National Wellbeing: A good fit for the Conservatives?

13 October 2011

The Children’s Society, in collaboration with the Social Market Foundation and the new economics foundation, hosted an event at the Conservative Party Conference on national well-being.

The panel, made up of David Burrowes MP, Bob Reitemeier, Charles Seaford and Randeep Ramesh, focused on if the Conservatives can make well-being a priority at a time when economic growth is the major focus of the government.

Conservative Fringe EventDavid Burrowes MP, PPS to Oliver Letwin, told the fringe meeting that the coalition was very ambitious about promoting well-being and that government had a serious responsibility to look in depth at what it could do to support relationships. While arguing for the importance of well-being and moving away from GDP as the only measure of the country’s performance, he did not endorse the “Spirit Level book approach" of putting equality ahead of growth.

Randeep Ramesh, Social Affairs Editor of The Guardian, said that despite experiencing strong economic growth over the last decade, Britain had become less emotionally prosperous as a society. He argued that we needed to consider the cultural and socio-economic factors that create the ideal environment for happiness and well-being.

Charles Seaford, head of the centre for well-being at the new economics foundation, said that if the government were to achieve some success in promoting well-being it would be through small policies from community to community, not by central diktat from Whitehall.

Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children's Society questioned why the government's well-being survey had not including young people. He also said that the country was in the midst of an educational revolution, it was important that well-being was seen as an important part of children's education.

The panel were asked what they could do to actively promote a greater sense of well-being in communities across the UK. Bob Reitemeier responded by saying more inter-generational work needed to be done, to reduce the levels of fear and suspicion in communities and across generations. Charles Seaford said that the government should be making it easier for communities to pedestrianize areas, to increasing social encounters and strengthening community spirit.