A Minister for the Old, the Young, or for All Generations?

Liz Emerson suggests that  the interests of all could be served by a single ministry focusing on the long term.

Last month it was revealed that a petition calling for a Minister for Older People in England – organised by Anchor Homes, with more than 100,000 signatures – had winged its way to Downing Street. The Anchor petition is just one of many weapons used to articulate a concern that the older generations’ needs should not be forgotten, however bad things are for others in society.

Over the border in Scotland they have swung the other way and recently created a Minister for Youth Employment with the appointment of Angela Constance and a £30 million budget.

This is Scotland’s response to the fact that in the UK 1.2 million young people between the ages of 16 and 24 years of age now classed as NEETS, and – with ever more gloom-ridden forecasts of recession beating their way to our doors daily – this number is sure to rise.

Conventional wisdom (OECD pan-European reports going back over 10 years) suggests that if a young person is out of work for more than 6 months, then their long-term employment prospects become much bleaker, and their subsequent burden on society becomes all the greater.

Scotland has signaled its intention to put the younger generation’s needs at the top of the policy agenda with the appointment of a Minister to help improve employment prospects for younger generations.

In England meanwhile, lobby-groups push the government from all sides on the need for a Minister for specific groups: the old, young, grey, disabled.

One for all

What would seem fair to all generations is the creation of a Minister for just that: a Minister for the Long Term – or Intergenerational Equity.

Only then can policy be assessed for its impact on current generations, both old and young, and generations to come, balancing the need for current investment in job creation with the need for social care for older generations.

Such a position would also bring the idea of sustainability back into the here and now. Can we afford a £30 billion infrastructure investment programme to boost jobs and the economy if we are merely borrowing that money from future generations at too high a price?

A Minister for the Long Term should be able to balance all our needs and share the pennies accordingly, without passing disproportionate debts on to future generations.

Down with me, me, me!

So let’s change the narrative and ignore special interest groups that hammer their fists on the doors of democracy shouting me, me, me.

Let’s move towards the long term with sustainable policies that protect future generations whilst supporting the old who need help, and encouraging the young who need help.

Less of me, me, me – and more of them, them, them.