Our Grandparents Don’t Owe Us Anything
This week Housing Minister Gavin Barwell suggested older people in the UK should leave money and property to their grandchildren to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder and ease the housing crisis.
For many, many reasons this is a ridiculous suggestion and one that only perpetuates the inequality that is already rife within British society. But the main reason that this angered and terrified me in equal proportions is because of the attitude it inevitably breeds.
The treatment of older people (65+) in this country is already questionable at best. Only half of older people think that they are treated well by the government, while a survey in 2014 revealed that 2.9 million older people felt that they had no one to turn to or ask for help. Yet Mr Barwell believes we are well within our rights to ask our grandparents, who often feel ostracised from society, to foot the bill for our futures and fix the housing crisis with their own hard-earned money.
The issue of inheritance has always had a tendency to poison familial relationships. As an older person (who has something of worth to pass on) begins to show strain under the weight of decades of time the question of ‘protecting inheritance’ arises. Slowly these people who have lived full, varied lives of their own, who have a million stories to tell and who continually support and love every addition to their family begin to transform. They are no longer well-loved grannies or granddads but bulging bags of cash marked ‘your future’.
These are the people who have scrimped and saved, lived through wars, lived through strikes, lived through poverty — all at the hands of the same people who would now ask them to pay for their grandchildren’s homes.
I hope that Mr Barwell is lucky enough to enjoy a loving relationship with his grandparents (perhaps this is why he thinks they can buy his house) but in case he doesn’t here are some things that grandparents can often be expected to provide: copious amounts of food five minutes after you’ve said you’re not hungry, a safe haven from your parents when they’re pissing you off, a reminder that your parents made all the same mistakes, bizarre utility gifts you never knew you needed, a swift tug back to reality when you’re whining about something superficial, great hugs and many, many, many cups of tea…and biscuits. Cold, hard cash is most definitely not on the list.
There should be absolutely no expectation for grandparents to spend their money on anyone else but them. The money that they have worked for year after year should be spent on themselves in any way they please, or in any way necessary to facilitate the highest quality of life possible. This means that the money they have saved or money from the sale of their property should go on paying for carers, paying for care homes, paying for private medical treatment, paying for upgrading their home, and if it’s what they want paying for a worldwide cruise with all the trimmings.
Families aren’t to blame though. We live in a time where there aren’t enough jobs or homes but there is plenty of debt to go around. Who can blame people for seeing their inheritance as a lifeline? Who can blame them for wanting a chance to stabilise their finances or a chance to offer their children a home of their own? But the second anyone would value a deposit for a pokey two-bedroom house more greatly than a human being with dreams, and emotions and experiences just as valuable as our own, we have fucked up.
I blame Gavin Barwell and those around him in the government and the governments who have come before, those who haven’t built enough houses or created enough jobs, and who contributed to the financial crash that seems to have caused a never-ending slump. I blame those that now have the gall to ask our grandparents to fix their mistakes.
Perhaps this seems a little repetitive or a little over-dramatic but really what I’m saying is that our grandparents don’t owe us anything.