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Work on ageing issuesWith
the number of pensioners in the UK having overtaken the number of
children, issues about the ageing population pervade the social policy
field. Despite having started my career as a commentator on youth
unemployment, and later dealing with education and child poverty, I
find myself increasingly drawn into analysis of the other end of life.
This is nothing to do with having recently turned 50...
- As an adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, I led a programme of research on older workers, responding to the crisis of premature exit from the workforce. In its final report, Crossroads after 50, I
argued against preconceptions about what's the "best" way to transition
to retiremenet, and in favour of opening up new, flexible opportunities
that offer more choices at this life stage. I was also part of the team
in the Performance and Innovation Unit (later the Prime Minister's
Strategy Unit) whose report put this issue on the map in central government, and which contributed to
the UK's acceptance of laws to ban age discrimination at work.
- The exposure of the UK's scandalously inadequate system for financing and providing long-term care for older people has finally shamed government into
committing to create a new "National Care Service". I played a
part in making the case for such fundamental reform by bringing
together the work of a broad-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation group on
funding long-term care. This report,
together with the Kings Fund's Wanless Review, showed conclusively that
small adjustments to the present system will not be enough.
- I've also put my oar into the wider debate about ageing and the distribution of resources. In 2005 I wrote a paper
arguing that we'll need to make fundamental changes in the allocation
of public resources as well as rethinking the optimal size of the
public economy. In 2009 I tackled similar themes in a speech on intergenerational
equity. I also wrote a report bringing together debates on "fairness in
ageing" not just in terms of material resources but in terms of
attitudes and roles: of ensuring that older people are not relegated to
the "fringes" of society. In all these analyses, the unifying theme has
been the need to think not about competition across generational
interests but about a settlement that is optimal for each individual
across a lifetime.