By: Rabia Abrar

On October 25, we held a launch event for the Happy Planet Index 2021, the 5th edition of an index that ranks countries based on how efficiently they use our limited ecological resources to live long, happy lives. 

Watch the full launch event here.

What is the Happy Planet Index?

Nic Marks kicked things off by explaining why the Happy Planet Index (HPI) was created: to address the tension with sustainability around good lives now and good lives in the future. 

We all want good lives. The way we create them today, though, often comes at the expense of the planet. 

The HPI gives us an idea of whether or not a country’s wellbeing is ‘sustainable’, by looking at how much of the fundamental ‘input’ – ecological footprint (the pressure we put on the planet) – is used to create the ultimate ‘output’ we’re looking for – long, happy lives. 

The key takeaway: We can still have good lives – we just need to create them more ‘efficiently’.

The Happy Planet Index is by no means a ‘complete’ or ‘perfect’ metric – it simply aims to act as a compass that points towards a new vision of progress for the economy.

Letting the data speak

Saamah Abdallah walked us through the sometimes surprising data insights from the Happy Planet Index, using the maps, rankings, comparison feature, and trend charts over 15 years on the interactive website

The Happy Planet Index World Map offers individual views for life expectancy, wellbeing, ecological footprint, and overall HPI score

Life expectancy (from the UN):

A good score is 75+ years. As you might expect, wealthy countries have the highest life expectancies – but there are some surprises. 

  • Chile and Costa Rica have life expectancy rates over 80 years – and Lebanon’s 79 year life expectancy is higher than the USA. 
  • Other countries with 75+ years have much lower GDPs – Ecuador, Algeria, and Vietnam.

Subjective wellbeing (from the Gallup World Poll):

  • The top scorer was Finland, with a score of 7.8/10. 
  • The high life expectancy in East Asia doesn’t translate into high wellbeing.
  • Subjective wellbeing doesn’t correlate with GDP. Costa Rica and Vanuatu both have a score of 7/10 – higher than the USA – even with considerably lower GDPs than the USA.
  • India has the 4th lowest subjective wellbeing score in the world in 2019.

Ecological footprint (from the Global Footprint Network):

When looking at the same world map for ecological footprint – the outcomes flipped. On the whole, countries in the ‘green’ turned ‘red’ and vice versa, showing a tension between wellbeing and life expectancy and ecological footprint.

  • Africa and South Asia, with lower rates of wellbeing, have ecological footprints within the Earth’s biocapacity 
  • 3 countries that stayed ‘green’ were Ecuador, Armenia, and Sri Lanka – each had high life expectancy with low (sustainable) ecological footprints
  • Only 27% of countries have a per capita footprint that is lower than earth’s biocapacity.

Putting it all together: the Happy Planet Index score

If you’re used to looking at more traditional measures of development – the HPI results will be surprising.

The Happy Planet Index rankings, based on 2019 data
  • Latin America is mostly in the green – the best performing world region on the HPI – outperforming wealthier countries like in North America.
  • A lot of European countries also came up green – mainly due to declines in ecological footprint – with Switzerland rising to the top 5!
  • While its ecological footprint has declined, the USA is still performing ‘inefficiently’ at 122nd place. It still uses over 5 planets worth of resources. 

Key trends over time: pre & post pandemic

  • Some world regions saw HPI scores rise – Western Europe, due to declining ecological footprints and Africa due to rapidly rising life expectancy without the same kind of rise in ecological footprint.   
  • The index increased by 3 points in 2019 since 2016 – meaning that we are becoming more efficient at delivering longer, happier lives with fewer environmental resources
  • While much of the data from 2020 was estimated, it still provided interesting lessons from the pandemic: ecological footprint has dropped by 6.5% globally – and 15% in wealthier countries. Meanwhile, wellbeing didn’t fall in all countries – and actually rose in some (per data from the Gallup World Poll, Eurobarometer, and national statistics agencies, like in Italy). 

This is a potentially positive story: It is possible to reduce our ecological footprints while maintaining a good quality of life.  

Overall, what is the Happy Planet Index telling us? 

Countries like Costa Rica show its possible to have high life expectancy and wellbeing with much lower ecological footprints than wealthier countries. In other words:

But, no country delivers high levels of happy life years with a low ecological footprint yet.

While we’ve made some progress – we’re not getting there fast enough to address challenges like the climate and biodiversity crises.

That needs to change.

Our panel on making the Happy Planet Index practical and actionable

Next, we jumped into our panel discussion, which kicked off a flurry of comments and questions in the chat.

The panelists discussed the key challenge for metrics like the Happy Planet Index:

“How do we go beyond it being a metric to compare and to see how we’re doing, to being a framework that is used to determine what policies that governments and others take forward.”  


I can’t take credit for this – but someone told me that this was the best panel discussion they’ve attended this entire year. Thanks Liz, Lorenzo, Sophie, and Tim for inspiring hope and challenging our thinking!

Key highlights from the panel discussion and Q&A session:

How is the HPI helpful for creating a new vision for an economy and for helping us work towards it?

Values are guiding principles in how we make decisions in life. Standard measures of progress like the Dow Jones, GDP, etc value financial success, economic growth, making as much money as possible. The values that drive those measures and are reinforced when those measures go up.

The real promise of HPI and other sorts of measures like it is to reorient citizens, politicians, and organisations, towards a different set of values than those which have been traditionally by purely economic indicators.

How do we make this a reality?

Indicators like HPI have to be taken as seriously as our current indicators are. Imagine a world in which you hear in the news and from political leaders at all levels and from friends – just as much info about how wellbeing in nation is doing right now, or how many bird species have gone extinct as we hear about stock indicators, gdp, etc. 

With more exposure of indicators telling us how well we’re doing on delivering these intrinsic values, people will start to think they are important and put pressure on their politicians to make institutional policy decisions to maximise those values – just like right now, they are putting pressure on politicians to maximise other economic outcomes. 

Some of this is happening at city, state, and regional  levels – but we need to ramp this up to really have success. This is what needs to happen with an indicator like the HPI. 


How is Wales leading the way to a Wellbeing Economy?

Wales is the only country in the world that has legislated to protect the interests of future generations through the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which focuses on achieving seven national wellbeing goals. This legislation has been driving a different approach to decision making. In developing Wales’ new ‘Beyond Recycling’ strategy, the government made the connections between zero waste and community wellbeing and tackling loneliness and isolation. What has zero waste got to do with that?

To achieve multiple of the seven national wellbeing goals – ecological resilience, inequality, community cohesion, etc – the Zero Waste initiative is doing things like establishing community libraries, library of things, repair cafes – which bring those two things together. It’s bringing people together to reduce waste and also build relationships in their communities.

I’m proud of the Welsh government’s economic strategy — which doesn’t mention GDP. What it does say – right up front – is that improving the wellbeing of everyone in Wales is the government’s economic mission. 


Why are decision-makers not already making this shift to prioritising the wellbeing of people and planet? How can we address these barriers to change and get political traction?

One of the reasons is that the status quo is much easier. We live in a world where there is a huge amount invested in the current economic world working. So, anyone trying to push against that is pushing against a big machine.

In terms of that shift – we are really reliant on courageous pioneers – but there aren’t enough of those at the national level! We can’t wait for those few national leaders … we need this to happen fast and at scale.

We need to start supporting local place based change — cities, regions, local areas that can start creating that momentum. 

The big barrier is the sense that it’s not possible. But, even without endless financial resources or legislation – a lot of this is mindset, about how you’re making those decisions, what you’re prioritising, what compass you’re using.

Local places can start doing that tomorrow: they can start saying, in our area – a tiny town or big city or region – we’re going to make our decisions based on this compass, not a compass that has gotten us into this unbelievable mess in the first place.


There’s no easy answer to it, but it’s a good start to do it bit by bit. For example, in Wales, one intervention was in stopping a motorway from going ahead because it couldn’t demonstrate how that was in line with our Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. This has now led to transformation in the whole approach to transportation planning.

But if we started with trying to change the whole transportation planning system, it would have been too big and difficult. You’ve got to start somewhere and start building a movement around challenging and speaking out when decisions are being taken that are not in line with delivering wellbeing and happiness. 


Who are the actors that need to be involved in shifting priorities of economic decision making, and how can they use a tool like the HPI to effect change?

At least two actors are fundamental – but are not usually engaged: business and media.

Not everyone understands the value of this immediately – and it’s our job to create the demand for new indicators. It’s not enough to publish it – we need to be active scientists – we need to tell a story – we need to make sure that an entrepreneur sees that the HPI is useful to showcase what he or she does. 

It’s not enough to have one “heroic person: that tries to push this agenda — it can’t be isolated. Around that story, we need to build lots of other stories that amplify the impact. 


What other tools or stories does the HPI story need to work with to gain traction overall?

The HPI has to work with all the subjective wellbeing indicators – the alternative GDP movement, everything that is moving in that direction – they may not be the same thing but they are telling a very similar story. 

It’s crucial to showcase all these indicators as ways of doing economics better – about living better and doing better.

We need to have a better story to sell. “Doing better” if we prioritise a wellbeing approach to decision making, is a good story. This will give us a competitive edge over the captivating and competitive story of “doing more”, which is what the current economic system is promoting. 


How might we apply a “restorative climate justice” lens to making this shift? 

When we talk about restorative climate justice – we are looking at past, current, and future generational justice issues – huge past injustices that hugely affect lives of current generations. When we take on this new kind of legislation / way of thinking / compass, we need to really start to challenge these inequalities that came from the past and look at the future and make sure what we do is sustainable.


Can ‘wellbeing’ act as a competitive advantage? 

Just like New Zealand has done such a good job at attracting rich people from other countries to live in New Zealand – that’s the kind of tool we need to give to all countries and say to them, “use this – you are going to create better jobs, people will live longer, you’ll reduce crime, and get a lot of investment from overseas, and rich people will want to come live here. Why? Because you pollute less, you live longer, you have better wellbeing outcomes than anywhere else.” 

As a national policymaker, that’s what I would want to have, because I want to be better than the others, I want to compete.

That’s how you make an indicator powerful. Once it gets catchy, it gets picked up by different countries. Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) countries will hopefully do this – become a reference point for the rest of the world. You get competitive and others will want to be like you. That’s the edge I want to see coming out of this discussion. 


What’s not to love about a sustainable wellbeing focused approach? The world is kind of moving on. Our young generations want entirely different things – they don’t want work-life balance – they want life-work balance. If we’re going to attract those quality young people to come and work in our country, then we need to recognise that. And that plays into the wellbeing and happiness agenda. 


These are all lessons that the Happy Planet Index, and other similar metrics, must apply in order to move the needle in decision making at all levels. As Lorenzo put it, “the power of an indicator is defined by the ability that it has to transform the political system where it is applied”.

Are you inspired to work with us towards creating sustainable wellbeing?

There are lots of ways to get involved: 

  • Join WEAll’s global network of organisations, movements, individuals, and policymakers who are working towards a Wellbeing Economy – one designed to serve people and planet.

Together, let’s create a world we all want, where good lives don’t cost the earth. 

Watch the full recording of the event here.

For those who didn’t get a chance to have their questions answered during the event, check out our Frequently Asked Questions page. We’re updating it regularly as more questions come in!

Want to get in touch? Email us at:

By Calum Rosie

Calum Rosie is a writer based in Edinburgh, and is a correspondent for Immigration Advice Service. He writes about his personal views on social housing as it relates to a Wellbeing Economy, for WEAll’s ‘Wellbeing Economy Correspondents’ guest blog series.

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the first-hand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

All views or opinions expressed in the ‘Wellbeing Economy Correspondents’ blog series are personal views of the guest author and do not reflect the views of the WEAll global Amp team.


Access to safe, high-quality housing is incredibly important for the wellbeing of any human being, and yet, there are thousands upon thousands of people sleeping rough every single night all across the world. 

In England alone, over 200,000 people are classified as homeless, with that number rising over the past year thanks to economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Wellbeing Economy, housing would be an absolute priority and the housing system would work for the betterment of all by guaranteeing a safe, secure home for every person, and by establishing the importance of the tenant’s wellbeing over that of the landlord’s profits. This would be in contrast to the UK’s current housing system and government policies, which have allowed our society’s most vulnerable to be thrown out of their homes at the whim of a landlord.

Housing the ‘Unhoused

Several charities and other social enterprises across the UK are stepping in to address this issue and provide housing to our society’s most vulnerable. Edinburgh-based charity Social Bite has partnered with social care charity, Cyrenians, to combat the city’s housing crisis by building the Social Bite Village, an incredibly ambitious project designed to provide a safe and supportive place for Edinburgh’s ‘unhoused’ to live and recover.

Social Bite, along with many other charities tackling the housing issue, prefer the term ‘unhoused’, because ‘homeless’ implies no causation, whereas ‘unhoused’ implies the individual is without a home due to the failure of those meant to provide them. 

Social Bite’s founders began by employing unhoused people in their café, and then offered the option for customers to pay forward food and drink to be given to those who would otherwise struggle to pay. These efforts have escalated into a nationwide initiative to tackle homelessness in the most direct way: by providing high-quality homes with additional mental health support. 

Celebrities like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio have supported the charity in the past, due to its universal appeal and strongly moral yet simple message:

everyone can and should be given a second chance in life. 

While still in the planning stages, the idea for a “Social Village” proved incredibly popular and has garnered huge international support

The first Big Sleep Out event to raise money for the project saw the likes of Liam Gallagher and John Cleese perform in front of thousands of people camping out in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. 

What is the Social Bite Village?

The ‘Social Bite Village’ can accommodate up to 20 people, all living together in a community. It is designed to get previously unhoused residents used to living with other people and encourages them to work cooperatively, with residents socialising, cooking, and gardening together in a shared space. The aim is to tackle the isolation that often comes with being unhoused – sometimes just throwing someone in a home isn’t quite enough to help them improve their lives.

To that end, mental health support workers supplied by Cyrenians are onsite 24 hours a day to help teach residents important life skills for use in the future, and to provide general mental health support if it is needed. 

This is an incredibly important aspect of the village: 85% of unhoused people report having mental health problems.

So, it’s fantastic to see that Social Bite is dedicated to supporting the residents holistically and ensuring that their mental and physical wellbeing is looked after.

This sets the Social Bite Village apart from other social housing projects in the country, many of which are little more than money-making schemes which disregard the needs and the safety of their tenants. To understand their priorities, see the Trustpilot reviews of Clarion Housing Association, one of the UK’s largest and most profitable housing associations…

and compare them with the CEO’s salary.

Success to date

Social Bite’s success is hard to argue with: they claim that over 400 people are now housed thanks to their stay in the Social Bite Village.

Other charities are now following their example and constructing their own social homes. The next step is to convince governments the world over that housing every single person, regardless of wealth or circumstances, whether they are already a citizen, or are seeking indefinite leave to remain, deserves to be housed safely.

In a Wellbeing Economy, this type of housing system would be commonplace, and would be a part of a holistic care system that ensures that everyone in the country is supported, happy, and healthy. 

Social Bite proves that this is not only possible but very realistic, if only we can reframe our priorities and our assumptions of what can be done to help our most vulnerable citizens.

New Zealand is aiming to adopt a wellbeing economy approach in its economic policy. The Government, for example, presented the world’s first Wellbeing Budget to Parliament on 30 May 2019.

Against that background, Paul Dalziel and Caroline Saunders prepared a Research Briefing in September 2020. It summarises lessons learned in the initial New Zealand experience with the wellbeing economy approach. The authors are the Deputy Director and Director of the Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit at Lincoln University, New Zealand.

You can access the Research Briefing from the Lincoln University archive here.

Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many revelations that forced everyone to reassess. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, it showed that a holistic and unified approach trumped a profit-centred individualistic mindset. Rather than just striving to return to “normal”, we are seeing more countries promising to build back better. In fact, thanks to vaccinations, a transition to sustainability, and international aid, the World Bank already predicts a 4% expansion in the global economy this year. It must be noted that this growth will no doubt be fuelled by wealthier countries with stable healthcare sectors.

Meanwhile, economic recovery in developing countries will be slower. In 2020, the World Bank predicted that these emerging markets will likely shrink by 2.5%. While this might seem trivial on a global scale, an article on how the pandemic has caused a global recession by FXCM explains that with poverty affecting millions of people, a slight recession will have long-lasting repercussions on those in developing countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about business closures, inflation spikes, and widespread unemployment. And these effects are all the more salient in developing countries like the Philippines.

In response to this, private citizens are coming together to bridge ever-present socio-economic gaps through community aid, particularly in the form of community pantries. Through these community pantries, lower-income families have received essentials in their time of need. As the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases begin to increase again, these compassion-driven efforts are helping mitigate the pandemic’s effect.

But before we dive into the details of this humble yet gracious gesture, let us look back at 2020 in the Philippines.

The Philippines During the COVID-19 Pandemic

After the first COVID-19 case hit the Philippines in January 2020, the government was quick to implement mandatory mask regulations. Soon, though, a nationwide lockdown was officially enacted on March 16, 2020. This would go on to be one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.

Because of the strict lockdowns imposed over Metro Manila and other townships and regions, workers from all sectors were forced to stay home. While this didn’t really impact the middle-class and upper-class—many of whom simply transitioned to working remotely—for the majority of daily wage-earning Filipinos, this was a serious issue.

Vendors, cleaners, sales employees, and the like were essentially stripped of their source of income.

The quarantine also prohibited public utility vehicles (PUV) from operating for most of the lockdown, which impacted their operators, conductors, and commuters. According to a Senate House Bill passed in Congress in July 2019, 70% of all trips in Metro Manila are commuters. The few Filipinos who were allowed special passes (mostly medical professionals and other frontliners) then had to bike, walk, or wait for shuttles from local government units (LGU).

In response to this, President Rodrigo Duterte enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 11469. Also called the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, it empowered the President to reallocate P200 billion to assist 18 million low-income households. Many private companies also took the initiative to send aid packages (which typically included some money, medicines, and pantry essentials), across the Philippines.

By the 4th quarter of 2020, COVID-19 cases had begun to plateau, and more non-essential businesses were allowed to operate. Though social distancing, masks, and face shields were still mandatory. By December 2020, the Philippines was seeing an e-commerce boom of 55% and the overall COVID-19 recovery rate was at 92.9%.

At the time of writing, the Philippines is back in lockdown. This was enacted after a spike in cases likely due to the loosened quarantine regulations.

Community Pantries as Means for Mutual Aid

While this response helped to control the spread of the virus, it soon became apparent that financial and food aid was necessary. As a developing country with 16.7% of the population living below the national poverty line, many Filipinos are daily wage earners who cannot afford to stay home. The government aid sporadically being handed out is also not enough to sustain most Filipinos. According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index, the Philippines ranked 69th out of 107 countries.

Ana Patricia Non, the inspiration of #maginhawacommunitypantry; Photo credit: AC Currency

And so, on April 14, a small bamboo cart in Maginhawa Street in Quezon City (the largest in Metro Manila) began what would be an inspiration for others and a notice to the government. Filled with canned goods, fresh vegetables, vitamins, and other pandemic needs, the “Maginhawa Community Pantry” soon took social media by storm.

This pantry, created by Ana Patricia Non, serves approximately 2,000 families a day. These include seniors and the disabled who have not been allowed much movement since the first lockdown. Since its genesis, roughly 350 other community pantries have cropped up in the country.

While these mutual aid efforts have been largely lauded, it has not been immune to “red-tagging”. The latter is a colloquial term for the practise of accusing others of communist collaboration. More often, there is little to no evidence of such ties. On April 18, social media showed police with high-powered rifles inspecting the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

“People will not stop giving as long as there is a venue for it,” Non said in an interview with The News Lens. “There are more people in need than those criticising.”

Since then, community pantries in the Philippines have gotten more structured. Recently actress and activist Angel Locsin celebrated her birthday by renting out a small venue and outfitting it with essentials. Non-profit animal welfare groups have also introduced “community paw-ntries” for pet owners in need.

Crowds at Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

As the world begins to reopen, countries like Iceland and New Zealand have become the standard for prompt and mindful pandemic responses, with an emphasis on wellbeing indicators. In places like the Philippines, people are still waiting for their government to provide aid and sustainable solutions.

In the meantime, the fight for sustainable development is being led by every day Filipinos, who are inspiring millions daily.

If there was ever any need for a concrete example of a Wellbeing Economy in play, we can look at the Philippines’ community pantries, many of which say, “give according to your means, take according to your need”.

For more details on Philippine Community Pantries and how you can get involved, check this Rappler list.

Feature specially written for

Written by: JBrothwell

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

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:

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