level.

While it is difficult to gauge the short-term impact of legislation intended to prompt deeper, cultural change in policy-making, there is nevertheless evidence to support the effectiveness of Wales’s future generations legislation. Last year the Welsh Auditor General published its findings for the first five-year reporting period as to how far public bodies had applied principles set out in the 2015 legislation. It found that most public bodies reported having changed their process for setting well-being objectives to apply the sustainable development principle, though longer-term considerations in setting objectives remained underdeveloped.

Similarly, the Commissioner’s Future Generations Report 2020 found substantial evidence of progress on intergenerational action, with numerous public bodies demonstrating increased long-term considerations. However, the report also noted barriers to the effective implementation of long-term policy-making.

The implication of Wales’s first five years of the Future Generations Act is that legislation has the potential to greatly advance the cause of intergenerational fairness in policy-making. Even if Wales has far from solved the problem of intergenerational injustice, it has certainly taken steps in the right direction.

The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill presents an opportunity for the UK as a whole to learn from Wales’s experience and to expand the protection of the interests of younger and future generations.

The outlook for intergenerational fairness in 2021

The Bill’s return to Parliament is all the more pertinent given a number of high-profile intergenerational fairness issues that the UK faces in 2021.

For one, the UK’s hosting of the COP26 climate summit in November will boost the profile of the climate crisis, and the UK government has already suggested that it is looking to lead international efforts on climate change with a string of policy announcements in late 2020. Embedding sustainability considerations into the way in which policy is made in the UK would provide a clear illustration of this commitment.

This year will also see attention shift towards the COVID-19 recovery. Throughout last year IF stressed the extent to which younger generations have been affected by the pandemic, with the educational and economic impacts on young people particularly pronounced. As the priority of the health impacts of coronavirus is displaced by its wider impacts over the course of the next year, issues of intergenerational fairness will become increasingly important.

What you can do to help

With just a few weeks until MPs are given their first chance to debate the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, the immediate focus is on raising the Bill’s profile and support in Parliament. To this end, there is a template email on the campaign’s website (https://todayfortomorrow.org.uk) for contacting your MP and offering them an invitation to a drop-in session with the campaign in the week running up to the scheduled date for the Bill’s second reading – Friday 29 January.

The Bill already has support across the political spectrum: the MPs who have endorsed the legislation range from prominent left-wingers like Jeremy Corbyn and Rosena Allin-Khan, to influential Conservatives like Sir Graham Brady and the COVID vaccination minister Nadhim Zahawi. Expanding this support base will be crucial in raising the Bill’s profile and demonstrating to the government that intergenerational fairness is a cross-party cause that can no longer be neglected.

While the Bill’s success is unlikely without government backing, the debate this month can still be an opportunity to raise the prominence of intergenerational fairness, and at a key moment too. The more MPs that support the legislation – or at least turn up to debate it – the more likely it is that policy-makers will consider future generations, whether mandated to by law or not.

Reminding MPs that they have a responsibility beyond their short-term interests, then, opens up the possibility of legislation that offers greater protection for the interests of younger and future generations over the coming years.

Photo by Fas Khan on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/@fasbytes

Help us to be able to do more 

Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, we want to thank you for being interested in IF’s work standing up for younger and future generations. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved so far. And with your help we can do much more, so please consider helping to make IF more sustainable. You can do so by following this link: Donate

 

 

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