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 the same number of 14-18 year-old students from 10 state schools across the UK, came together to take part in The Big Care Debate: ‘Who should be responsible for providing support to the vulnerable in our society?’
The House of Lords worked with The English-Speaking Union (ESU) to deliver the debate. The ESU trained three intergenerational teams of students and U3A members to lead on a separate debate option each - covering the involvement of the state, the family and the third-sector in providing social care. The teams were assisted by mentor members of the House of Lords, Lord Haskel and Baroness Pitkeathley.
After a lively debate the participants voted on who they thought should provide support. The results were:
- The state: 138 votes
- The family: 48 votes
- The third sector: 21 votes
In another first for the annual event, the Clerk of the Parliaments supported the debate from the Clerks’ table.
Ahead of the debate the Lord Speaker stated:
'I am delighted that the Lords is hosting this intergenerational 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.'
The Big Care Debate is the sixth event to be held in the House of Lords chamber.
Image: © House of Lords 2010/Photography Roger Harris