Intergenerational Foundation https://www.if.org.uk Your Future Now Tue, 18 May 2021 14:54:46 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Mental Health Awareness Week: younger generations need greater access to nature https://www.if.org.uk/2021/05/14/mental-health-awareness-week-younger-generations-need-greater-access-to-nature/ Fri, 14 May 2021 15:00:30 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12876 In keeping with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme, which focuses on the importance of nature to mental health, IF senior researcher Melissa Bui explains how improving access to quality housing with outdoor spaces is a key step towards ensuring an equitable distribution of nature, and all of its mental health benefits, across the… Read more »

The post Mental Health Awareness Week: younger generations need greater access to nature appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
In keeping with this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme, which focuses on the importance of nature to mental health, IF senior researcher Melissa Bui explains how improving access to quality housing with outdoor spaces is a key step towards ensuring an equitable distribution of nature, and all of its mental health benefits, across the generations.


Mental Health Awareness Week, which is running between 10 to 16 May, is already in full swing. The week started on a strong note with an announcement of £17 million in funding from the Secretary of State for Education to further mental health support within the education sector, with £7 million being assigned to equip and train school staff to be able to respond to arising mental health problems. A further £9.5 million of this funding will be dedicated to accelerating the 2017 Green Paper targets to train senior mental health leads in schools.

This year the organisation behind Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation, has called for a focus on the role that nature plays in mental health. The aim of this theme is to encourage people to more actively interact with nature and to urge the government to treat “access to and quality of nature [as] a mental health and social justice issue as well as an environmental one”.

Access to nature increasingly unattainable for younger generations

As the organisers rightly point out, the government has an important role to play in improving access to nature. Proposals like introducing more nature on streets, protecting natural habitats, and ensuring that developers include green spaces and nature in their designs, as outlined in the Mental Health Foundation’s policy recommendations, will certainly help mitigate the supply side of the problem. However, the revamping of new and existing houses and public spaces will still leave a gaping hole in access if younger generations cannot afford to buy these properties until their mid-30s.

Currently, statistics seem to suggest that the average age of first-time buyers is 34 years old, 6 years older than it was in 2007. This is not only because there is not enough supply of housing to go around, but the current stock of housing is also disproportionately owned by older generations. IF recently published a paper on the unequal distribution of living space, called Stockpiling Space, which revealed that 21% of 25-34 year olds report a lack of outside space compared to only 7% of 55-65 year olds.

How we use our current housing stock impacts access to nature

When we look at the breakdown of homeownership across the generations, it is easy to see why this is. The number of second homes in England has increased by 50% between 2011 and 2020, reaching 5.5 million in 2020. It is primarily older generations who own these second-homes, leaving younger generations to compete over the remaining stock which often offers little to no access to outdoor space.

Also exacerbating the unequal distribution of access to nature is the rise in micro-homes as a part-solution to limited housing supply. IF’s previous research showed that England has the dubious title of having the second smallest homes in Europe, with the number of micro-homes being built in the UK increasing almost fivefold in just five years to 9,605 in 2018. With micro-homes offering spaces that are at a maximum 37m2 in size, there is little to no room for installing nature. Unfortunately, many younger generations cannot afford more spacious housing due to stagnating wages and the amount of money they can borrow being limited by their student loan repayments.

Mental health and nature during COVID-19

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on the unequal distribution of access to outdoor space. Restricted access to nature, alongside a long list of other consequences of the pandemic crisis such as job losses and the closure of schools have hit the mental health of children and young people the hardest. Data from NHS Digital demonstrated how the proportion of young people likely to have a mental health disorder has increased from one in nine in 2017 to one in six in 2020. Recent evidence from the ONS has also suggested that adults aged between 16 to 29 years old were the most likely age group to report depressive symptoms.

While the recent announcements of extra funding for children and young people’s mental health services are very welcome, many will still be left with little to no mental health support as the rate of coverage is still low. Insufficient mental health spending not only has large consequences for younger generations, it also leaves a large price tag for the government too. From each cohort of individuals aged 16 to 40 with depression, the government loses £2.9 billion in net tax revenue due to lost tax revenue, higher benefit payments, and higher NHS costs in the long-run. Increasing spending to be able to intervene early with mental ill-health during childhood and adolescence, as well as implementing policies to improve the circumstances of younger generations, will play a key role in preventing mental health problems from getting to this stage in the future.

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 Mental Health Awareness Week: younger generations need greater access to nature appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Spring 2021 Newsletter https://www.if.org.uk/2021/05/11/spring-2021-newsletter/ Tue, 11 May 2021 15:02:45 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12861 Our latest newsletter is now available below. You can also subscribe to receive a regular update by providing your details at the bottom of the page. This edition calls for a new settlement for younger and future generations for all they have sacrificed economically and emotionally over the past year in order to protect the… Read more »

The post Spring 2021 Newsletter appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Our latest newsletter is now available below. You can also subscribe to receive a regular update by providing your details at the bottom of the page.

This edition calls for a new settlement for younger and future generations for all they have sacrificed economically and emotionally over the past year in order to protect the health of older generations. It also includes an update on research, campaigning, public affairs activity, and much more. Read on

 

Spring Newsletter 2021

 

The post Spring 2021 Newsletter appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
German government ordered to protect future generations https://www.if.org.uk/2021/05/05/german-government-ordered-to-protect-future-generations/ Wed, 05 May 2021 15:05:23 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12848 Germany’s highest court has ordered its government to revise its climate change legislation by the end of the year, ruling that current targets do not sufficiently protect the rights of future generations. IF senior researcher, Melissa Bui, explains the importance of framing intergenerational fairness as a rights issue and urges other high courts to follow… Read more »

The post German government ordered to protect future generations appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Germany’s highest court has ordered its government to revise its climate change legislation by the end of the year, ruling that current targets do not sufficiently protect the rights of future generations. IF senior researcher, Melissa Bui, explains the importance of framing intergenerational fairness as a rights issue and urges other high courts to follow suit.

Intergenerational fairness

Although mentions of future generations in parliamentary debates have risen considerably over the past decade, it is still relatively uncommon for intergenerational fairness principles to appear in official political debates. It is even rarer for intergenerational fairness to feature centrally in court rulings against governments.

This is why the ruling against Germany’s climate legislation is so important. Last week, Germany’s supreme constitutional court ruled that the country’s current climate legislation violates the rights of future generations. The case was brought forward by young environmental activists, all of whom explained how they had first-hand experience of the consequences of climate change, ranging from heat waves to flooding. This “historic” ruling is an important step forward towards treating intergenerational fairness as a rights issue rather than a luxury, as it is too often framed.

Climate protection as a fundamental right

According to the court, younger and future generations are entitled to “fundamental rights to a human future”, however, current emissions’ targets outlined in the country’s Climate Protection Act are set too far in the future and therefore place a “radical burden” on future generations who would be forced to drastically reduce their freedoms in order to meet 2015 Paris Agreement targets.

The German court has ordered that climate targets need to be dragged forward and clearer plans to achieve them to be made, and has provided the end of next year as the deadline for these changes. Failing to do so would be a serious violation of the rights of future generations, according to the court. The ruling emphasised that “virtually every freedom is potentially affected by these future emission reduction obligations because almost every area of human life is associated with the emission of greenhouse gases and is therefore threatened by drastic restrictions after 2030.”

This is a refreshing divergence from previous discourses which often ignore the rights of current younger generations. The COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of this reality in the UK. IF has previously written about how 2020 was a new low for intergenerational fairness. Examples include: the A-level algorithm scandal; locking up university students in their accommodation; and allegations of the unlawful allocation of COVID-19 funds (including £108 million to a pest control company and £250 million to a jewellery company).

A framework for intergenerational fairness

Of course, targets would be meaningless without proper delivery. In the UK, environmental activists and groups have been reluctant to praise the government’s radical promise to reduce carbon emissions by 78%  by 2035 due to its poor track record with meeting targets and providing clear plans on how the road to achieving them would be funded.

Nevertheless, if the ruling in Germany is successful, it could serve as an important framework that can be used by young people in other countries to bring similar cases forward against their governments. The German government is not the only nation projected to miss their climate obligations. It was recently revealed that many rich nations such as the United States and China are also forecasted to miss the Paris Agreement target due to insufficient climate policies.

Climate protection is also not the only area in which this framework can apply. Policies in other areas such as housing, education and government spending, also have the potential to infringe on the rights of future generations. It is possible that this could open the door to fairer treatment of the freedoms of future generations in all kinds of policy areas.

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 German government ordered to protect future generations appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Earth Day 2021: Time to restore our earth https://www.if.org.uk/2021/04/22/earth-day-2021-time-to-restore-our-earth/ Thu, 22 Apr 2021 07:30:20 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12831 April 22 is Earth Day and the theme for this year’s event is “Restore Our Earth”. IF senior researcher, Melissa Bui, discusses the need for long-termism in policy-making in order to be able to shift our approach towards restorative strategies rather than mitigation or adaptation. The time to celebrate Earth Day has come around once… Read more »

The post Earth Day 2021: Time to restore our earth appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
April 22 is Earth Day and the theme for this year’s event is “Restore Our Earth”. IF senior researcher, Melissa Bui, discusses the need for long-termism in policy-making in order to be able to shift our approach towards restorative strategies rather than mitigation or adaptation.

The time to celebrate Earth Day has come around once again. Taking place on April 22 each year since 1970, Earth Day is an annual event dedicated to the global environmental movement.

Since its inception, it has become a global affair, with approximately 192 countries participating in related activities each year and organisations and world leaders choosing this day to commemorate key environmental milestones, such as the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement.

Restore Our Earth 

The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Restore Our Earth” and has been chosen to give a spotlight to crucial solutions that can help to – you guessed it – restore the natural environment. Discussions on the different types of restorative solutions available to us will take place at the Earth Day Live event scheduled for April 22 in an effort to encourage a shift away from approaches that focus almost exclusively on mitigation or adaptation.

Unfortunately, as an organisation that has been pushing for intergenerational fairness for almost a decade, IF has too often witnessed short-term solutions and policy outcomes being prioritised over the long-term. Having responded to government consultations on long-termism in the past, we have examined how short-termism in policy-making has brought forward intergenerational injustices in a range of policy areas including the environment, but also in housing, pensions and social care.

You only need to look at government spending to see that this is the case. Spending on environmental protection still does not exceed 1% of real GDP (£14.5 billion in 2018) and accounts for just 1.7% of total government expenditure. That is not much higher than the amount of taxpayer money being spent on subsidising the aviation industry through zero-rating VAT on airline tickets and tax-free fuel.

In 2012, IF estimated that this costs the government £11 billion per year, which is now equivalent to approximately £13 billion in 2020 prices. This spending keeps the price of flying artificially low and serves as an effective subsidy for one of the most polluting industries in the UK. When our report was released, it was estimated that tax subsidies to the airline industry effectively lowered ticket prices by approximately £100 (£120 in 2020 prices).

Although the UK has managed to cut emissions by 37% compared to 2005 levels, despite experiencing a 21% growth in real GDP, this has been primarily achieved through mitigation and adaptation strategies such as the reduction in coal-powered electricity generation and introducing “cleaner” industrial and manufacturing processes. Long-term reductions in emissions can be achieved through investing in restorative technologies, regenerative agriculture and reforestation efforts.

The findings of our latest report, Age bias: how government spending is skewed against the young, suggest that these spending choices are characteristic of the more general bias in government spending that places the needs of younger (and future) generations at the back of the queue, with the gap in spending between younger generations and pensioners having doubled over the past decade

No to “business-as-usual”

As the COVID-19 crisis has shown, decades of underspending on current and future generations has left young people vulnerable to crises – both economically and mentally. With climate change education barely part of the national curriculum in the UK, younger generations also have to rely on themselves (and independent organisations such as the team behind Earth Day) to be informed about the climate crisis to come.

To address this issue, the global union federation of teachers’ trade unions, Educational International, held the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit” on 21 April 2021. The summit highlights the important role that educators play in combating climate change and calls for better and more institutionalisation of climate change education, with countries, such as Italy and more recently New Zealand, leading the charge on taking steps. But many more countries need to join.

The good news is that the window of opportunity to make climate change lessons compulsory and to carry out a green recovery is still open. 

Want to get involved in Earth Day activities going on around you?  You can search for Earth Day activities being held in your area using this link.

Photo courtesy of NASA on Unsplash.

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 Earth Day 2021: Time to restore our earth appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Carbon emissions are declining despite economic growth in 32 countries https://www.if.org.uk/2021/04/15/carbon-emissions-are-declining-despite-economic-growth-in-32-countries/ Thu, 15 Apr 2021 14:34:26 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12826 Recent figures released by the Breakout Institute suggest that 32 countries around the world have been able to reduce their emissions whilst achieving economic growth since 2005. IF researcher, Melissa Bui, explains what it means to “absolutely decouple” emissions from economic growth and how the UK is performing in this respect.   Historic trends in… Read more »

The post Carbon emissions are declining despite economic growth in 32 countries appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Recent figures released by the Breakout Institute suggest that 32 countries around the world have been able to reduce their emissions whilst achieving economic growth since 2005. IF researcher, Melissa Bui, explains what it means to “absolutely decouple” emissions from economic growth and how the UK is performing in this respect.

 

Historic trends in carbon emissions and real GDP have meant that, for a large chunk of history, rising emissions was considered to be the unavoidable reality for any growing economy. However, according to recent figures released by the Breakthrough Institute, an American environmental research centre, there is increasing evidence to suggest that countries around the world have been able to reduce their carbon emissions despite experiencing economic growth. In more technical terms, countries have been able to “absolutely decouple” emissions from growth.

Old news?

But hasn’t economic growth been decoupled from carbon emissions for some time now?

Whilst the relative decoupling of growth and emissions was achieved around six decades ago, the research finds increasing evidence that absolute decoupling is also occurring in numerous countries around the globe. There is a distinct difference between the two definitions. In countries where relative decoupling has been attained, emissions are still rising, but at a slower rate than growth in real GDP. We see evidence of relative decoupling if we observe that carbon emissions per unit of GDP is falling.

Absolute decoupling, on the other hand, is achieved when emissions are declining whilst the economy is still growing, which is much more important for when it comes to meeting carbon targets. In the Breakthrough Institute’s research, a decline must be observed both in a country’s terrestrial emissions (emissions occurring within national borders) as well as its consumption emissions (which is related to the goods consumed by residents) for emissions to be considered absolutely decoupled from economic growth.

UK emissions have dropped by 37% since 2005

Excluding countries with a population below 1 million, the authors demonstrate that 32 countries have absolutely decoupled emissions from economic growth since 2005. The largest drop in emissions was observed in Denmark, with emissions falling by 45% since 2005. The UK was not too far behind with 37%, having experienced the second largest drop in emissions, despite benefitting from a 21% growth in real GDP over the same period.

What has been driving the reduction in UK emissions? Investigations conducted by the educational website Carbon Brief suggest that the reduction in use of coal for electricity generation has played a key role in driving down emissions, accounting for 40% of the total decline. Other factors, such as setting controls on emissions within manufacturing and waste industries (25%) and cleaner industrial and manufacturing processes (15%) have also played significant roles in driving emissions down.

Sustaining momentum

Despite this large decline in emissions, the UK is still only halfway towards meeting its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

There is a danger that this momentum will not be sustained after the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the carbon budgets that the government has set, which is a limit on carbon emissions allowed across a five year period in the future, do not set us on track for either our 2025 or 2030 target.

Despite the economic and mental health damage it has caused, the pandemic has brought forward a key chance to stimulate economic growth whilst continuing to reduce carbon emissions. However, the government has a track record of missing key opportunities for green transitions. IF has previously written about the findings of a Greener UK report, which shows how, four years on from the EU referendum, there is still no evidence of a Green Brexit. The Breakthrough Institute has nevertheless demonstrated that we can rebuild the economy without the huge bounce-back in national emissions that is being anticipated as restrictions ease.

Part of the solution lies in government spending. Prior to the crisis, billions of pounds was being spent on awarding tax subsidies to major polluters such as the airline industry. This money would be put to better use if invested in areas which would help to keep us on course to meet our carbon targets such as be greater use of renewable energy, green technologies and environmental conservation projects.

Photo by Chris LeBoutillier on Unsplash

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 Carbon emissions are declining despite economic growth in 32 countries appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
New report finds no sign of a Green Brexit https://www.if.org.uk/2021/03/31/new-report-finds-no-sign-of-a-green-brexit/ Wed, 31 Mar 2021 10:16:12 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12800 Greener UK, a coalition of environmental organisations in the UK, have recently released their final report which outlines how far the UK has progressed with implementing a “Green Brexit”. The conclusion of their results is clear: not much overall. Why has there been so little progress in environmental policy since 2016? IF researcher, Melissa Bui,… Read more »

The post New report finds no sign of a Green Brexit appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Greener UK, a coalition of environmental organisations in the UK, have recently released their final report which outlines how far the UK has progressed with implementing a “Green Brexit”. The conclusion of their results is clear: not much overall. Why has there been so little progress in environmental policy since 2016? IF researcher, Melissa Bui, explains

One year on since the first lockdown began, UK experts and campaigners continue to call for a “green recovery” which allows the economy to be built back in a way that simultaneously reduces overall carbon emissions as part of the Green Brexit. Given that the COVID-19 crisis has become a consistent feature of our everyday lives, one might be forgiven for forgetting that we made very similar promises four years ago after the result of the EU referendum, which was also considered to be a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to backtrack on environmental decline.

A coalition of 12 environmental organisations, Greener UK, has been tracking environmental policies since the EU referendum and recently released their final report. Their findings suggest that, as of March 2021, levels of environmental protection have not changed much since 2016. Where have we gone wrong and what is holding us back?

Tracking risk

In 2017, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State at the time, set out an ambitiously green agenda for Brexit:

“Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how we manage agriculture and fisheries, and therefore how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas. And we can recast our ambition for our country’s environment, and the planet. In short, it means a Green Brexit.”

A lot has changed since Mr. Gove’s announcement. We officially left the European Union in January 2020, signed the UK-EU trade deal and reached the end of the transition period by the end of 2020. According to Greener UK, enough time has now passed to be able to make a clear judgement about whether the government has truly delivered on their promise for a “Green Brexit”.

To be able to track government progress on a Green Brexit, Greener UK developed a “Risk Tracker” which assigns a colour and risk level of either “high” (red), “medium” (amber) or “low” (green) to different areas of policy to reflect the estimated risk that standards have become worse than they were in 2016. The tracker follows environmental policies in eight areas: air pollution, chemicals, water, waste and resources, fisheries, climate energy, farming and land use and finally natural resources.

Stunting progress

The final results of the Risk Tracker suggest that, amongst the eight areas of policy examined, environment protection levels are either worse now than they were in 2016 or relatively unchanged, with air pollution, chemicals, waste and resources and nature resources being the categories at “high risk” of being worse than they were before.

A range of reasons were quoted to explain why no progress has been made. Amongst them was the government’s role in delaying and devaluing key bills and reforms, which includes repeated delays to the Environmental Bill, a landmark bill which would allow us to set legally binding targets for nature conservation, reducing air pollution and water quality and waste management. A new environmental watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection, was also set to be introduced with the bill; a role that was previously fulfilled by the European Commission and Court of Justice. However, the coalition calls into question whether the new watchdog will truly be independent and as effective with holding the government to account given the heavy influence the government has over its budget and board members, as well as its inability to issue fines. There has already been evidence of a failure to address violations to water pollution rules over the past few years, with all 243 cases of violations recorded between April 2018 to February 2021 being left unaddressed without a prosecution or a fine.

Furthermore, the government voted to remove amendments to the Fisheries Bill, which were vital to ensure that sustainable fishing levels and practices would be enshrined into law as part of a Green Brext. It is claimed in the report that the UK fishing quotas now fall behind the EU standard.

Poor cooperation

According to the report the government has also performed poorly on international cooperation. Cooperation on issues such as carbon pricing and chemical regulation are thought to be essential to ensure a sustainable and feasible framework for reducing emissions and preventing the dumping of illegal chemicals. However, it is being called into question whether the regimes and systems that have been introduced to tackle these issues will be able to match their EU predecessors given that the advantage of cooperation has been withdrawn.

The UK’s replacement chemical regulation regime has provided the most cause for concern, being described in the report as a “cheaper and inferior domestic version” of the EU regime that it replaces. Furthermore, although the UK emissions trading system offers more ambitious targets than the EU emissions trading system that it was formerly part of, including a tighter cap on emissions, IF has previously written about how the lack of alignment between the two introduces complications such as the risk of carbon leakage, which refers to the risk that businesses move their production elsewhere to save on carbon emission costs.

A funding problem

Unsurprisingly, insufficient funding has also been listed as a key driver behind a lack of progress. Government funding for nature conservation projects has been scaled back over the past decade and bodies such as Natural? England and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are projected to have insufficient funding for their projects, which for the former is required under statutory law.

These actions offset or overshadow the environmental progress being made elsewhere, for instance, with plans to introduce the Environmental Land Management scheme, which aims to reward farmers for sustainable farming practices and work that enhances the environment, or the listing of the climate as an “essential element” of the UK-EU deal. These changes were designed to demonstrate the UK’s potential for climate leadership ahead of the COP26 conference it will be hosting later in November. However, as the Greener UK report suggests, if the government continues on its current trajectory, it is at risk of pushing levels of environmental protection back to, or even below, those in 2016, which will surely paint a very different picture to the one desired.

The post New report finds no sign of a Green Brexit appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Covid Inquiry – The real questions the inquiry should ask https://www.if.org.uk/2021/03/25/covid-inquiry-the-real-questions-the-inquiry-should-ask/ Thu, 25 Mar 2021 18:57:58 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12796 Calls have grown this week for the inevitable inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, in particular from bereaved relatives’ groups and nursing groups. Ashley Seager, IF Co-founder, argues that any  Covid-19 inquiry should be far more wide ranging with intergenerational fairness at its heart. Scapegoats? We know from previous inquiries that, all… Read more »

The post Covid Inquiry – The real questions the inquiry should ask appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Calls have grown this week for the inevitable inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, in particular from bereaved relatives’ groups and nursing groups. Ashley Seager, IF Co-founder, argues that any  Covid-19 inquiry should be far more wide ranging with intergenerational fairness at its heart.

Scapegoats?

We know from previous inquiries that, all too often, inquiries are looking for scapegoats, to satisfy a thirst for revenge by those affected and those who shout the loudest. Almost certainly the focus of a COVID-19 inquiry will be on how many lives could have been prolonged if more action had been taken earlier with larger sums of money thrown at the problem. But perhaps the biggest victims of this crisis are the young who have lost their jobs, had their teaching curtailed, seen their mental health deteriorate, and who have been saddled with a huge national debt that they will have to pay back during their working lives and pass onto to their children.

The missing ill

This is not to ignore the plight of current sufferers from cancer, heart disease and other illnesses who now are far more likely to die through the lack of treatment in 2020 and into 2021. That is another scandal that should be looked into, as should the inability to open the much-trumpeted Nightingale hospitals for want of the doctors and nurses to staff them. A key question for the COVID-19 inquiry should therefore be – why did Britain have the fewest intensive care beds per person of any European nation?

Government failure?

We know that the government bungled almost everything it touched – personal protective clothing, “world-beating” track and trace, procurement contracts handed to cronies, and so on. We know that the only success came with the vaccination programme. So, the bigger questions that the COVID-19 inquiry should ask are these: was it worth throwing half a trillion pounds at the problem and leaving it to our grandkids to pay for?; did the money make any real difference against the disease?; do lockdowns actually work (evidence is very thin on this point); and did human interventions serve merely to crush the economy while giving politicians reasons to claim that they were “doing something”? Indeed, did the knowledge that an inquiry would inevitably come influence what was done? Was everyone merely trying to cover their arse and meekly follow the groupthink at almost unimaginable financial cost? Why were so many predictions by (publicly-funded) scientists such as Neil Ferguson at Imperial College so very wrong?

The young have suffered

IF has spent the period highlighting problems for young people and future generations during the pandemic itself. We pointed out that more young people have been hospitalised with depression than with COVID-19. We pointed out the plight young people faced as their incomes collapsed, with many forced to return to live with their parents, and students locked into their halls of residence and their civil liberties horribly denied. We made suggestions how the huge housing and pension wealth of the old might be sensibly taxed to help reduce the national debt and have that generation justifiably make their contribution to paying for the response to the pandemic. But to little or no avail. And we hope, but are not confident, that the COVID-19 inquiry will consider questions such as these.

Deaf ears?

But it is clear that the current government intends doing little or nothing about the burden being passed to younger and future generations, already saddled with student debt, lousy pensions, unaffordable house prices and a deteriorating environment. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said in his budget speech this month “it will take many governments many decades” to pay for the response to COVID-19, clearly showing that he is happy to put the cost on the never-never and move on. That is scandalous.

Who should pay?

The lockdowns and other measures were primarily taken in an attempt to prolong the lives of today’s baby boomers (those born prior to 1964),  who are widely acknowledged to be the richest generation Britain has ever seen or will see again. Yet almost no attempt was made in the Budget to tax the enormous unearned wealth gain that generation holds in its houses and golden, final-salary pensions. Instead, key budget measures were announced with the aim of boosting the price of houses, which are primarily owned by older people at the expense of the young. Similarly, there was no attempt to tax second homes or any of the perks of the wealthy boomers.

Youth unemployment

Young people have borne the brunt of the government-induced recession, accounting for about three quarters of the rise in unemployment. This is because they are the biggest group employed in sectors like hospitality and travel, both completely clobbered by lockdowns. Spells of unemployment damage young people’s confidence, job prospects and life chances. It is, however, unlikely that the inquiry will contain more than a couple of sentences on that. The groupthink of COVID-19 has already decided that the young will just have to suck it up because they were at least at less risk of catching the virus

Government debt

A generation ago the then Labour government decided that, to be intergenerationally fair, the national debt should be no higher than 40% of national income. It got bumped up badly by the financial crisis of the late noughties and has now leapt to just under 100% of national income, an unsustainable level according to most economists. Sunak’s budget merely planned to stabilise it at this level, let alone start to reduce it. The message was very clear – future generations are not going to be there to vote for us at the next election, so to hell with them.

Whatever happened to the party that prided itself on sound public finances, a concept born out of a respect for future generations? These are the sorts of issues any COVID-19 inquiry should look at.

 

 

The post Covid Inquiry – The real questions the inquiry should ask appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
How inflation could blow up the younger generation https://www.if.org.uk/2021/03/25/how-inflation-could-blow-up-the-younger-generation/ Thu, 25 Mar 2021 13:45:44 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12790 Commodity prices have already gone up sharply around the world and many other prices seem to be headed north. To fight COVID-19 the government has printed huge quantities of new money and many economists are predicting the result will be a sharp rise in inflation. Angus Hanton, IF Co-founder, asks what this would mean for the old and the… Read more »

The post How inflation could blow up the younger generation appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Commodity prices have already gone up sharply around the world and many other prices seem to be headed north. To fight COVID-19 the government has printed huge quantities of new money and many economists are predicting the result will be a sharp rise in inflation. Angus Hanton, IF Co-founder, asks what this would mean for the old and the young and fairness between the generations?

Housing and inflation

Inflation has to be better for those who own property, which is widely seen as an inflation hedge. Homeowners are predominantly members of older generations who mostly own the houses they live in and own larger ones: 80% of those in their 60’s are owner-occupiers, against only 30% of the under-30s. Thinking if this in practical terms, inflation of 10% per year means a 10% rent increase in housing costs for renters but no increase at all for the owner occupiers. In their desire to get onto the housing ladder and avoid taking investment risks, many young people will be saving in cash so that inflation will rob them of a chunk of that – inflation of 10% per annum would roughly halve the value of their cash savings after only six years.

 Pensions and inflation

Older generations’ income is also more fully protected. For example, if they are collecting a pension it will be index-linked. In the case of the state pension, it is indexed linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).  In the case of many occupational pensions the protection against inflation is even better with a link to the more generous Retail Price Index (RPI), which exaggerates the increase in consumer prices.

Wages and inflation

On the wage front, the younger generations will need to negotiate wage increases that match inflation which is hard to do for a number of reasons: an oversupply of workers; if their jobs can be automated; or if there are downward pressure on young people’s wages through increased immigration (although the recent exodus of eastern European workers could slightly increase the bargaining power of younger workers). In any event, the situation is quite different from the 1970s – the last period of high inflation – in that there is far more labour mobility and wage rates are now under downward pressure which inflation will reinforce. For those sectors of the economy which suffer badly from inflation (typically capital intensive industries) there will inevitably be significant increases in unemployment which is likely to hit the youngest hardest.

Knowing the ropes

Perhaps the greatest advantage the older generation have in a period of significant inflation is that they “know the ropes” and are used to the many tricks needed to reduce its impact. These include: making ambitious demands for higher wages early and often; avoiding leaving cash in current accounts; and thinking of everything in terms of its replacement cost rather than its historic cost.

Going backwards?

Those few economic victories that the young have achieved in recent years are now thrown into jeopardy by inflation. The minimum wage is fixed in pounds and it only goes up with explicit government action adjusting it for price increases. This is in contrast to pensions which keep up automatically. Similarly, the personal allowances which give poorly paid young people a useful chunk of untaxed income –  currently £12,500 per year –  will remain static even in inflationary times. In fact, the government has just announced that it will fix this personal tax allowance for the next five years so that inflation will inevitably push more young people into paying more tax: this is usually known as “fiscal drag”.

The young will lose out

Taken together, these foreseeable effects of inflation will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of younger generations, who are much less equipped to deal with it than those who experienced the 1970s period of high inflation. This will seem bitterly ironic to those who believe that inflation is emerging directly as a result of the government’s choice of taking on massive debts in order to protect older generations. Worse still, the prospect of inflation hitting the young hardest means that more of the decisions made by the Bank of England and the Treasury will worsen intergenerational unfairness. Inflation is also particularly insidious for young people who want to have more say in our democracy because, as Milton Friedman said, “inflation is taxation without representation.”

The post How inflation could blow up the younger generation appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Spending on children at risk due to financial pressures on local authorities https://www.if.org.uk/2021/03/16/spending-on-children-at-risk-due-to-financial-pressures-on-local-authorities/ Tue, 16 Mar 2021 12:25:01 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12782 Newly released figures from the National Audit Office reveal that local authorities are facing a £605 million shortfall in funding, with financial pressures expected to continue for years to come. IF Researcher, Melissa Bui, explains what this means for spending on children’s services A new report released by the National Audit Office (NAO), an independent… Read more »

The post Spending on children at risk due to financial pressures on local authorities appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
Newly released figures from the National Audit Office reveal that local authorities are facing a £605 million shortfall in funding, with financial pressures expected to continue for years to come. IF Researcher, Melissa Bui, explains what this means for spending on children’s services

A new report released by the National Audit Office (NAO), an independent body responsible for scrutinising public spending, has revealed that local authorities face a £605 million gap in funding in 2020–2021 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. The report findings also suggest that budgets for services will continue to be impacted for years to come and that children’s services will be among the services to face a hit in funding.

252 local authorities are currently underfunded

It is a legal requirement for local authorities to be able to balance their budgets. Typically, when facing financial pressure, local authorities would have the option to draw money from their reserves to meet funding needs. However, as a result of the increasing cost of provision and the rise in demand for particular programmes and services due to the COVID-19 crisis, councils are under enormous pressure to deliver services as planned. It had previously been estimated that local authorities would need approximately £9.7 billion extra funding to be able to meet the financial pressures. However, the NAO’s survey of local authorities revealed that 31.5% reported that they would not be able to fill their funding gaps using their reserves.

The government has already announced that it would cover most of the funding gap by offering £9.1 billion in extra support, however, local authorities are still left with a total shortfall of £605 million. This figure represents the net shortfall in funding; because of the way that the money has been allocated, there is a large disparity in funding gaps at the local level, with some authorities being given more money than they are projected to need, whilst others recording inadequate funds. Approximately 252 local authorities, accounting for 75% of the total, are estimated to be underfunded during this financial year with their combined shortfall equating to £909 million.

When faced with the problem of insufficient reserves, local authorities are usually left with two options: reducing budgets in specific areas or finding new ways to generate extra income, which can mean asking for more contributions from people who use services to be able to fund them.

What are the implications for younger generations?

The report suggests that more than half of all authorities have already made unplanned spending cuts to services as a consequence.

Despite plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions, suggesting that the economy is expected to return to some form of normality by the end of this year, it is predicted that the fallout of the pandemic on local authorities will have a long tail and will continue to be a problem for years to come: 27% of single-tier and county council respondents and 35% from district councils reported not knowing when their budgets will return to pre-COVID levels. As a result, 94% of single-tier and county councils and 81% of district councils report plans to make reductions to budgets allocated for services in 2021–22. Part of the reason is that local tax revenues, which will impact budgets starting from 2021–22, are expected to drop for reasons such as the higher number of households needing reductions in council tax payments due to lost income.

Children’s services are almost certainly going to be among the services to be impacted by these local budgeting decisions. Unlike many services for older generations, services for children such as free travel on public transport are not protected under statutory law. The NAO asked authorities to list examples of how services users will be impacted by their savings plans going forward and, sure enough, discretionary spending on “home-to-school transport” were among the services mentioned that are expected to be impacted. Other cuts to children’s services also include special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) care packages, which are given to families with disabled children to provide special health and education support. However, likely, this isn’t an extensive list. These are only cuts that were mentioned in a list of examples provided in the report. Given the historical tendency for children’s services to be cut during recessions, it’s likely that many other services will be impacted in the coming years.

Previous IF research has found that councils were facing £185 billion in pension liabilities before the pandemic struck. Furthermore, forthcoming IF research will show that local councils are spending more on interest payments than on the national cost of child benefit payments.

In short, local councils are facing a triple whammy of already vast pension liabilities, the cost of borrowing pre-pandemic, and now the costs of responding to the pandemic, but the young should not be targeted again for cuts.

The post Spending on children at risk due to financial pressures on local authorities appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
New ONS data show student mental health crisis https://www.if.org.uk/2021/03/11/new-ons-data-show-student-mental-health-crisis/ Thu, 11 Mar 2021 15:21:03 +0000 https://www.if.org.uk/?p=12780 IF intern, Hugh Nicholl, looks into the findings of the Office for National Statistic’s latest student survey and outlines the worrying evidence of a student mental health crisis. Read more… It is in some ways unsurprising that the mental health and wellbeing of students has dramatically deteriorated over the course of the past year. Among… Read more »

The post New ONS data show student mental health crisis appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>
IF intern, Hugh Nicholl, looks into the findings of the Office for National Statistic’s latest student survey and outlines the worrying evidence of a student mental health crisis. Read more…

It is in some ways unsurprising that the mental health and wellbeing of students has dramatically deteriorated over the course of the past year. Among the problems students have faced has been the withdrawal of in-person teaching, locking down in cramped halls, and wasting rent on uninhabited accommodation.

Yet for all these problems, student wellbeing data released today by the Office for National Statistics was nonetheless striking. The evidence suggests that the majority of students have witnessed a deterioration in their mental health since the start of term last autumn, illustrating the extent to which COVID-19 has exacerbated an already critical mental health crisis in our universities.

What did the ONS find?

Today’s data are part of the ONS’s Student COVID-19 Insights Survey in England, investigating the wellbeing, behaviours, and opinions of students during the coronavirus pandemic. Before looking at the findings themselves, it should be noted that there are limitations to the certainty of today’s statistics: the ONS categorises the survey as “experimental”, meaning that it is less likely to be as accurate as the ONS’s more well-established surveys.

Even with this caveat in mind, though, the ONS’s findings are extremely troubling. Almost two-thirds (63%) of students reported a worsening of their wellbeing and mental health since the start of the autumn term last year. Students were also disproportionately likely to have experienced loneliness during this period: 26% reported experiencing loneliness, compared to 8% among the adult population. This was particularly pronounced for students aged between 16 and 29, with 33% reporting that they felt lonely “often” or “always”.

In addition to these findings on wellbeing, the ONS also reported on students’ academic and social experience of university this year. Unsurprisingly, many students are dissatisfied with lockdown learning: 33% reported dissatisfaction with their academic experience during the pandemic, rising to 57% with regards to social experience. Despite the shortcomings of online-only teaching, it seems unlikely that students will receive a fee reduction except for a tiny handful of cases, leaving many even more dissatisfied with their experience this year.

An existing crisis made worse

That the mental health of a clear majority of students has deteriorated over the past year is a significant cause for concern in itself. Yet today’s statistics are even more worrying when placed in the context of an existing student mental health crisis. Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, record numbers of students were reporting mental health problems. One particularly large survey of some 38,000 students conducted in 2018 found that more than one-fifth had a current mental health diagnosis.

University support services were already struggling to cope with the increases in demand over the past few years. They are certainly not well-equipped to provide support to the ever-increasing numbers of students who need it. Furthermore, government support has been notably absent. Despite an apparent recognition of the problem last June, rhetoric has not been followed by action. In fact, the government seems far keener to wage a phoney culture war against a mythical higher education free speech crisis than tackling the very real crisis of student mental health.

Continuing the conversation

With the easing of lockdown restrictions finally underway, over the next few months the conversation will turn to which of the major changes of the last year are permanent and which are only temporary. With regards to student wellbeing, it is unfortunately too optimistic to presume that the evidence of widespread deteriorations in mental health will reverse over the coming months.

For one, the evidence that student wellbeing was already on a downwards trajectory is unequivocal. Removing some of the factors that have exacerbated this problem is clearly no substitute for a solution. Furthermore, the negative effects of coronavirus for young people are likely to linger, above all through its impact on the economy and the increasingly hostile labour market conditions experienced by new graduates.

It is all the more important, then, that something positive can come from the experience of students over the past year. Increasing awareness of the mental health problems faced by students has been an unfortunate consequence of the crisis’s worsening over the past year. Perhaps, though, there is the potential for this heighted awareness to direct attention towards finding a solution to an already urgent problem. If this is to happen, then the conversations about young people’s mental health that the past year has generated must be one of the pandemic’s permanent rather than temporary effects.

The post New ONS data show student mental health crisis appeared first on Intergenerational Foundation.

]]>