The concept of intergenerational fairness has taken hold across Europe since the 2008 financial crisis. In the United Kingdom (UK), focus on intergenerational conflict has been further sharpened by the 2016 ‘Brexit’ vote to take the UK out of the European Union. However, current debates around intergenerational fairness are taking place among policy makers, the media and in think-tanks. In this way, they are conversations about, but not with, people. This article draws on qualitative interviews with 40 people aged 19–85 years and living in North-East England and Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, to explore whether macro-level intergenerational equity discourses resonate in people's everyday lives. We find widespread pessimism around young people's prospects and evidence of a fracturing social contract, with little faith in the principles of intergenerational equity, equality and reciprocity upon which welfare states depend. Although often strong, the kin contract was not fully ameliorating resentment and frustration among participants observing societal-level intergenerational unfairness mirrored within families. However, blame for intergenerational inequity was placed on a remote state rather than on older generations. Despite the precariousness of the welfare state, participants of all ages strongly supported the principle of state support, rejecting a system based on family wealth and inherited privilege. Rather than increased individualism, participants desired strengthened communities that encouraged greater intergenerational mixing.