WILL THE ‘FAMILY’ STILL BE ABLE TO CARE FOR THE REGION’S OLD FOLK?: It may with help from  North East Devolution

By Stephen Lambert


THE UK has an ‘Ageing Population’. This means that an increasing number of the population are elderly – aged 65 or over. In 1961 just under 12% were old. By 2020 it’s estimated that over 20% will be over 65 due to declining fertility and increased life expectancy.

Health and social care services are in crisis as they try to meet the needs of an ageing region. Yet contrary to popular belief the ‘family’ in whatever form still cares informally for the old. Whether it can continue to perform this role in the future is debateable.

For some an ageing population is a problem. More older people means greater demands on health, social services, social security and housing: above all the ‘family’ especially women who provide the bulk of community care.

 Yet this view is one-sided. The majority of older people - 60 to 75 are fit and healthy. Most have an active life. According to Age UK their most common pastime is watching TV, seeing and caring for relative and friends.  Seven out of 10 liked shopping, four out of 10 enjoyed gardening and over half take a regular walk.

The older people get, the more likely they are to live alone.  Even when living alone, most older people have regular contact with relatives, especially adult children. It is older people who have no children who tend to be socially isolated and need state support to enable them to stay in their own homes or in supported sheltered housing.

The idea that the family no longer cares for its old folk and has abdicated its responsibilities to the state is misplaced. Pre-industrial society is often portrayed as‘The Golden Age’ of the family and ageing when older kin were respected and cared for by their own families. The assumption was that people lived in ‘ extended’ type families. This is a myth. Historical research by Peter Laslett notes that the small nuclear family was the norm in pre-industrial England. Late marriages, delayed child birth and early death was prevalent. The marriage age for men was 28 and for women 24. Most people’s life expectancy was 45. To reach old age was comparatively rare.

 It was not till the (19th that the ‘classic extended family’ assumed significance particularly in working-class communities in the north of England. Kin provided mutual support to one another. The birth ofgrand-children increased the number of close ties between the old and their adult children. Older relatives acted as ‘’baby-minders’’ whilst mothers and fathers worked outside the home in factories and mills.

By the mid- (20th the traditional nuclear family or ‘cereal packet family’ emerged across the country due to social and geographical changes. Large numbers of households were made up a working husband, stay at home wife and two kids. For some sociologists the family had become a self-supported isolated unit cut off from other relatives including the old. The development of the post-war Welfare State with the modernisation of society, it was argued, resulted in a sharp decline in family support for the elderly.

Yet there’s little empirical evidence to support the view that modernisation stripped the family of its core functions. The family cared for its old folk throughout the post-war years. In an era of increased family and household diversity it still does fulfil its primary social obligations.

 Most older people are independent and are determined to stand on their own two feet. However, when they become frail and infirm, support is usually provided by their spouse or adult children. Clearly, help is more easily provided if their daughters or sons live nearby. As the social gerentologist Chris Phillipson notes most older people still live near to at least one of their children.

In the last decade or so, there’s some evidence of a decline in face-to-face contact between the elderly and their adult children. This is due to increasing distances between kin. However, this is partly compensated by communication through telephone and e-mail, which can provide ‘’intimacy at a distance’’.

In our ageing society family structures have changed profoundly. Less than 8% of people belong to the traditional nuclear family which was the norm in the 1950s. Soaring divorce and separation rates have led to step- families and lone-parenthood. Dual-income families are on the up. Remaining single has become a post-modern life-style choice.

Family types have become longer and thinner. With fewer children being born, there are fewer brothers, sisters or cousins. With increased life-expectancy, families have become elongated – stretched out to include three or four generations. The result is the so-called ‘’beanpole family’.

About 6 million adults aged 45 to 64 are caring informally for an older parent. Four million are married women. Most are under 24/7 pressure with their caring duties under-valued. Few receive adequate government support. With huge demographic changes forecast coupled with fluid family structures some have questioned whether relatives can provide the support that is desperately needed.

The  government has earmarked £2 billion to tackle the funding crisis in adult social care. North East councils for instance are to get £90 million. Yet this amount - though welcome - is a drop in the ocean. A future devolved combined authority for the North of the Tyne headed up by an elected metro Mayor needs to develop an adequately funded family policy withsupport to our region’s old folk whilst recognising the invaluable help that informal carers give – the Welfare State’s forgotten army.


Stephen Lambert is a Newcastle City Councillor. He is a political advisor to Policy North, the region’s think tank.



By Stephen Lambert

THE PM Theresa May has come out again this month calling for the restoration of Grammar schools to kick start ‘social mobility’ and promote social justice. Today 90% of youngsters attend state comprehensive schools, 7% go to Independent schools and a tiny go to one of the 164 remaining English Grammar schools.

Although the non-selective comprehensive system has been around since the mid-sixties whereby children of abilities go to one school right-wing Conservatives and Ukip claim that it’s failed to create a more just and social mobile society. For the author, James Bloodworth and former Labour Minister Alan Milburn, an advisor to the Government, social mobility has ground to a halt. Despite the social and technological advances of the last three decades both the North East and elsewhere is as class bound and divided as ever. The top Russell universities like Newcastle or York, the BBC, the prestigious professions like law and medicine, are still the preserve of the upper-middle classes. At Durham Uni you’re more likely to cross paths with an Antonia than an Alice or a Giles than a Gavin!

Is restoring the Grammar school of the 1950s with Enid Blyton, warm beers and cricket lawns the answer? The foundations of the old ‘Tripartite system’ were laid down in the war-time Norwood Report of 1943. Norwood argued against the idea of a common secondary school for and argued there should ‘’selective’’ grammar schools for bright children and schooling geared to boys and girls ‘’who desired to enter industry or commerce at 16’’. By 1944 Butler passed the Education Act recommending the need for three types of school to cater for three types of ‘’intelligence’’: academic, practical and one that ‘’dealt with concrete things rather than with ideas’’.

Butler’s Act represented a major stage of state intervention in mass schooling. The Act was based on the key ‘meritocratic’ principle of equality of opportunity which meant that every child should have an equal chance to do as well as his ability would allow and that youngsters with talent could fulfil their potential. Provision was expanded after the war with the introduction of the Tripartite system (in practice a Bipartite system as few Technical schools were built) and the school leaving age was raised to 15 by 1947.

Grammar schools were designed for that quarter of the population deemed academic and secondary moderns for the rest. Selection was based on an IQ exam, the 11-plus, the brainchild of Sir Cyril Burt. Passing the 11-plus was the visa to the local Grammar school. The system lasted till the 1960s when a number of Labour intellectuals including Tony Crosland and Michael Young called time. The system wasn’t working. The time was right for the comprehensive revolution. In 2016 most youngsters in the region go to their local high school.

For the PM Comprehensive education isn’t cutting the mustard. Grammar schools need to be restored to boost social mobility to enhance the life-chances of the able working-class child. The case for selection is based on the following arguments: One, ‘creaming off’. Where Grammar schools continue to thrive alongside comps, as happens in Buckingham or Kent , they cream off the most able pupils. Comps are not true comps at all, as they lack the brightest students. They are barely distinguishable from the old secondary moderns of the ‘Bipartite System’.

High flyers are held back by the slower pace of learning to meet the needs of the less able. With a selective Grammar the more academically able are taught in the same school. The large scale of Comprehensive schools make it hard for teachers to know their pupils personally. The talents of some may be overlooked. Discipline remains a problem. Advocates of the Grammar argue that the more able can be stretched through streaming rather than mixed ability teaching. Grammars they maintain have had a long history of tradition and success opening up opportunities for the disadvantaged child. Even the Labour PM Harold Wilson in 1966 defended them.

But there’s little evidence that the fifties was a ‘golden age’ in terms of educational access or success. The notion of the Grammar school as a vehicle to upward social mobility is a myth. The system, based on the then fashionable 11-plus, failed to deliver genuine equality of opportunity. The exam was flawed. It was an unfair and unreliable indicator of future achievement. It took no account of late development. The 11-plus was culturally biased against the working-class and ethnic minorities in that it used concepts that were more familiar to middle-class youngsters. Even access to the Grammar school was small compared to the pre-war years. The 1944 Act perpetuated the selective tripartite system which had existed since 1902.

The Grammar did offer an academic curriculum. But in practice it was designed for students with academic ability who passed the 11-plus. Most pupils sat ‘0’Levels taught by qualified university graduates. Some   sat A-levels at 18 with the opportunity of going to university or joining a profession. These pupils were mainly middle-class. Even today only 3% of kids on free school meals attend a Grammar school according to the Sutton Trust.

The secondary moderns in contrast offered a non-academic, practical curriculum with technical drawing for boys and needlework for girls. The teaching was poor and few kids sat exams until the CSE was invented in 1965. The pupils were working-class having ‘failed’ the 11-plus.

Rather than promoting a meritocracy, the Tripartite system with the Grammar school as the jewel in the crown, reproduced class inequality by channelling the two social classes into two different types of secondary school which offered unequal opportunities. The system discriminated against girls, requiring them to get higher marks in the 11-plus than boys. The system legitimised unfairness through the ideology of the time the time which believe that raw ability could be measured when a child reached 11.

Yet as Bloodworth and Milburn point out a child’s social background is the chief factor which determines access to a good school or doing well. There was no golden age. What social mobility that did take place was attributable to the post-war expansion of white collar jobs. If the PM gets her way there may well be a Grammar school for every town. But there will have to be two secondary moderns too. Of-course comprehensive education is by no means perfect. Social mobility is limited. Inequality is alive and well with family background the key determinant to job success. But the comprehensive school – a Labour government innovation has opened up wider educational opportunities for many. More young adults today acquire academic and vocational qualifications by the age of 18 than ever before. Labour must step up its campaign against Grammars and reaffirm the principles of comprehensive secondary education.

Stephen Lambert is director, Education4Democracy and a member of the Advisory Board, ‘Policy North’.

Stephen failed his 11-plus in 1970, attended Gosforth secondary school till 1973. In 1973 he attended Gosforth High School and left with 8 ‘O’ levels and 2 ‘A’ levels at grade A in 1977.

He graduated from Warwick University in 1981.

Community Banks are the saviours of community access and the weapon of choice against pay day lenders 

By Guy Opperman MP

Guy is the MP for Hexham, and one of the founders and board members of the Tynedale Community Bank. 


I wanted a bank that is based in my community, served my community, and whose profits would go back to that community. 

That is exactly what we have established in Northumberland recently, with the Tynedale Community Bank.

Our local bank is now taking on the big boys of banking, and seeking to put the pay-day lenders out of business. 

It is still early days for our community bank. We launched in November 2015, helped by the very supportive Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who I also a saver with us. We are making huge strides, albeit we are a work-in-progress. However, I believe we are an object lesson for others who might want to create their own local bank in their own community. 

After a lot of planning, we now have a bank that is live. We are fully accredited, with large amounts of money deposited, and already making loans. Locally, we have wide interest and real local support for the product and the type of bank we are. We don't have shareholders. Once we make a profit we will pay a dividend to depositors, with any further profit going back to local causes. It provides people in Northumberland with a real alternative with a bank that has its roots firmly in the local community. We are not based in London, Frankfurt or Hong Kong; we do not do PPI; and we are not a casino bank, providing derivatives. We are a savings and loans community bank. Yet, the bank has the same protections for people’s savings as a normal high street bank, in that savings are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. People's first concern is always - is this a safe place to keep my money?

More than anything, however, the Tynedale Community Bank is a reaction to the increasingly serious issues in banking and thebanks relationship with the customers they serve. 


In my area banks are disappearing at a rate of around one a month. Yes, this is a free market, but this represents a staggering lack of choice. Last year, according to Jeff Prestridge, the Mail on Sunday’s banking expert, 681 bank branches vanished from the high street – three times the number that closed in 2013. This exodus seriously impacts on an area's community, and on its businesses, farming, and local way of life. We are trying to fill this gap that has appeared on the high street. That gap is getting bigger month on month as more and more high street branches close. I have towns with no banks at all now. And rural areas are particularly affected. 

In addition, whilst the lack of the banks is a big problem, so is the pervasive negative atmosphere in the current banking relationship. 

In the North, there is no doubt that our relationship with banking has changed. We remember all too well the calamity of September 2007, when Northern Rock, the most Northern of banks, triggered the UK banking crisis. Etched on all of our minds is the memory of the queues outside the bank’s many high-street branches – with local people in Newcastle, Gateshead, and elsewhere desperate to withdraw their savings. Fuelled by rumour and uncertainty these were desperate times. Since then, we have faced an uphill struggle, ever since, to get people back into work, and to strengthen our economy. That resurgence has come, but the North definitely has a new relationship with its bankers. 

It is from this, the ashes of the banks that were too big to fail, too interested in big casino bets, and had forgotten the people they were there to serve, that the initial idea of the Tynedale Community Bank was born. We wanted a bank that would work for you, would exist in your community, and that fundamentally fulfilled a bank’s original purpose – a safe local place to save your hard earned money.

That means we have taken a different approach to savings. At the Tynedale Community bank the depositor does not earn interest, but receives an annual dividend based on any profit made. Our mission is to drive forward financial education and a savings culture. We are at the forefront of the Church of England's Lifesavers project that is being rolled out across the schools of our region. The Tyndeale Community Bank is the chosen bank to provide financial education, and an understanding of saving, in five of our local Northumberland first and middle schools.  

On top of this, the saver knows that rather than being used in risky, profit driven bets on the market, their money is in fact being used to impact their local community, by reaching those who most need help. An example of this is the bank’s commitment to helping those afflicted by fuel poverty. This is a very real issue across Northumberland.  We have created over 20 new oil buying groups – and the bank wants to play its part by assisting those struggling to make the required payments to heat their home.

We have a special community in Northumberland and The Tynedale Community Bank wants to play its full part. We have not been short of people seeking to make deposits. Everyone can see the force and ethics of this bank.

We have also taken a different approach to loans. 

High street banks are now no longer willing to undertake low level lending to traditional retail customers. The logistics, regulation and economics of small loans are very unappealing to them, and it is very rare that they will agree to lend sums of less than £1,000, even to customers with a good credit history. Loans of less than £1,000 to anyone with a bad credit history or on an unsecured basis are very rarely made, if ever,  by the high street banks.  The traditional high-street customer feels that the bank they knew, and grew up with, is pushing them away: this is exactly where we want to step in and provide an alternative. 

The combination of the departure of banks from the high-street, and their increasing reluctance to lend smaller sums to customers, has led to the extraordinary growth of payday lenders. Many of these Wonga style lenders charge interest of several hundred percent on quick loans. The devastating potential of these loans for consumers is self-evident, and the consequences are all around us, particularly in the North. Those who need these small loans most are those who often have the least to give. They are those struggling to make ends meet. Last year CashEuroNet, holding company for QuickQuid and Pounds to Pocket, was forced to pay redress of £1.7 million to nearly 4,000 customers, who were given loans they had little chance of repaying. These events happened before the pay day lender reforms, but they are still a salutary tale. It is right that the government has intervened and reformed the pay day lenders by introducing a cap, but the rates are still much higher than normal commercial lending, and not everyone is well advised to take out such a pay day loan. 

In the North, we believe we can lead the fightback against the payday lenders: we do this by providing a local banking presence which is willing to undertake traditional-style small loans to customers. The community bank thus aims to step in by providing a real and affordable alternative.

It’s easy to dismiss the likes of Tynedale Community Bank as idealistic, and inconsequential. However, let us not forget that many of our household names in banking had very humble beginnings. Lloyds Bank started in 1765 (as Taylor & Lloyds) out of a small office in Birmingham, whilst Barclays’ origins were as bankers to the London goldsmiths in 1690. These success stories demonstrate that what you need above all else is simple service, with a strong local buy-in, and a real gap in the market. All of these things exist here. We want to provide a customer-first approach, a community focus to banking with a local presence, and products that will take people out of the clutches of the payday lenders. 

But more than this we want our success to be replicated by others. So the question is - how have we actually created a bank, and could your community do it too?


So just how do you build a bank?

The Tynedale Community Bank was launched on November 5th 2015 with lots of publicity. The launch itself was by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who also became an enthusiastic saver and depositor with the bank. 

The Tynedale Community Bank is fully regulated, by reason of a partnership with the Prince Bishops Bank in nearby Stanley, County Durham. Prince Bishops are not a big bank, but crucially for a start up like ourselves, they have the regulation and back office capability which has allowed us to get established, and short circuit the need to get ourselves individually regulated in our own right. This has saved us a fortune and at least 2 years. 

The way we did this, in my opinion, is key to our creation and long term survival. Initially we contemplated creating a traditional credit union, but the scope and trading limitations of a credit union make it very hard to survive long term, save in particular circumstances. The beauty of a community bank is that you operate like a mutual but you trade like a bank. 


Our objective is to provide:

-  traditional loans to customers in the usual way any bank does. 

 - crisis loans

- competition with pay day lenders amongst those struggling at the bottom end and amongst middle class, normally dual income, families who hit hard times due to illness or a job loss

- help for farmers who have a delayed RPA Payment or cash flow issues with a bridging loan

- loans to purchase heating oil in the winter, particularly when there is an unexpected Spring cold snap. Our scheme saves lives as the heating oil companies require you to pay for 500 litres of heating oil and this is a cost of £250-£400. We have found that some pensioners, or the fuel poor, simply cannot find this money short term without the TCB helping out. Our objective is to ensure that no one risks freezing to death for the lack of urgent finance on a fair rate of repayment. 

We are very much supported by the local churches, Hexham Abbey, the County and Town Councils, and various local civic organisations in Northumberland.

We have had deposits made of well in excess of £100,000. At present, we have little problem attracting savers due to the ethical strength of the project. But we know we need to make more loans to create revenue. In addition, we need to market this excellent product more to get more savers.  

We have a drop in centre at Hexham Abbey one afternoon a week. We arrange appointments to people who need to see us. Applicants can also go online and apply for a loan or make a deposit. We do not have an office, but use Prince Bishops for all admin and back office, thereby keeping our running costs to a very low amount as we start out and grow.

We have one person locally who has taken ownership of the project, and has driven it forward. She is working partly funded, and partly as a volunteer. Her expertise is priceless: she worked 32 years for Yorkshire Bank, and really understands community banking. At the same time we are working hard to forge strategic relationships with key public providers, housing associations and local employers in Northumberland. 

In addition, the bank has had help with start up work, organisation, business plans, and specific financial help from a couple of local foundations and also from a few philanthropic local businessmen and women. Our board is made up of the local great and the good, all enthusiastic volunteers. We are led by Mark I’Anson, a successful local businessman, and head of a couple of community interest organisations. 

Our short term goal is to make ourselves financially viable, and slowly seek to expand into business loans and venture capital projects. There are many potential future models for the banks growth, but there is clearly potential for growth. Many would argue that a challenger local bank like the Cambridge and Counties Bank is a good role model.

Our website is here: http://www.princebishopscommunitybank.org.uk/tynedale-3

If you want to meet the team and see how we have done it then get in touch. Or you could save with us, or support us financially as we grow? In short, any help is gratefully appreciated. 

Some of the publicity we have managed to secure is here: Jeff Prestridge of the Mail on Sunday has done many pieces on us – see here for the latest example:http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/comment/article-3308395/JEFF-PRESTRIDGE-Tynedale-bank-really-serve-community.html

And ITV did a 2 minute piece on the bank itself, it's launch and what we do here:http://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/update/2015-11-06/archbishop-of-york-opens-northumberland-community-bank/

One thing is clear: community banking is here to stay. The key question is this: why don't you, and your community, want to have a community bank? If we can do it, anyone can.