The APPG is pleased to announce the publication of its first report, ‘Wellbeing in four policy areas’, which is now available to download here. A launch event will take place on Tuesday 14th October from 11.30-13.00 in the Houses of Parliament: places are free but limited. Register here.
The report is the result of a year-long inquiry exploring how wellbeing evidence can be translated into policy in four diverse areas: labour markets, planning and transport, mindfulness in health and education, and arts and culture.
Key recommendations of the report include:
- Focus on stable jobs over growth: More than half the UK workforce are worried about losing their jobs, with disastrous consequences for their wellbeing and productivity – sickness leave alone costs an estimated £100bn a year. Secure, stable employment should be the primary focus of economic policy.
- More green spaces in our cities: Planning processes have lost sight of their original mission to improve community wellbeing. Restoring this would transform local areas, with considerable economic benefits – city liveability is a major consideration for big employers, while encouraging residents to take up walking or cycling could save the NHS £675m a year.
- Mindfulness training for doctors and teachers: Mental health problems cost the UK economy an estimated £70bn annually. Training new medical and teaching staff in mindfulness techniques would embed a culture of wellbeing in health and education, and reduce a later burden on the NHS by improving the availability of mindfulness-based therapies.
- Invest in arts and culture: Wellbeing evidence gives a robust means of measuring the value of non-market goods. Arts and culture play an important part in all our lives, and wellbeing data will help make the case for spending in these areas.
The group’s chair, David Lammy MP, said:
“It has been eight years since David Cameron first declared his intention to measure wellbeing, and in that time the financial crisis has shifted many people’s priorities. But in fact wellbeing matters more, not less, in times of economic difficulties.”
“Fundamentally this is about creating the conditions for people to live better lives, which should be the primary objective of all policy. We cannot be distracted by figures of GDP growth without assessing what this really means for people’s lives. This report outlines in practical terms what action the Government can take to increase wellbeing and shift focus onto the need to improve the quality of life in this country.”
“It’s too easy to focus simply on headline figures of unemployment and GDP. Wellbeing economics goes deeper than that and means measuring what really matters to people – whether their jobs are secure, whether they pay well, and whether they offer opportunities for progression. Our inquiry shows how all parties can put in place the building blocks of a high wellbeing recovery.”
Vice-Chair Baroness Claire Tyler said:
“This timely report shows how four years’ worth of UK wellbeing evidence can be used to target limited public spending more effectively to improve people’s lives, as well as deliver significant long-term savings to the public purse.”
“We heard compelling evidence that promoting fair pay and reducing inequality are vital building blocks of a high wellbeing society. As well as tackling low pay, this means much greater transparency on pay at the top, and on pay differentials within firms.”
“Good policy is based on solid evidence. We should be making full use of our comprehensive wellbeing data.”
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Our fifth and final evidence session took a step back from policy detail to explore overarching questions about the role of well-being in policy, and the challenges that must be overcome to accelerate the shift to a well-being approach.
We were joined by keynote speaker Lord Gus O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary, who introduced his recent report as Chair of the Legatum Commission on Wellbeing and Policy. Our two respondents were Lord Richard Layard, fellow Legatum Commissioner and member of the APG as well as a leading expert on well-being economics, and Simon Fiander, Clerk to the Environmental Audit Committee, who gave an overview of their own recently published report on well-being.
This was followed by a wide ranging discussion, from how a well-being approach could be applied to budget allocation at the level of government departments, to whether a values shift was needed to reassert the importance of non-material factors in the political discourse. Full notes of the discussion are available here.
The fourth evidence session of the APPG’s inquiry on well-being and policy was held on 12th May 2014 under the heading “Planning, transport and well-being”. This session examined the evidence about how the built environment can support well-being, and what this means for planning and transport policy.
Kathy MacEwen, Head of Planning and Enabling, Design Council Cabe
Anna Scott-Marshall, Head of External Affairs, Royal Institute of British Architects
Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive, Campaign for Better Transport
Steve Quartermain, Chief Planner, Department for Communities and Local Government
David Lammy MP (chair), Baroness Claire Tyler, Helen Goodman MP, Chris Ruane MP, Lord Richard Layard, Lord Alan Howarth
The session opened with a presentation from Saamah Abdallah, Senior Researcher at NEF, introducing the evidence on planning and well-being. We heard how the built environment can influence well-being through the provision of green spaces, social spaces and opportunities for active transport like cycling and walking; and how the planning process can also influence well-being by involving communities in shaping the places they live.
This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion in which a number of themes emerged:
- Well-being centred planning makes economic sense in the long run – for instance, providing opportunities for physical activity saves public money through improved public health; prioritising green space and active transport reduces pollution, which has long-term economic and health benefits.
- It is important to be clear what the objective of ‘well-being centred planning’ is and how this connects to other policy objectives. For instance, well-being evidence may not suggest a demonstrable case for protecting green belts, but this may support other policy objectives such as protecting ecosystems or preventing settlements from merging. We also need to consider well-being impacts on vulnerable groups as well as aggregate well-being – for example, by creating inclusive built environments that are accessible for an ageing population.
- Existing tools of policy appraisal are inadequate for a well-being approach. Conventional cost-benefit analysis ignores or under-values many of the impacts which matter most for well-being, such as community cohesion or air and noise pollution. This skews the system towards certain policy outcomes (for instance, road building) which may not optimise well-being.
The third evidence session of the APPG’s inquiry on well-being and policy was held on 9th April 2014 under the heading “Mindfulness in Health and Education”. While the previous session looked at well-being policy through the lens of particular policy problems, this session took as its starting point a potential policy solution – mindfulness programmes – and considered possible applications in health, education and other areas of policy.
Professor Willem Kuyken, Exeter University
Heema Shukla, Public Health England
Dr Jonty Heaversedge, BBC1’s Street Doctor
Richard Burnett, Mindfulness in Schools Project
Professor Katherine Weare, University of Exeter
Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College
Baroness Claire Tyler (chair), David Lammy MP, Helen Goodman MP, Martin Horwood MP, Chris Ruane MP
The session opened with a presentation from Professor Willem Kuyken introducing the concept of mindfulness and the evidence base on its benefits and applications. This was followed by two panel discussions, the first focussing on health policy, the second on education. Some key emerging themes were:
- Well-being must be seen as integral to core policy objectives in health and education, and not separate from them: mental health is inseparable from physical health, and children’s mental health and well-being is inseparable from their capacity to learn and achieve. A more holistic approach is needed.
- Implementing mindfulness in healthcare faces many familiar challenges for the wider well-being agenda: for instance, the difficulty of co-ordination between different actors, and the long-term and diffuse nature of the potential savings to the public purse.
- In both health and education, a key challenge for scaling up mindfulness programmes is building the stock of trained mindfulness teachers whilst maintaining standards. It was suggested that mindfulness should be included in teacher training and in medical students’ training as a matter of course – bearing in mind that mindfulness can benefit doctors and teachers as much as it can patients and pupils.
The second evidence session of the APPG’s inquiry on well-being and policy was held on 10th March 2014 under the heading “Labour Markets and Wellbeing”. The discussion centred around the question of whether and how labour market policy might look different if motivated by the goal of maximising well-being rather than growth.
David Norgrove, Chair, Low Pay Commission
Dr Andrew Clark, Paris School of Economics
Nicola Smith, Head of Economics & Social Affairs, TUC
Stephen Bevan, Head of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness, Work Foundation
David Mobbs, Group Chief Executive, Nuffield Health
David Lammy MP (Chair), Baroness Claire Tyler, Lord Alan Howarth, Lord Richard Layard, Helen Goodman MP, Julian Huppert MP, Martin Horwood MP, Chris Ruane MP
The session opened with a presentation from Saamah Abdallah of the New Economics Foundation summarising the evidence on work-related drivers of well-being, and how they might be used to inform policy. Witnesses and group members then discussed how this might apply to four key policy areas: the minimum wage, job security, working hours and job quality (including employee health and well-being).
The first in the latest series of APPG meetings on Wellbeing Economics was held on 11th December 2013 under the heading “Culture and Wellbeing”. The role that evidence about wellbeing plays in shaping policy on cultural activities was discussed.
Tony Butler, Happy Museum
Daniel Fujiwara, London School of Economics and Happy Museum
Charlotte Jones, Independent Theatre Council
Alan Davey, Arts Council
Gareth Maeer, Heritage Lottery Fund
Dave O’Brien, City University London
David Lammy MP, Helen Goodman MP, Lord (Alan) Howarth
It emerged from the discussion that evidence about wellbeing could be used to serve three key roles:
- To make a case for increased spending on culture by attaching monetary values to the benefits created by participation in cultural activities
- To help policy makers maximise the impact of culture policy in terms of increasing wellbeing by understanding whose wellbeing benefits most from different cultural activities, and understanding how cultural policy may be complimentary to policy in other sectors, such as health
- To help those working in the industry to maximise the impact of their work in terms of increasing wellbeing, by using the evidence to encourage cultural providers to think about the purpose of their work, and inform their strategic decision making,
It was stated that more research is needed in this area to pinpoint which aspects of culture benefit wellbeing, and to be able to prove causation in order to better inform action in these areas.
Full notes of the meeting are available here.
The Group is currently organising an inquiry into how policy can increase wellbeing without increasing public expenditure. This will take place over a series of meetings at which expert witnesses will appear and answer questions from members.
The first of these was held on the 11th December 2013 on what the wellbeing evidence tells us about how best to support ‘culture’
The following meetings are planned and details of dates and venues will be available shortly:
How can government use wellbeing evidence to guide labour market policy (for example the trade-off between job security and extra jobs)?
What is the role of mindfulness in the health and education systems?
How can planning policy support well-being (for example through the provision of green spaces, community spaces, and car-free spaces)?