Fairer Futures

What will the UK look like in ten years? Will it be a utopia in which work is voluntary, food is free and Sheffield United are in the Premier League? Will it be a post-brexit nightmare in which we have lost all contact with the outside world? Will it even exist at all, or will Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have taken it one step too far?

Whatever you believe, in a decade the UK won't look like it does now and neither will the people who populate it. The ‘youth’ of today will be in their late 20s or early 30s, and the issues we will have to be equipped to face will be quite different to today's.

I have been asked by Now Then to present my thoughts on the matter as a young person who has worked with other young people for a number of years. It's worth noting that I am white, middle-class and male, so my views will be biased from a perspective of privilege, but through my work I hope that these thoughts represent more than just my own.

The first and most potentially devastating issue that we face is – as you’ve probably heard scientists telling us for the past 20 years – climate change. Not only do rising sea levels pose an immediate threat to those living on the coast (we have already had our first climate refugees in the Solomon Islands), but they also pose a threat to the way we live our lives. In Europe, the main threat is not in fact a rise in temperature, but a drastic fall due to the diversion of the Gulf Stream. The group who will be most affected by climate change have the least control over it; those of us who are currently too young to help put in place measures that could prevent Europe from being dragged into another ice age.

A second problem that, whilst not necessarily world-ending, will change life as we know it is automation. PwC estimate that by 2030, 30% of jobs in the UK could be at high risk of automation, mainly in low-skill sectors like retail. This is largely due to advancements in artificial intelligence, which will allow many administrative jobs to be done by a single program instead of 50 people. We are not preparing people for this world through our education systems and many of the skills we are taught at school could become obsolete by the time we leave. There are certainly areas in which humans can excel, but they are often creative skills, currently under-valued and under-taught. If we are to prepare for an automated world, this must change.

These two issues are undoubtedly going to define our generation. They are problems that will require structural and societal changes to deal with successfully.

The final problem – one that perhaps feels more pressing for many young people – is the issue of income inequality, particularly in relation to housing. As house prices rise and wages don’t, many young people face the prospect of renting for the rest of their lives. This is not only demoralising, but it reduces economic security and puts young people in uncertain, potentially vulnerable positions.

The future is certainly not all doom and gloom. There are potential solutions to all of these problems – personally I think universal basic income could address automation and housing inequality quite neatly – but to pretend that these issues aren’t there, and that they aren’t getting worse, is to delude yourself.

My generation is the future and you have to ask yourselves what kind of world is being left for us. We will face our own problems, and we will deal with them when we do, but it's the duty of the leaders of today to prepare the leaders of tomorrow for that task.

Our society can, and must, change if that is to happen, and it can only do that by listening to our concerns and dreams.

Isaac Hanson

Isaac Hanson is a young advisor at Sheffield Futures and a former member of the Sheffield Youth Cabinet.

Vision For Our Young People

As part of our work with the Our Fair City campaign, Now Then and its parent company, Opus, have been exploring issues of fairness and inequality in Sheffield for the last 12 months. One group who should be at the centre of this debate is children and young people, because the problems we face now, as a city and as a society, will ultimately affect them the most.

Of course, the theme of Fairer Futures ties closely with the other areas we've been exploring recently through the Our Fair City campaign, namely Fairer Food, Fairer Work and Fairer Money. Almost a quarter of children in Sheffield live in poverty, a fact that is acknowledged in the recent publication of the city's Tackling Poverty Strategy, which includes a Child Poverty Strategy. In the context of continuing 'austerity', squeezing local authorities still further, it's clear that a bigger, more strategic approach is needed.

Earlier this year, the Children and Young People's Partnership Network (CYPPN) worked with young people in Sheffield to put together their own vision for the city.

The network looked at the concerns and aspirations of young people connecting with its member organisations, including Sheffield Young Carers, Sheffield Futures and Chilypep. The resulting report, Vision For Our Young People, produced by Voluntary Action Sheffield, outlines the topic areas which are most important to young people here: Positive Health & Wellbeing, Education & Employment, Opportunities & Future, Voice & Influence, Safety & Security, Poverty, and Diversity & Belonging

The full report, as well as a summary document, can be found on the Voluntary Action Sheffield website (under 'Networks and Policy'). Three of Sheffield's MPs have pledged their support for the vision and the next stage for the network is to see it more widely acknowledged and adopted across the city. The third sector supports thousands of young people in Sheffield every week, making a significant positive impact on their lives, but the network wants to work collaboratively across all sectors to come up with a joined-up action plan by young people, for young people.

Vision For Our Young People is a 'living document', so anyone providing services and activities to young people in the city can add to it by emailing vision@vas.org.uk.

Sam Walby

vas.org.uk/networks_and_policy

Sheffield’s Tackling Poverty Strategy 2015-18