Debt is central to the lives of Generation Y, while their parents had fun for free. Photo: Flickr/Eden, Janine and Jim
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Shouldering the cost of the Baby Boomer legacy is destroying my generation's prospects

It's time for young people to fight inter-generational injustice – and it may be that top-down bureaucracy is one way to do it.

It’s always nice, when you suspect that you may be being screwed, to have it confirmed officially by those in power. It just helps firm things up a bit, mentally.

Being a part of Generation Y (also known in newspeak as the “fuck it”, or “lost” generation, which consists of “millennials”, or people born roughly between the early Eighties and the early 2000s) naturally means facing a parade of regular headlines to that effect, but confirmation has now been received.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s FSR report has offered said confirmation by informing us that UK debt is snowballing with terrifying momentum and that it is the young who will be hit hardest.

This is, essentially, because baby boomers keep making fiscal promises to themselves which their children will be required to shoulder. The gap between the UK’s assets and liabilities grew, in the last five years as of March 2014, to £1,852bn. If you include unfunded state pension liabilities, you can add another £4,000bn to that.

The report confirms one released by the Centre for Policy Studies earlier this month entitled “Who Will Care For Generation Y?”, a question I ask frequently while kneeling on the floor and gesticulating at the empty sky above. And yet, still no one answers.

If you’re a member of my generation and you’re reading this, you don’t need me to tell you that we have enough on our plates without spiralling debt as well. We’re already facing a housing crisis that feels like a waking nightmare, with rents and house prices rising well past the point of absurdity (the average rent in London hit £1,500 a month for the first time just two days ago).

Then there’s student debt, which we all try not to think about because opening the letter to discover that you’ve only made enough money to cover the interest and that the sum of monies owed remains the same is a crushing experience like no other (stop opening the letters, is my advice).

And that’s before we even get to talking about the weird, fragmented careers that so many of us are saddled with, comprising zero-hours contracts, low-paid, unreliable work and jobs tutoring the children of Russian oligarchs.

The Centre for Policy Studies says we’ll be the first generation to be worse off than our parents, but still, we’re expected to foot the bill. They call it “inter-generational injustice”, but you don’t need me to tell you that what it actually represents is a total shitshow.

So what do we do about it? The CPS is today recommending that an Office For Inter-Generational Responsibility be established. At the moment, prospective legislation must be accompanied by an impact assessment analysing its costs and benefits, but assessments that look at the impact of legislation on young people, who are future taxpayers, do not exist – and they should, for obvious reasons.

The Office For Inter-Generational responsibility would co-ordinate these impact assessments. It all sounds highly bureaucratic but what it ultimately means is that a body will exist that has a fiduciary duty towards future taxpayers as well as current taxpayers. What it all comes down to is the need for those in power to take some time to consider the impact of their decisions on future generations; something we can all agree that previous governments have not been doing enough.

Politicians are known for pursuing short-term goals, a tendency that is not helped by pressure from self-interested lobbyists, nor the fact that young people are less likely to vote or engage with the political system.

The CPS report has several ideas for how we go about reducing the financial burden on the young, including reducing tax reliefs, but the one I’m perhaps least convinced would work is that we “embrace digital democracy” by starting an e-petition asking for our own designated minister. Certainly a Minister for Younger People is a very good idea, but could we actually garner a million signatures?

Perhaps I’m jaded because the one I signed to legalise space cakes has yet to come to fruition, but I just can’t see a million people signing up for something so BBI (Boring But Important). And yet, more than that tuned in for the season six premiere of Made in Chelsea. It’s a bleak state of affairs.

But it’s worth a try. We’re obviously in need of a vocal, galvanised political movement of young people, one that isn’t made up of university debating society tosspots, but real people. Perhaps Russell Brand could take it on – young people love him, apparently (though clearly not enough to back Ed Miliband). I’d like to see Owen Jones write a book about inter-generational injustice – he’s done Chavs, and the Establishment, could we have one on Boomers next?

Or perhaps I could transform my personal anger towards the “Escape to the Sun” generation into some kind of furious national movement? I like my parents but the rest of them, with their free university educations, buy-to-lets, sexual liberation, top quality drugs and Cash in the Attic have caused me no end of trouble. Thanks, guys. Really. Much appreciated.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a writer for the New Statesman and the Guardian. She co-founded The Vagenda blog and is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media.

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"We repealed, then forgot": the long shadow of Section 28 homophobia

Why are deeply conservative views about the "promotion" of homosexuality still being reiterated to Scottish school pupils? 

Grim stories of LGBTI children being bullied in school are all too common. But one which emerged over the weekend garnered particular attention - because of the echoes of the infamous Section 28, nearly two decades after it was scrapped.

A 16-year-old pupil of a West Lothian school, who does not wish to be named, told Pink News that staff asked him to remove his small rainbow pride badge because, though they had "no problem" with his sexuality, it was not appropriate to "promote it" in school. It's a blast from the past - the rules against "promoting" homosexuality were repealed in 2000 in Scotland, but the long legacy of Section 28 seems hard to shake off. 

The local authority responsible said in a statement that non-school related badges are not permitted on uniforms, and says it is "committed to equal rights for LGBT people". 

The small badge depicted a rainbow-striped heart, which the pupil said he had brought back from the Edinburgh Pride march the previous weekend. He reportedly "no longer feels comfortable going to school", and said homophobia from staff members felt "much more scar[y] than when I encountered the same from other pupils". 

At a time when four Scottish party leaders are gay, and the new Westminster parliament included a record number of LGBTQ MPs, the political world is making progress in promoting equality. But education, it seems, has not kept up. According to research from LGBT rights campaigners Stonewall, 40 per cent of LGBT pupils across the UK reported being taught nothing about LGBT issues at school. Among trans students, 44 per cent said school staff didn’t know what "trans" even means.

The need for teacher training and curriculum reform is at the top of campaigners' agendas. "We're disappointed but not surprised by this example," says Jordan Daly, the co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education [TIE]. His grassroots campaign focuses on making politicians and wider society aware of the reality LGBTI school students in Scotland face. "We're in schools on a monthly basis, so we know this is by no means an isolated incident." 

Studies have repeatedly shown a startling level of self-harm and mental illness reported by LGBTI school students. Trans students are particularly at risk. In 2015, Daly and colleagues began a tour of schools. Shocking stories included one in which a teacher singled out a trans pupils for ridicule in front of the class. More commonly, though, staff told them the same story: we just don't know what we're allowed to say about gay relationships. 

This is the point, according to Daly - retraining, or rather the lack of it. For some of those teachers trained during the 1980s and 1990s, when Section 28 prevented local authorities from "promoting homosexuality", confusion still reigns about what they can and cannot teach - or even mention in front of their pupils. 

The infamous clause was specific in its homophobia: the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" could not be mentioned in schools. But it's been 17 years since the clause was repealed in Scotland - indeed, it was one of the very first acts of the new Scottish Parliament (the rest of the UK followed suit three years later). Why are we still hearing this archaic language? 

"We repealed, we clapped and cheered, and then we just forgot," Daly says. After the bitter campaign in Scotland, in which an alliance of churches led by millionaire businessman Brian Souter poured money into "Keeping the Clause", the government was pleased with its victory, which seemed to establish Holyrood as a progressive political space early on in the life of the parliament. But without updating the curriculum or retraining teaching staff, Daly argues, it left a "massive vacuum" of uncertainty. 

The Stonewall research suggests a similar confusion is likely across the UK. Daly doesn't believe the situation in Scotland is notably worse than in England, and disputes the oft-cited allegation that the issue is somehow worse in Scotland's denominational schools. Homophobia may be "wrapped up in the language of religious belief" in certain schools, he says, but it's "just as much of a problem elsewhere. The TIE campaign doesn't have different strategies for different schools." 

After initial disappointments - their thousands-strong petition to change the curriculum was thrown out by parliament in 2016 - the campaign has won the support of leaders such as Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale, and recently, the backing of a majority of MSPs. The Scottish government has set up a working group, and promised a national strategy. 

But for Daly, who himself struggled at a young age with his sexuality and society's failure to accept it, the matter remains an urgent one.  At just 21, he can reel off countless painful stories of young LGBTI students - some of which end in tragedy. One of the saddest elements of the story from St Kentigern's is that the pupil claimed his school was the safest place he had to express his identity, because he was not out at home. Perhaps for a gay pupil in ten years time, that will be a guarantee. 

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