IF Vox Pop is a series of pieces submitted to the Intergenerational Foundation by members of the public, expressing their take on the issues we raise. Here Janet Gunn, a pensioner living in South London, suggests ways to redress the bias towards her generation.
I want to talk about the baby-boomers. I am one of them. We had free higher education with maintenance grants, and expected – and mostly found – work after graduating.
Paying our way
We saved for a deposit and bought homes which are now worth to six to ten times more than when we bought. Some of this windfall wealth should be used to pay for our old-age care, clearly, maybe through a “death tax” or insurance. We should not have to fear old age just because we are living longer and more of us are single: many of us can pay – but need to know we can rely on quality, compassionate care if we need it.
But we are not to be blamed for everything. Many of us grew up in an atmosphere of austerity post-war, and learned caution with money. Many of us still practise it.
Tax can redress inequalities
I don’t need the winter fuel supplement and give it to a charity for the elderly each year. I love my Freedom Pass, as retirement can be an isolating experience and free travel really is a liberating idea. BUT I am willing to be taxed on both of these – this should be the obvious way of recouping some of these unnecessary universal benefits.
I find it ridiculous that the government says that means-testing is too expensive. What we earn, either in work, pension or unearned income, is known to the tax authority. Those, for example, paying higher-level tax, should automatically have these benefits recouped through the tax system.
I also sort-of support a property tax. The high values of the homes many of us live in are not due to the efforts of the home-owners, but to the crazy housing bubble caused partly by people using property as a sort of investment. Homes are for living in, not simply an investment. This also means that people with second homes should be subject to additional tax. But a property tax may not be necessary. Why not just add some bands to rateable values (which themselves have been uprated) to pull in some money from the higher-value properties?
Active intergenerational support
Those of us in a position to do so are helping our next generation, with deposits for home buying, help with student fees and other support.
But we need a mechanism to help those whose parents are not well-off. And we need to help the elderly poor. Charity alone is not enough. That’s not the kind of society most of us want to live in.