By Hannah Ormston, Ben Thurman and Jen Wallace from the Carnegie UK Trust

In 2019, New Zealand made headlines around the world when their government signalled a genuine commitment to improving New Zealanders collective wellbeing through their annual budget. Applauded for being “transformational” and a “world first”, the NZ Treasury outlined their ambitions to measure progress beyond economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product. These indicators failed to capture the complexity of individual lives and, as NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “do not guarantee improvement to living standards” or “take into account who benefits and who is left out”.

Yet, as New Zealand announces its spending priorities for the next year, some have expressed disappointment, criticising the government’s lack of progress as well as a diminishing focus on wellbeing for which the NZ budget has become so well known.  But are these claims missing the point: that in New Zealand the concept of wellbeing has shifted from something novel, to an approach that’s now embedded within the day- to-day decision making of government?

What makes a ‘wellbeing’ budget?

In his pre-budget speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the three main goals for this term of government: continuing to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19, accelerating recovery, and taking on the generational challenges with the economy and society: in particular focusing on housing affordability, climate change, and children’s wellbeing. These are undoubtedly wellbeing goals. 

Sitting within a wider financial strategy, the ‘wellbeing’ specific component of the NZ budget consists of an allocated sum of money set aside to focus on prevention and improving collective wellbeing outcomes; policies and projects that better meet the needs of generations today, whilst also considering the long-term impact on generations to come. Spending from this ‘wellbeing pot’ is informed by a range of data that’s collected in a purpose built framework: the Living Standards Framework. It includes 12 areas of life that the government believe are critical for wellbeing, such as health; housing; social connections; and cultural identity.

Each year, the NZ Treasury uses the data in the Living Standards Framework to understand the issues that pose the biggest threat to wellbeing and inform decisions about where they should spend these funds. A wellbeing government understands that social, environmental, economic and democratic wellbeing have equal importance, and responds flexibly, by directing spending to the most urgent issues. In 2019, they chose to focus on improving mental health, child poverty, and family violence, while in 2020, their focus pivoted to the rapidly changing impact of COVID-19, and its immediate impact on people and communities. 

This year, the NZ government’s continued commitment to a wellbeing approach can be seen through the recent amendment to their Public Finance Act.  The Act now makes provision for the Minister of Finance to set wellbeing objectives to guide budget decisions. For the 2021 budget, the NZ Treasury has decided to focus its attention on the following objectives:

1. Securing a Just Transition to shift to a lower emission economy;

2. Enhancing productivity and enabling New Zealanders to benefit from the future of work;

3. Improving social and economic outcomes within Maori and pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;

4.  Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing; and

5.  Supporting physical and mental wellbeing for all, including keeping COVID-19 out of communities.

When assessing new policy and project proposals, their contribution to each of the above priorities is considered alongside their value for money, which is based on an assessment of their contribution to the wellbeing domains in the Living Standards Framework.

The priorities outlined in the 2021 recovery and wellbeing budget far from suggest a ‘move away’ from wellbeing. Rather, they show that their approach is holistic, and balances the health, wealth, and wellbeing of current and future generations in equal measure. It demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of individual and collective lives, and that recovery from COVID-19 and collective wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.

What are the lessons from the NZ approach?

But what can other countries learn from New Zealand’s approach, and what are the opportunities to build on, wherever you are? New Zealand is one of several Wellbeing Economy Governments who have a shared understanding – and ambition – to build sustainable wellbeing economies which include Scotland and Wales. The National Performance Framework in Scotland, and the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 each place a strong emphasis on prevention, intervention, integration and localism, similar to the NZ model. 

And while 20 May marks the next wellbeing budget announcement in New Zealand, in the UK, exciting new legislation, which shares the ambition to embed wellbeing in policymaking for current and future generations, will receive its first reading in the new parliamentary session in the House of Lords. At the Carnegie UK Trust, we work to improve the wellbeing of people in the UK and Ireland, recently publishing ‘Gross Domestic Wellbeing’ as an alternative measure of social progress in England: so we’re clear that ensuring we all have what we need to live well now, and in the future, should be the ambition of any government. This could be an important moment as the UK takes its first steps towards doing just that. 

References: 

Wallace, Ormston, Thurman et. al 2020. Gross Domestic Wellbeing: an alternative measure of social progress. 

Photo by Gigin Krishnan on Unsplash

By Michael Weatherhead, WEAll Organisation and Projects lead

The WEAll Amp team recently moved to a four-day working week. Why did we do this? We felt it was important for us to ‘walk the talk’ of a Wellbeing Economy – and a four-day work week is one of the many policies held up as contributing to just such an economy.

The reasons given in support of a reduced working week are many and range from the social to the environmental via the economic.

From a personal/social perspective, a flexible four-day week provides staff with a greater flexibility to balance commitments outside of work. Commitments may be domestic including childcare, and may also be in community activities or volunteer spaces or simply time to learn a new skill. As the quote attributed to Oscar Wilde puts it, “The trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings”: a fair enough sentiment when the average working week in the late 1800s was 12 hours per day, six days per week.

In relation to the environment, greater flexibility and reduced workdays can have significant environmental benefits in terms of reduced transport costs and pollution[1]. As countries emerge from lockdowns imposed in response to the pandemic, a four-day work week and flexible working arrangements can bake in a percentage of the carbon footprint saving caused by the lockdown.

The idea that a reduced work week can also be good for economic recovery is not a new one. The five-day work week was officially adopted in the United States in the early 1930s in response to the Great Depression. Lower per capita working hours expanded the number of jobs available in the system at the time.

Even earlier than that, in the 1920s Henry Ford instigated the 40-hour work week with a two-day weekend, in part to provide time for workers to use their incomes in the consumption and enjoyment of other goods, supporting the circulation of money around the economy. Fast forward to 2020, the same argument was made by the government of New Zealand, that a four-day work week could provide New Zealanders with more free time thus boosting local tourism[2].

Lastly, early evidence[3] indicates that productivity increases when shifting from a five-day to a four-day/32-hour week.

The WEAll Amp team’s own journey of first exploring and then moving to a four-day working week involved speaking with several organisations that had transitioned to a four-day week. Each had adopted a different approach to the four-day week. One had moved from five to four days for full time staff and increased (pro-rata) the hourly equivalent wage for part-time staff. This was coupled with a decrease in the holiday allowance. Another operated a compressed hours model, shifting to a four-day work week from five, but with the same hours and with no changes in holiday allowance; yet another adopted a move to a four-day week – a 20% reduction in full-time staff hours, with a 10% reduction in pay for full-time staff and with the pay for part-time staff left unaffected.

The WEAll Amp team has as many people on part-time contracts as it does full-time. Adopting the first of the above approaches mentioned would therefore imply a budgetary impact. At this stage of our development, this was not an impact that we felt we could absorb. What was most valued by the team was the flexibility a four-day week provides. Thus, to the outside world, we now operate a four-day week (closed on Friday) but with flexibility for full time team members to compress their 35 hours in any way they wish.

It may be the case that we will arrive at a four-day week of 30-32 hours in the future (with the associated uplift in part-time pay), but for now, WEAll has taken the first important step on our organisational journey to a working week better aligned with the Wellbeing Economy vision.


[1] https://cepr.net/documents/publications/energy_2006_12.pdf

[2] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/new-zealand-jacinda-ardern-4-day-week-pandemic-productivity

[3] https://4dayweek.com/four-day-week-trial

WEAll is recruiting for a COP26 Music Event Producer. This 7-month contract offers the opportunity to lead on WEAll’s presence and impact around the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, and offers a unique opportunity to engage new audiences with the case for economic system change and a wellbeing economy. Primarily this will be done through a multi-arts festival that seeks to be engaging and informative and will be available to digital audiences as well as people in Glasgow.      

Start date: June 2021

Contract type: 7-month fixed-term contract

Remuneration: We expect the role to be the equivalent of a full-time post and the remuneration for delivering the festival is up to £20,000 for the contract period.

Hours of work: The nature of this role is that flexibility in hours is both required by the role (for example, there may be some evening and weekend work) but also offered by WEAll.

Location: Because of where COP will take place this year, our preference is to recruit for a person to be based in Glasgow [Scotland] where we can provide access to a co-working space (COVID rules permitting).

The Music Festival:

WEAll, together with its partner FiiS is planning a one-day music festival during COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November this year. The theme of the event will draw on our narratives playbook Stories for Life (SfL).

We are in advanced talks with the organisers of a central Glasgow site to hold the music festival during the middle weekend of COP26. The site (currently under development) will host a programme for the full 12 days of COP with like-minded content partners.  The WEAll/FiiS music festival will be the key content partner for one of those twelve days.

The site partner aims to develop the site with temporary structures on site including a main stage, smaller stages and workshop areas that are module in design and able to be arranged to meet its content partners’ needs. The site partner will provide the audio/visual needs for the site and plans to broadcast the programme to supplement the likely socially distanced nature of the in-person programme.

WEAll/FiiS are planning a festival that will include musicians, artists, new economy thinkers and practitioners. We plan to hold panel discussions between these different groups, display artwork that draws out the themes of Stories for Life      – themes that highlight the interconnectedness of humans and nature and how the economy must be in service to both.

We are planning to use SfL as a creative challenge and opening it up to all the arts / music / cultural networks we know. The challenge would be to use SfL as a brief, and to create ‘stories’ (in any medium) that pick up on any of the main pillars of the brief. A limited number (say 4 or 5) of the submitted concepts would be commissioned to then be shown at the festival in Glasgow.

We would like to apply the same thinking to bigger agencies / organisations with the aim for them to create their own campaigns / strategies / ideas in response to SfL and then submit them into  a panel – with the awards/results being announced at the festival.

What we are looking for:

We are looking for an organised, flexible and highly motivated individual with demonstrable event design and project management skills and experience, and with a passion for economic system change.

The post holder must be adaptable, creative and – due to the nature of our small start-up organisation – fully capable and competent to lead this work without expectation of supervision. Having said that, the person will need to be an excellent partnership manager as the site developer is looking for the themes and messages of our festival to complement the other content partners (and vice versa).

The post holder must also be adept at talent management, stage management and an excellent project manager.

Download the full job description, which includes more details of deliverables and how to apply, below. The closing date is Tuesday 18 May.

Kia ora!  I’m Suzy Morrissey, one of the founders of the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub, and I recently gave ‘evidence’ to a special meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Committee (APPG) on the Green New Deal and the APPG on Limits to Growth.

The Green New Deal APPG was established to provide a cross-party platform for the development of a transformative Green New Deal for the UK and the Limits to Growth APPG is a platform for cross-party collaboration on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.  The APPG members are MPs and Peers and the session was chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and Clive Lewis MP. 

I was invited to present ‘evidence’ for the consideration of the members of the APPGs ahead of the UK budget announcement, along with Lord Adair Turner (Institute for New Economic Thinking), Miatta Fahnbulleh (New Economics Foundation), and Robert Palmer (Tax Justice UK).  The virtual session was also open to the public and over 100 people participated in the session.

In my evidence, I explained the limitations of using GDP to measure wellbeing, outlining how it ignores important elements and rewards negative behaviors.  For example, unpaid work is not included in the calculation of GDP, but the sales of weapons are.  Further, no adjustment is made for activities that negatively impact the planet, such as pollution or non-recyclable waste.

I also shared an example of an alternative approach from Aoteraroa New Zealand.  The ‘Living Standards Framework’ measures wellbeing, using a stocks and flows based economic model, and a dashboard of elements.  It draws on the OECD’s Better Life Index, with domains of current wellbeing (such as income, health, housing), and four capitals (natural, social, human, and financial and physical).  The Living Standards Framework was devised by the NZ Treasury, to improve the quality of its advice, and provide a focus on inter-generational equity. 

Shortly after the Labour-led coalition Government came into power at the end of 2017, they announced their intention to use the Living Standards Framework as a base for the world’s first ‘Wellbeing Budget’ in 2019, as well as to inform the 2018 Budget.

I worked at the NZ Treasury as Principal Advisor in the Office of the Chief Economic Advisor and was the policy and engagement lead for the Living Standards Framework.  I shared my experience of determining the current wellbeing domains and capitals and finding suitable indicators to measure them .  For example, although much of the Living Standards Framework draws from the OECD Better Life Model, we decided to include a new domain of current wellbeing called ‘cultural identity’ to measure features unique to Aotearoa (such as use of Te Reo Māori, the language of our first people).  We also included ‘time use’ because it is so important, especially for gender analysis, even though it had been ten years since a national time use survey had been conducted by Stats NZ.  Data gaps need to be highlighted so that they can be addressed.

I also discussed how the Living Standards Framework was applied by government to identify priority areas for the budget and to assess potential policies for funding.  An initial assessment of wellbeing was undertaken using the measures and then ‘bids’ for funding from the national budget were assessed against the domains and capitals they were intended to improve. 

I was delighted to be able to share Aoteraroa New Zealand’s world-leading work in bringing wellbeing economics to public policy.

Now my focus is back on building the Aoteraroa New Zealand WEAll hub and sharing the wonderful WEAll resources for policy makers and businesses on how to create a wellbeing economy.  Contact myself, Paul, or Justin (emails on the Hub page here) if you would like to get involved.

You can watch the full APPG session below or on YouTube here:


A petition campaign is underway in the UK, demanding that the government at Westminster prioritises a shift to a Wellbeing Economy.

Launched by Brighton campaigner Laura Sharples, the petition seeks to garner 100,000 signatures by September so that the need for a Wellbeing Economy will be debated in Parliament.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was part of the campaign launch event on 1 April, hosted by Caroline Lucas MP and featuring Beth Stratford (Leeds University), Clive Lewis MP, and Laura Sharples. You can watch the event below or here. The event was co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to GrowthCUSP, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, and Wellbeing Economics Brighton.

Laura Sharples said that she launched this petition campaign because “the economy is really about stories, but the mainstream narratives at the moment work to disempower us by disconnecting us from our communities and nature.

“The economy has been designed – and it can and must be redesigned.”

Caroline Lucas urged people to support the petition, saying: “The window of opportunity is open. That’s the exciting thing – we have a real chance for a fundamental economic reset.”

Katherine Trebeck affirmed this, saying: “This petition is so incredibly important. If we can get it to 10,000, or 100,000 signatures, it demonstrates to Government that there’s demand there, that this is what people want and they can be on the right side of history.”

The petition states:

“We urgently need the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet, by pursuing a Wellbeing Economy approach. To deliver a sustainable and equitable recovery, the Treasury should target social and environmental goals, rather than fixating on short-term profit and growth.More details

A narrow focus on GDP growth has led us to environmental, health and financial crises. The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world, yet roughly a third of our children live in poverty. Two thirds of the public want the Treasury to put wellbeing above growth. Scotland and Wales are already part of the Wellbeing Economy Governments alliance. As host of the COP26 climate summit, the UK Government should build and champion a Wellbeing Economy – at home and globally.”

If you agree, and you’re a UK resident, please sign and share the petition. Use the #WellbeingEconomyPetition hashtag to share.

Can you help amplify this petition to UK audiences? Comment below or contact us here.

Dr Girol Karacaoglu BA MBA Bogazici, PhD Hawaii 
Professor of Policy Practice, Victoria University of Wellington

The former Chief Economist of The Treasury in New Zealand has written a book examining the processes by which wellbeing-focused public policy objectives can be established, prioritised, funded, implemented, managed, and evaluated.

Professor Girol Karacaoglu is Head of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington and was previously New Zealand’s Chief Economist of The Treasury. Before then, he was the Chief Executive of PSIS (then Co-operative Bank of New Zealand) for nine years. His new book asks:

HOW WOULD WE DESIGN, IMPLEMENT AND EVALUATE PUBLIC POLICY IF IT WERE BASED ON OUR LOVE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS?

For the philosopher Water Kaufman, ‘I love you’ means:

I want you to live the life that you want to live.
I will be as happy as you if you do; and as unhappy as you if you don’t.

Professor Karacaoglu said that ‘wellbeing is about the ability of individuals and communities to live the lives they value – now and in the future. This is their human right. It would be extremely unjust to prevent the enjoyment of lives centred on chosen values. Preventing such injustice across generations should be the focus of a public policy that has intergenerational wellbeing as its objective.’

‘Half of the net revenue from sales of this book will be donated to The Nest Collective, which gives baby and children’s essentials to families in need’, he said.

Tuwhiri publisher Ramsey Margolis said that ‘while humanity may well come to grips with the current pandemic in the foreseeable future, ballooning inequalities and injustice threaten to shred the fabric of our societies, and the climate emergency menaces all life forms on the planet.

‘In the face of these enduring humanity-induced catastrophes, we owe a special duty of care to future generations to overcome them, and to leave our successors with a safer, fairer world in which they may thrive. We need to express our care for coming generations in many ways, from changing own personal lifestyles, to choosing political representatives who advance cogent, long-sighted policies in aid of a better world.”

Find out more and order the book via the publisher Tuwhiri

By Diana Ivanova1,2 and Loup Suja-Thauvin2

The problem

It is not hard to find reasons to dislike some forms of advertising. Among other things, advertising impacts communities by:

Importantly, advertising normalises overconsumption on a planet that has already been depleted and impoverished by uncapped resource extraction, waste and climate change in the aim of profits. Advertising creates desires that are disconnected from human need and true wellbeing. Ads rarely reflect functional uses of a product and usually focus on changing perceptions around what it means to be successful, beautiful, accepted and happy. Yet, we now more than ever need to reflect on what energy and consumption contributes directly to our human needs and a good life, and what does not. 

While it is widely accepted that advertising has a huge effect on how we use resources, it is very challenging to quantify those impacts. Here we estimate the electricity use of outdoors ads infrastructure in the UK. Understanding those impacts is an important step to lowering the energy demand of our communities and living well within planetary boundaries.

The energy use behind outdoors advertising in the UK

Advertising in its various forms uses energy to spread a message. Whether it is a TV or a radio ad, a billboard or an online pop-up, ads need energy to run on various devices. We find that a single digital billboard may use as much energy as 37 UK homes. In addition, there is the energy used in the manufacturing and distribution of ad infrastructure and printed materials. There is also the energy needed to supply and use the products and services that ads encourage. In an energy world still largely reliant on fossil fuels, advertising comes at a high carbon cost.

In most UK cities, it is common to see outdoor advertising on digital billboards, bus stops and shopping centres with images of anything from fast food to automobiles. UK cities are becoming especially saturated, with more than 100,000 outdoors advertising infrastructures across the country. That includes digital and paper billboards, bus stops, phone boxes and others. Based on this estimate, we calculate that in 2020 outdoors advertising used between 84 and 451 GWh of electricity in the UK. For an average household size of 2.3 persons per household, the amount of electricity that outdoors advertising uses directly is equivalent to the home electricity use of 68,000-362,000 UK residents. For an average emission factor of 0.309 kgCO2-equivalents per kWh, this amounts to between 26 and 139 thousand tonnes of CO2-equivalents.

The following table gives an estimation for other major British cities.More about the data, assumptions and method can be found here.

CityNumber of infrastructuresConsumption (GWh/year)Home electricity use (equivalent in number of UK residents)
London14,55824 – 8419,000 – 67,000
Greater Manchester6,0424.1 – 203,300 – 16,000
Birmingham5,0623.2 – 142,600 – 12,000
Glasgow2,2621.6 – 8.01,300 – 6,500
Leeds2,0571.5 – 6.71,200 – 5,400
Bristol1,9401.2 – 5.7990 – 4,600
Cardiff1,3930.7 – 3.7576 – 2,900
Total UK107,63784- 45168,000-362,000

This only includes the electricity for the lighting and changing of images, not that embodied in the materials and infrastructure or the consumption that advertising creates. Furthermore, calculations are based on numbers from a database, which excludes a lot of the outdoors advertising in the cities.  For example, in Leeds, we find that about half of the infrastructure is missing. Therefore, we can expect that all energy figures are grossly understated, and that the true energy costs are several times higher. Even so, the calculated amount of energy that goes into running all of the ads in the UK is enormous and highlights advertising as an important area for reducing energy demand and carbon emissions. 

Where do we go from here?

The good news is that there is a lot that communities can do to reclaim public spaces with the aim of happier lives and stronger communities. We highlight several core principles that will be helpful in managing environmental impacts from advertising and increasing public engagement with our shared spaces. The principles are entirely feasible provided that there is political and social will.

  1. We need to democratise the urban landscape

The general public cannot turn off or easily escape outdoors advertising even if it so wishes. Yet, cities increasingly rely on advertising funds for the provision of basic urban infrastructure such as bus shelters, street signs and public internet access. These arrangements, while may seem beneficial, come with a myriad of hidden social and environmental costs that society pays for. Advertising displays are increasingly monopolising our public spaces at the expense of reduced non-commercial access and diversity for the locals. Some areas, particularly less wealthy ones, may suffer more from this public space monopoly, further entrenching social inequalities in the cities. 

Strategies for democratising public space could include restricting the space for corporate advertising and allowing for a proportion of non-commercial access to outdoor media or commercial community notices and public artworks. Local authorities may also tax the revenue raised through advertising, which could be used to provide public access. City planning should also explicitly consider how the capacity of different publics to access the outdoor media landscape and space changes.

  1. We need to get rid of the most harmful advertising

Not all products that are advertised are equal. Advertising of some products – such as cigarettes and fast food – is already restricted in some areas to ensure the safety of children and adults who are exposed to the messages. Banning advertising of carbon and energy intensive products and activities such as fossil fuels, SUVs and frequent flights can have a great effect on the social norms, practices and consumption patterns surrounding these activities. For example, Amsterdam wants to become the first city in the world to ban fossil fuel advertising

We need to consider the social and environmental impacts of advertising from a system perspective. How is the normalisation and encouragement of problematic practices through advertising considered? Currently planning officers may reject outdoors corporate advertising based on road safety and amenities concerns, but they do not make climate and energy considerations. They also do not necessarily consider the impacts on social equality, communities and well-being. The lawfulness of advertising should be scrutinised against these wider social and environmental concerns.

Greenwashing and spreading of miscommunication through advertising should also be a major concern as it may hamper local actions for climate neutrality and community well-being. Encouraging a public debate and transparency in advertising  will support city planners and regulators in their judgements. 

  1. We need to reduce the scale of advertising altogether

Advertising provision in the cities is self-interested and for-profit and at best only partly considers the broader social and environmental issues in the city. Prioritising the provision of information in advertising and establishing stricter criteria to allow advertising in public spaces is key to reduce growth dependence and make cities more livable and resilient. Moving away from advertising is necessary to build resilience as it will allow a shift away from damaging activities and will support the development of alternative, solidarity society and use of public space.

  1. Get involved in the movement

AdBlock Leeds, as a part of a larger Adfree Cities network in the UK, holds corporate advertising in the city accountable for the hidden costs associated with it. Our vision is one of happier lives and stronger communities and we welcome everyone who shares it. Social movements are powerful initiators of change, so if you are concerned about the amount of advertising in your city, join or start such a group.

Together, let’s reclaim our public spaces!

This piece was updated on 5 April 2021 to make minor corrections to figures

1 School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds

2 AdBlock Leeds, https://adblockleeds.wordpress.com/

Dr. Katherine Trebeck

A major report published this week calls for the Scottish Government to introduce wellbeing budgeting to improve lives for children as part of a radical systems change in the wake of the coronavirus.

The new report, Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing, by WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Dr Katherine Trebeck, with Amy Baker, was commissioned by national charity Children in Scotland, early years funder Cattanach and the Carnegie UK Trust.

Click here to download and read the report

It makes a series of bold calls focused on redirecting finances to tackling root causes of inequality and poverty as Scotland emerges from Covid. Key recommendations include:

  • A post-Covid spending review, with all spend proposals assessed against evidence of impact on children’s wellbeing
  • Training of the civil service to ensure effective budget development and analysis, and moving to multi-year budgeting aligned with wellbeing goals
  • Establishing an independent agency, modeled on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, to support activity and scrutinise effectiveness of delivery of wellbeing budgeting by the government
  • An overarching change to the ways of working in the Scottish Government budget process to ingrain greater transparency; cross-departmental working; and a participatory approach involving the public and the diversity of children’s voices.

The report argues that the Scottish Government’s stated aims of improving wellbeing across society and addressing the fact that one quarter of children live in relative poverty cannot be met unless we create conditions for our youngest children to be healthy and supported from the outset.

To do this, it makes the case for directing funds at root causes that diminish child wellbeing, rather than targeting symptoms ‘downstream’, which is inefficient, stifles implementation of policy and legislation, and slows ambitions for societal change.

First steps towards wellbeing budgets would involve holding a conversation with the public about budget-setting to absorb lived experience; interrogating data to ‘map’ the distribution of wellbeing in Scotland; and ensuring policy development was properly connected to evidence on what would actually change outcomes for children and addressing the root causes of what undermines their wellbeing.

The report’s lead author, Dr Katherine Trebeck, said:

“If the Scottish budget is to be a mechanism that brings about change, we need to create a context where children can flourish in Scotland. Then we need to think about a few fundamentals. The budget needs to be holistic, human, outcomes-oriented, and rights-based. It needs to be long-term, upstream, preventative and precautionary. Finally, a bold budget for children’s wellbeing needs to be participatory – children’s voices in all their diversity need to be at the heart of setting the budget agenda.”

Katherine speaks about the report in more detail in this short video:

Sophie Flemig, Chief Executive of Cattanach, said:

“This report shows why it is necessary to set out a high-level vision for wellbeing outcomes and hardwire it into government processes. Countries need to acknowledge that the economy is in service of wellbeing goals, not a goal in and of itself. Meaningful public involvement is key. Ministerial responsibility for wellbeing outcomes drives progress. And cross-departmental work is essential for success.”

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“This project has focused on one important lever of change – the finance system, the way that we think about money and spend in Scotland, asking: what is value for money when we’re talking about our children’s lives? We know it’s not a silver bullet, but we do think it’s important that we consider how we spend that money if we’re going to begin improving outcomes for children and putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to children’s wellbeing.”

As the election campaign approaches, and following Tuesday’s vote to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, the report’s calls and the case for wellbeing budgeting informs Children in Scotland’s manifesto for 2021-26, backed by organisations across the children’s sector.

The report is published as Scotland takes stock of the damage the pandemic has done to individuals, families, communities, and the macroeconomy, and an increasing number of people recognise that we must not revert to pre-Covid ways of working.

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“Now is the time for us to reset our economy and the way in which we prioritise our budgets. Katherine’s work gives us a real manifesto for how we will secure children’s rights and wellbeing. We call on you to read the report, particularly the section which identifies what the crucial next steps are. We don’t need any more research or evidence – we need to work together to put a budget for Scotland’s children into place, this year, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.”

This content is reposted from Children in Scotland