Lords to host 'Big Care Debate' as chamber is opened up to young people and the University of the Third Age

04 December 2012


The House of Lords is throwing open its doors to debaters both young and old, when the first intergenerational debate takes place in the Lords chamber on Friday 7 December.

Up to 110 members of the University of the Third Age (U3A), an organisation for people who no longer need to work full time or look after dependent children and who are seeking opportunities to learn, and the same number of 14-18 year-old students from 10 state schools across the UK, will come together to take part in The Big Care Debate: “Who should be responsible for providing support to the vulnerable in our society?”  

The Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, said:

“I am delighted that the Lords is hosting this inter-generational event, which is a real first for the chamber. This will be a fascinating debate, which I am very much looking forward to chairing from the Woolsack, as the chamber entertains debaters from either end of the age spectrum who will discuss an issue which has profound implications for us all.

“It will be interesting to hear the views and personal experiences both sides bring to the debate and their opinions on how society should treat its most vulnerable members. By having participants of all ages on all sides of the argument, I hope that that the debate will tackle the pressing social, economic and ethical questions that arise out of how we care for the disabled, support children living in care and address the impact of an ageing population. 

“The forecast increasing costs of social care will be a crucial issue in coming years and is one the House of Lords takes very seriously. A select committee of the House has already been established to look at the impact of demographic change on public services. I’m sure Members of that Committee will be interested to hear the views expressed in the debate on 7 December.”

In another first for the annual event, which sees the House of Lords open up its chamber to non-members, the Clerk of the Parliaments will be supporting the debate from the Clerks’ table.

Working together, U3A members and students will form three core teams of speakers to approach the motion through three different ‘lenses’:

  • the state (local/national/devolved government)
  • the family (with a focus on intergenerational issues)
  • the third sector (with a focus on the role of religious and voluntary organisations.

The three core teams leading the debate have received training from The English-Speaking Union, an educational charity which fosters debating skills in young people.

Dame Mary Richardson, Chairman of The English-Speaking Union, said:

“The English-Speaking Union was formed out of the Great War with a vision to foster understanding between peoples and communities through the medium of the English language. It is both a uniquely qualified and truly contemporary operator in educational advancement, debate training and persuasive speech outreach work. The ESU's programmes in the UK, and beyond, foster speaking, listening and reasoning skills and our work inspires and empowers people of all ages to discover their voice and become confident, articulate participants in civic society. That is why we are so pleased to be partnering with the House of Lords whose values we share – especially on The Big Care Debate which matches our vision and ambition.”

Barbara Lewis, National Chairman of the University of the Third Age, said:

“I’m delighted that the U3A has been asked to take part in this remarkable event, especially as our members will be working alongside young people from schools. This sort of intergenerational activity is something we are very keen on developing and many local U3As have been working closely with schools by helping pupils to learn and learning from them.  The U3A is one of the very few organisations in the country which is run for older people, by older people, instead of being run by well-intentioned second agers, and I hope you will see in the debate the independence of thought and zest for knowledge that characterises our 295,813 members in 870 local U3As throughout the UK.”

In a third and final ‘first’ for this event, the debate will be broadcast as live, with a 15-minute delay on Parliament’s website.

Subscribe to Lords newsletter

Sign up for the House of Lords newsletter for the latest news, debates and business