'Britain is a deeply impressive country, with a rich history, successful institutions and compassionate, resourceful people. Yet British society is facing a set of new challenges that were not on the political agenda a decade ago. Growth is uncertain, and more cuts in public spending are to come regardless of who is in power after 2015. Many people have not had a decent pay rise in the last 10 years, while the price of essentials continues to grow faster than wages. Family time is increasingly squeezed between work and caring for young children or elderly relatives. Young people in Britain face an uncertain future, while older people struggle to stay connected to those around them.'
Introduction - Graeme Cooke, Kayte Lawton and Nick Pearce
The central question that the Condition of Britain programme aims to address is: How can we come together to build a better society in these uncertain and austere times? In this interim report, we seek to identify the central strains and social problems in people's lives, and examine how the politics and policies of both left and right have often failed to get to grips with the real challenges facing British society. A second report, to be published in early summer 2014, will outline an agenda for reform to build a better society.
Bringing together the five earlier Condition of Britain briefing papers, the interim report looks at:
- childhood and raising a family
- growing up as a young modern Briton
- homes and neighbourhoods
- finding a decent job and achieving financial security
- older people and the challenges of staying connected
As with all of our Condition of Britain work, the new report is informed by the stories we've heard from people across the country. During our visits to key services and innovative community schemes and via our 'story-telling' blog, Voices of Britain, people have been telling us about the pressures they face and about the people - family, friends, community groups and services - who help them through. The insights we have gained from these conversations and stories are supported by a range of empirical evidence, including academic research, robust opinion-polling, and new analysis of national household surveys.
We have found a wealth of energy, creativity and resilience in families and neighbourhoods across Britain. Many people are committed to helping themselves and others, and to working together to build a better society.
However, although the people we met during our research did not tell us that British society is 'broken', it is clear that parts of society are under enormous strain. We have identified a set of pressures on Britain's social fabric that are making it harder for people to keep striving to improve their lives and those of the people around them. The vast majority are problems that affect most of us at one time or another, not just a minority of people.
The key findings can be summarised as follows:
- household finances are squeezed
- family life is under growing strain
- young people's prospects are increasingly uncertain
- some neighbourhoods remain blighted by crime
- a minority of people remain excluded from society
- many people have lost faith in the benefit system
- more and more older people are facing loneliness and isolation.
Make your contribution
This initial phase of our work is designed to stimulate a debate about the best way forward. Throughout this interim report, each policy lesson concludes with a set of questions, which we will seek to answer in the next phase. We would love to hear about your experiences and ideas in response to these questions. If you have experiences or expertise to share, please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee a personal response to everyone, but we will do our best to reflect all of the comments we receive in the next stage of our work.
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