4Children and Counsel and Care urge action to bridge age divide

Children’s charity 4Children and older people’s body Counsel and Care have urged ministers to develop an intergenerational strategy to bridge the divide between young and old in England.

In a joint report, launched at the Labour conference this week, the charities warned changing family structures and increased geographic mobility meant younger and older people were spending less time with each other.

This, it said, could lead to “a new wave of social problems”, as a result of the generations developing negative perceptions and stereotypes about each other, such as associating youth with crime.

Lack of understanding 

A survey of 500 young people aged five to 16, carried out ahead of the For All Ages report, found 78% felt older people did not understand them and 30% rarely spent any time with older people.

The report said intergenerational projects had been evaluted as being successful in fostering understanding and friendship between younger and older people, with health and well-being benefits for pensioners as well. However, it said “they remain largely as good one-off projects”, and that they had not been integrated into local service priorities in England, for instance through local area agreements.

However, it also pointed to the development of intergenerational work in Wales and Scotland. The Welsh assembly government published a draft intergenerational practice strategy in June 2008, which proposed including ageing in the personal and social education syllabus and encouraging older people to volunteer as mentors.

The Scottish government’s 2007 strategy on ageing made improved intergenerational relations a priority and led to the creation of the Scottish Centre for Intergenerational Practice to promote best practice and support individuals and organisations engaged in bridging the generational divide.

Action urged from ministerial group

Counsel and Care and 4Children called for a strategy for England, developed by the government’s intergenerational task force, headed by children’s minister Beverley Hughes 

It also suggested piloting a series of intergenerational centres, within existing children’s centres, and for government to work with local authorities to ensure that intergenerational work was a priority within local area agrements.

The report also called for intergenerational funding to be a Big Lottery Fund strand and for research to support families to help each other across the ages.

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