All Baroness Tyler of Enfield debates involving the Home Office

Mon 15th November 2021
3 interactions (76 words)
Mon 1st November 2021
3 interactions (83 words)
Wed 14th April 2021
3 interactions (684 words)
Tue 15th May 2012
3 interactions (1,190 words)
Wed 14th December 2011
3 interactions (1,681 words)

Levelling Up White Paper

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Monday 15th November 2021

(2 weeks, 3 days ago)

Lords Chamber

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I am not sure that is the way to think about these problems. We need to recognise that, as well as the income disparity, there is the cost disparity. Admittedly, living in a great capital city comes at a price. We want to level up some of the areas that have been left behind. That does not mean we want a reduction in income in places such as London. We need to ensure that we lift all boats—that is the philosophy behind levelling up.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)

My Lords, does the Minister agree that financial inclusion—that is, ensuring that people have access to essential banking services and financial products that are fairly priced—is particularly important for areas that the Government are looking to level up, and that incorporating a clear financial inclusion strategy into the levelling-up agenda could make a big difference? Can the Minister say whether Treasury and DWP Ministers who lead on financial inclusion are part of the Government’s levelling-up agenda?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, financial inclusion is very important in particular areas, and it is important in addressing it to bind together different departments. That is why there is a new levelling-up task force under the leadership of Andy Haldane that brings together the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Cabinet Office, precisely because we need that Whitehall join-up.

Net Zero: Social Market Foundation Report

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Monday 1st November 2021

(1 month ago)

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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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The Government are providing many mechanisms to support rural areas. I point to the community energy projects, through the rural community energy fund, which is a £10 million fund to support community-run projects in England that benefit the transition to net zero. Net zero is half the story; adaptation to the consequences of climate change is equally important, and the Government are committing £2.8 billion in a six-year capital investment plan to reduce flood and coastal erosion risk.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
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My Lords, local authorities are critical to achieving the Government’s net-zero target, but will struggle to do so without sufficient resources. Some 95% of local authorities have said that funding is a barrier to them tackling climate change. The Climate Change Committee recommended increased resourcing for local government as a priority. Can the Minister say whether and when the Government intend to give local authorities new capital-raising and revenue-raising powers to support the transition to net zero, as recommended in the SMF report?

Lord Greenhalgh Portrait Lord Greenhalgh (Con)
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My Lords, I point out that the Government have committed £1.2 billion for local action on climate change. There are currently no plans to devolve additional tax-raising powers, but the Treasury will keep this under review.

Inclusive Society

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee

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Lord Mandelson Portrait Lord Mandelson (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I express many congratulations to my noble friend Lady Lister on this debate. Events test a country and this pandemic has revealed that we need to be far more resilient both as a society and as an economy. Resilience means the state and its services being capable of protecting people who are not self-made or self-sufficient, but we will not build that resilient, more equal society unless it is underpinned by a prosperous, resilient economy.

Successive UK Governments have sought to build a resilient economy by supporting high-growth, technology-led enterprise. My efforts were in 1998, with my White Paper Building the Knowledge Driven Economy, and then after I returned to the Government in 2008. Since then, the best expression of policy has been Greg Clark’s industrial strategy, with its focus on decarbonisation and clean growth, AI, the future of mobility and the benefits to health and ageing of bioscience and genomics. I regret the Government’s recent decision to jettison this strategy.

The simple point that I want to make today in my short contribution is this: technological change is not like the weather. It does not just happen around us. It can be supported and shaped through an innovation system that draws on public and private funding, major international research partnerships, helpful government regulation and the fostering by the Government of supply chains, individual entrepreneurship and business growth.

This was achieved in the recent development of the Covid vaccine, which was born out of necessity in a time of national crisis. The Government staffed up and invested in a portfolio of high-risk technology ventures through a taskforce led by a venture capitalist. It was based on substantial public funding of research, invention by Oxford University, nimble, accelerated regulation by the Government, manufacture by the private sector and then distribution by our own NHS. The successful vaccine rollout is the result.

One thing this was not was a model of pure capitalism. It demonstrated the power of public procurement and co-ordination across the board, inside government and across the public and private sectors. We should adapt this model, where government has a role, to similar market opportunities arising from the profound transitions under way, of digitalisation, AI and clean energy. Those transitions and the associated technological change will almost certainly require around 75% of the country’s workforce to be retrained and reskilled during the coming decade. Government should identify where it can act to ensure that innovation, investment and production—the whole supply chain—cohere in the United Kingdom and be willing to take some risks in doing this and to act at scale.

However, if we want the whole country to benefit, we need a clear focus on the geographical dimension. The Government talk about levelling up; they do not seem to realise that you cannot level up from the top down. Local foundations of growth and inclusiveness need local powers, people and money. I say just this: it requires coherence. My fear is that, with their short attention span, we will see instead a series of politically influenced, disjointed interventions by the Government that will fail to convince markets and investors and will not bring the deep and durable economic change the country needs. I hope that I am wrong, but where the Government have ideas, they need scaling. Where a policy is working, it needs continuity. The Government, as well as the Labour Party in its own thinking, have to approach this with vision and vigour, and to do so consistently.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, for securing this vital debate and refer to my social work interests in the register.

This has been a global pandemic, so I start my remarks at a global level. The World Bank has recently said that the current health crisis has

“put the spotlight on deep rooted systemic inequalities”

within societies, particularly for some of the most marginalised groups. Crucially, the bank has argued:

“The crisis is also an opportunity to focus on … rebuilding … more inclusive systems that allow society … to be more resilient to future shocks, whether health, climate, natural disasters, or social unrest.”

Our debate focuses on the UK. In March, the British Academy produced a series of reports addressing the long-term societal impacts of Covid-19. Its evidence report listed nine interconnected areas, which included: worsened health outcomes and growing health inequalities and the greater awareness of the importance of mental health.

In responding to this new opportunity and trying to reshape the way we do things, we must recognise that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on certain groups, particularly black and minority ethnic communities and disabled people. It has exposed deep inequalities in our health and care systems. In February, the Marmot 10 Years On report was published and made for sober reading. In short, it showed that life expectancy in England has stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and even reversed among the poorest people in certain regions: the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy.

Professor Marmot says that the worsening of our health cannot be written off as the fault of individuals for living unhealthy lives; rather, their straitened circumstances and poor life chances are to blame. His institute’s work has established that healthy lives depend on early child development, education, employment and working conditions, adequate income and a healthy and sustainable community in which to live and work. Surely these are all things that an inclusive Covid recovery plan should prioritise.

The Government’s commitment in their 2019 election manifesto to extend healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 and to narrow the gap between richest and poorest is to be welcomed. However, as the Lords Public Services Committee recommended in its first major report on the impact of Covid on public services, the Government should now publish their strategy to achieve that manifesto commitment and their response to the prevention White Paper. Can the Minister say when the Government plan to do that?

As we have already heard, many children have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic, and life was already difficult for many vulnerable children. In 2017, the all-party group for children, of which I am co-chair, published two reports looking at the state of children’s social care. In brief, they found that children often have to reach crisis point before social services step in and that decisions over whether to help a child—even in acute cases—are often determined too largely by budget constraints. I join others in calling for the £1.7 billion lost from the early intervention grant since 2010 to be restored.

I turn finally to mental health. Recent Centre for Mental Health modelling predicts that up to 10 million people in England will need either new or additional mental health support as a consequence of the crisis. Some 1.5 million of those will be children and young people under 18. It is abundantly clear that the pandemic is taking a huge toll on children’s mental health and that the current system—already under great strain pre-pandemic—simply will not cope with the scale of demand coming down the track. Without the right mental health support in schools, the significant investment that the Government have rightly made in academic catch-up risks being undermined. While the extra £79 million announced in March for mental health in schools is welcome, it simply will not be sufficient to keep up with urgent need. Tackling this unprecedented mental health crisis will need more ambitious action, including every school having access to counselling services. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response on this point.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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I intervene at this juncture to remind noble Lords that there is a four-minute speaking limit. I would be grateful if people could try to observe this so that everybody gets the chance to speak.

Queen’s Speech

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Tuesday 15th May 2012

(9 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall
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My Lords, isn’t it nice not to be talking about ourselves? I remind the House that my interests include involvement with a number of performing arts organisations, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Roundhouse Trust. I mention that because despite the portmanteau title of today's section of the debate, the gracious Speech in fact has nothing explicitly to say about culture, and certainly not about the arts. When the noble Lord, Lord McNally, introduced the debate, he omitted to mention that culture was even part of today’s debate. Go figure. This is no surprise because I cannot recall when a gracious Speech ever did say anything explicitly about culture.

It is not surprising but it is revealing. In this country we have tended to have an ambivalent attitude to our cultural life and heritage, sometimes congratulating ourselves heartily on the success of our artists, our tourist attractions, our theatre, our historic buildings and our vibrant museums and galleries and, at other times, we appear to view art, artists and cultural endeavour as variously marginal, frequently ridiculous, an unjustified drain on the public purse and not a proper job. Having worked my whole life in the performing arts, I know well how dispiriting indifference can feel to those for whom making a career in what we now call the cultural industries means years of demanding training followed by mostly under-remunerated employment in a fiercely competitive market, in order, not only to provide pleasure and entertainment for other people but often also to contribute valuable work in education, health, prisons, as mentioned earlier, and elsewhere. Glamorous it mostly ain't.

I want to salute our artists, everyone from Oscar and Turner prize winners through to those about to graduate from our colleges and conservatoires. We need them and they do us proud. Just because the gracious Speech says nothing about culture, it certainly does not mean that there is nothing to say; in fact, just now there is rather a lot to say, but the speakers’ list is long, and we are all aiming to be brief, so, hedgehog-like, I have just one big point.

From the moment when the coalition Government took office in 2010, it was clear that the public sector was in for a rough ride. To be fair, things would probably have been pretty tough if my party had been re-elected, but not because the UK economy had been uniquely mismanaged, as we are repeatedly told from the Benches opposite, but because the world economy had suffered a traumatic shock from which, as we can see all too clearly today, it is still struggling to recover. In these circumstances, no sector in receipt of public funds could expect to escape unscathed. The cultural sector certainly had no such expectations, and in the wake of a challenging spending round in 2010, Arts Council England undertook, very scrupulously, the painful task of reorganising its portfolio of support, along the way reducing or withdrawing funds to many successful organisations. Local authorities followed suit, faced with their own budget restrictions, and the net result, now that the impact of these decisions is kicking in, is serious damage to the provision of arts and culture right across the country. I could list all the losses suffered but I will not. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, may do some of that for me. However, I will say this: it is easy to take things apart but much more difficult to build them up again. To quote the song:

“Don't it always seem to go,

That you don't know what you've got

‘Til it's gone”.

At the time of the election, this Government, in the person of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Jeremy Hunt, told the arts sector that, despite the inevitability of reduced government funding, help was at hand. He had a plan and it was called philanthropy. The then bright-eyed and bushy tailed Mr Hunt—tail a bit straggly now and eye a bit dull—was convinced that, given a little encouragement, huge new resources could be released from the private sector to fill the gap. Does that sound familiar? Some of us, veterans of many years spent developing the delicately balanced mixed economy which keeps our cultural sector lively, were a little sceptical, but nobody wanted to rain on his parade, except, as it turns out, his right honourable colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this year's rather accident-prone Budget, Mr Osborne chose to introduce a cap on charitable donations so that there is now an active disincentive on major donors to give. Many cultural institutions already rely heavily on such donors, including perhaps some of those who do the good work mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott. Worse, the Chancellor, supported, to my great surprise and dismay, by Polly Toynbee but by few others, carelessly implied, in his attempts to justify this curious bit of double-think, that giving generously to charity is just a form of tax avoidance. That was at best inept. I could put it more pungently as, in fact, the director of the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, put it when he referred to major donors in a recent article in the Guardian. He wrote:

“It is frankly slanderous to suggest that any of them are involved in tax avoidance. It is also ridiculous. To qualify for tax relief of £2,500, a higher-rate (40%) taxpayer … would be down £7,500. Call me a financial illiterate, but I can't see what's been avoided here—and many wealthy philanthropists give millions away each year”.

He went on to say:

“Unsurprisingly, a number of donors are having to reconsider what they hoped to be able to give”.

I am reliably informed that this damaging effect of the Chancellor's extraordinary decision is spreading.

Those who give generously to charities, including the arts, doubtless do so for a variety of reasons, but of all the many motives that may be in play I am quite sure that securing a tax benefit is rarely, if ever, the main one because, as Nick Hytner points out, there is little such benefit to these individuals who have, over the years, helped to make possible the creation of some of our finest buildings and our most innovative creative programmes. It is preposterous, and demeaning, to brand as tax avoiders people such as Dame Vivien Duffield or the Sainsbury family, or the one I know best, Sir Torquil Norman, who not only persuaded many generous people to contribute to his brilliant reinvention of the Roundhouse in North London as a creative centre for young people but also put millions of his own money into the project. He and others like him have done nothing at all to deserve the slur that has been cast upon them. Who could blame them if they chose to take their bats and balls home, although I suspect that they will try to find another way forward being, in the main, resilient and thoughtful people.

The Government are entitled to look at every option for maximising tax revenue, and should do so, but on this occasion they appear to have scored a notable own goal, discouraging the very people whose support they can least afford to lose. Like Hamlet, they have shot an arrow over the house and hurt their brothers. When the Minister replies perhaps he can say what the Government intend to do to right this wrong.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield
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My Lords, the gracious Speech contained a welcome commitment to improve the lives of children and families, and who could disagree with that? There is much that I would like to say about adoption, and indeed other forms of permanency, including life chances for children in care, speeding up processes in the family courts and improving the assessment and support available for disabled children and those with special educational needs. However, I shall save those comments for another day because today I want to highlight the complexity of families by talking about a group who are all too often put in too difficult and unglamorous a box: older people who are unable to look after themselves any longer.

In my experience, family policy often overlooks older people, both as regards the invaluable contribution that they can make to their own families and the wider community and as regards their own care needs if they are to lead a dignified life in old age with the quality of life that we would all wish for ourselves. It is a stark fact that over the next two decades, the number of people aged over 80 is set to double in Britain. That presents major challenges for the way in which public services are delivered, the way our houses, towns and cities are designed and the way in which families organise their lives.

The major shortcomings with the adult social care system are well documented and cause people to be fearful. In brief, the current system is fragmented: there is a postcode lottery; it is extremely variable in quality, confusing and hard to understand; it focuses on crisis cases and high-end needs rather than on preventive action; and, of course, as we have already heard, the funding is unsustainable. Many carers and those needing care find themselves let down by a faltering service and others find themselves having to sell their homes in order to pay for the care that they need. Of the 2 million older people in England with care-related needs, nearly 800,000 receive no support of any kind from public or private sector agencies. As the Health Select Committee stated in its recent report on social care, it comes as a great shock to many people to find that while the care provided by the NHS is free, care services such as help with washing and preparing food at home are means tested, and many will have to pay for them.

Every family in the land is affected by the issue. It is no respecter of class, income, geography or ethnic group. That is why I consider it to be the biggest social policy challenge facing the country. Caring for older people affects everyone in the family—particularly women. Increasingly, families find themselves caring for the needs of three, four and even five generations. This can place a huge strain on those caught in the middle. They may find themselves simultaneously supporting teenage children, looking after young grandchildren and caring for elderly and frail parents or even grandparents—all of this at the same time as being at their most stretched in their working lives. No wonder they are increasingly called the squeezed or sandwiched generation. Of course, it makes the new legislative measures proposed on flexible parental leave and flexible working particularly important.

I welcome the draft Bill announced in the gracious Speech that is intended to modernise the legal framework for social care; it is much needed. I also welcome the commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny. There is huge expertise and passion in your Lordships’ House on the subject and I very much hope that both Houses will be involved in the process. However, the Bill is only one element of the radical overhaul that is needed for the system as a whole. Our goal should be to create a coherent, consistent and comprehensive system of care, with effective strategic planning and commissioning, improved quality of care, substantial workforce development, more choice and personalisation of care, proper information advice—and above all, fair and transparent funding as well as a greater focus on early preventive services.

The forthcoming White Paper, the funding progress report and the draft Bill should be seen and judged as an overall package that needs to add up to considerably more than the sum of its parts. We heard a lot today about the Dilnot report. It is well known to many in this House and widely regarded as an excellent report. It is not the whole answer to the problems I described because its remit was to recommend a new funding system. However, the potential funding framework that it offers is by far the best yet produced. In short, Dilnot provides a framework for a long-term settlement for funding social care—a partnership between the individual and the state. The funding model aims to eliminate the catastrophic care costs faced by some people by capping the maximum amount that individuals contribute over their lifetime, beyond which the state will meet all future costs. By limiting people’s liability in this way it is expected that a market will develop with new financial products so that people can insure themselves against the costs of their contributions.

There are many other very good recommendations in the report, such as national eligibility criteria for services and portable assessments between local authorities. However, I will focus on why it is so difficult to make progress. Some have argued that the Dilnot proposals are too much about protecting the wealth and property of the majority and not enough about targeting help on the most needy. I do not see it that way. I see the Dilnot proposals as being about sharing costs and risks rather than about protecting the wealthy. At the moment, individuals assume all the risks of becoming unwell or disabled or having care needs, especially in old age. People who work hard all their lives to provide for themselves and their families risk losing everything and being reduced to a threadbare existence through simple misfortune.

Of course there is a key concern about affordability. In the current economic climate that is understandable, but it does not preclude the Government committing to key principles governing the future funding framework, including a cost cap, and considering the phased introduction of the cap with its level perhaps recalibrated as economic conditions improve. While those details are being sorted, immediate steps could be taken at modest cost to help people start planning for the future. These include creating a deferred payment scheme and developing comprehensive information and advice services.

In conclusion, I agree with Andrew Dilnot that this is primarily a moral crusade. Future generations will not forgive us if we duck the issue simply because it is difficult—as indeed it is, particularly with the economic climate being so tough. I urge the Government to be courageous and to start embarking on the path now, particularly if a cross-party consensus can be found, and to start a national conversation about the political priority that should be given to this area, and the trade-offs that may be needed in other areas. We owe it to future generations and we must not let them down.

Lord Smith of Leigh Portrait Lord Smith of Leigh
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My Lords, this is the first occasion for more than a year that I have spoken in your Lordships’ House, because in March last year I was taken seriously ill. Thanks to excellent medical care from Wigan Infirmary and particularly the Christie Hospital in Manchester I am back and in reasonably good health. I have always taken an interest in health in your Lordships’ House because of my role as a local authority leader. I declare that interest as well as my vice-presidency of the LGA. Of course, my own experiences have reinforced my belief in the need for good healthcare. This was my first time in hospital since I had my tonsils out at the age of four, and the passion I feel now for the NHS was reinforced by the experience.

I was pleased that the Queen’s Speech had something in it about social care; I thought that at last we were tackling the issue. Of course, when the details came out we saw what was involved in the proposal—a draft Bill on eligibility. We know that it is necessary, but given the scale of the problems and the financial crisis in social care, it is woefully inadequate. I hope that the coalition will not hide behind this approach and try to dodge the issue of long-term funding in healthcare.

The current system of social care is not fit for purpose. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, said, its operation is incoherent and a mystery to many people. Clients and families do not understand the system, what they are entitled to and why there are so many unacceptable variations between different areas. For one in 10 people who need social care, it has a catastrophic financial impact. We need to make sure that we do something about that. The fears that people have about growing old are something that we ought to tackle in a proper manner.

Clearly, the financial squeeze on local authorities is the main problem. The increase in the budget for social care that we have seen over the past decade has lagged well behind the increase in the whole NHS budget. This increase meant that more went to people with physical and learning disabilities—and quite right, too. However, there has been a 6% increase in the number of old people over the period. Therefore, the amount of money available for the care of the elderly has reduced in real terms. As other speakers said, the number of those aged 85 and over has increased by 25%, with associated costs because people have much more complex needs at that age.

Given demand pressures, it has been extrapolated that by 2024, all of local authority budgets will go on care. Clearly, 12 years ahead is a long time for Ministers to think; their timescale is much shorter. However, I hope that your Lordships’ House will still be in operation at that time. We cannot avoid facing up to this financial pressure. Local authorities faced grant reductions of some 25% to 30%. The LGA reckoned that in the past year about £1 billion was taken out of social care budgets. The symptoms of this financial pressure are all around us. We remember the collapse not long ago of the Southern Cross care homes. The fact that local authorities have again not increased the fees they pay to care homes has created huge financial pressures there. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, mentioned the home care system. When I got into local government, it was there as a backstop to give support for people to stay in their homes. Now the criteria and the allocated time levels have been reduced and it is inadequate to support many local clients in their own homes.

The greatest danger of the squeeze on social care is its impact on the NHS. If you look at the NHS, you can see an increase in the number of emergency admissions for older people. It is 12% and rising since 2005, but for people over 85, the increase has been 48%. Because people are unable to get proper care support, the length of stay in hospital is increasing. On the acute ward where I was, I observed a patient who was kept there simply because he was unable to feed himself properly. Therefore he was kept on an acute ward—with all its costs—because he could not manage at home.

Over the past decade we made considerable progress with the problem of bed blocking. We are now tipping the other way. My observation was that people are beginning to block beds because the NHS is facing its own financial crisis. Although the settlement in the comprehensive spending review has flat-lined, because of this inexorable rise in the elderly population, the NHS must find productivity savings of some £5 billion a year. Unless we get social care right, the NHS will not be able to achieve those savings. The inadequacy of the treatment of old people already in hospital was revealed by the recent Care Quality Commission report about the poor quality of care that many old people get in the NHS. It will get worse as an increased burden is put on it by the inability of local authorities and others in the social care field to do it.

We cannot continue to patch up this failing system. We have to make radical change. Many noble Lords have mentioned Dilnot and so I will not go into that. More resources are necessary but that is not sufficient to deal with the problem. We have to look at the problem in a different light and in different ways. I have been a councillor for a fair number of years and we have all talked about the need to integrate health and social care. We talk about it, but it has never happened properly. Only 5% of budgets are properly pooled across the NHS and local authorities. We need to do much more about that. We also need much more innovative approaches if we are to deal with the crisis before us.

Integration with health budgets needs to be done. We could have a single pot of health and social care budgets sent to a locality based upon assessment of need, which would not simply be age-related—although that would clearly be an important factor—but also related to the needs of the population. We need a much more joined-up approach in the way we deliver services. I suggest that the NHS needs to engage with local authorities much more in the community budget pilots, which look at innovative ways of delivering. If we want to avoid that meltdown in social care, we all as politicians, whether at national or local level, need to work together to find a solution. It is urgent and cannot go into the long grass.

National Well-being

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Excerpts
Wednesday 14th December 2011

(9 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote and measure well-being and what role public policy should play in shaping national well-being.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield
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My Lords, I would like to thank noble Lords who have found time in this very busy period to speak in this debate and I hope that it has not been too much to the detriment of their own well-being.

Why would I want to talk about well-being today and why do I think that it is important? We all know intuitively what well-being is but there is as yet no standard definition. There is general agreement from the growing body of social science research that a combination of physical, social, environmental and psychological factors influence well-being. Good mental and emotional health is a crucial element of well-being, but by no means the whole story. A good deal of work has already been undertaken to measure well-being and happiness at community and individual levels. This has demonstrated positive factors, such as good relationships, being employed and being financially secure, along with negative factors such as poor relationships, family bereavement, poor health and unemployment.

Back in 2008 the Government Office for Science’s Foresight report on mental capital and well-being referred to mental well-being as,

“a dynamic state, in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others, and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in society”.

I think that sums it up very nicely.

Many thinkers, commentators and social scientists are giving the issue of well-being an increasing amount of attention and the idea has started to creep into the mainstream of public policy and political thinking. All three parties are starting to talk about well-being and quality of life, albeit in their own ways and using their own language. I would go so far as to say that it has prompted quite a deep philosophical debate about the central purpose of public policy and indeed government itself. I sense a greater recognition that economic growth is a means to an end rather than an end in itself and that good government is ultimately about improving the lives and well-being of our fellow citizens. But it is undoubtedly a very tough time to be having these sorts of ideas and of course sceptics are bound to view it as a distraction from our very pressing economic concerns.

In November 2010 the Prime Minister announced:

“From April next year we will start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving, not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life. We’ll continue to measure GDP as we’ve always done, but it is high time we admitted that, taken on its own, GDP is an incomplete way of measuring a country’s progress”.

He added—and I give him all due credit for doing this:

“To those who say that all this sounds like a distraction from the serious business of government, I would say that finding out what will really improve lives end acting on it is actually the serious business of government”.

The practical outcome is that the Office for National Statistics has been tasked with consulting on the development of new well-being measures that cover the quality of life of people in the UK, environmental and sustainability issues, as well the economic performance of the country.

Well-being clearly depends not just on the circumstances of people’s lives but on how they interpret and respond to those circumstances. Recent welcome policy initiatives, such as the promotion of emotional resilience among children in schools and the expansion of psychological therapies focus, on which I am sure we will hear more from the noble Lord, Lord Layard, all rightly recognise this. On the bright side, the very recent ONS statistics, which came out in December, found that around three-quarters of adults in the UK rated their own life satisfaction as seven or more out of 10. These findings also found that having a partner and being in good health were positively associated with life satisfaction. Some people considered these results surprisingly positive, given all the doom and gloom around, and it sparked the inevitable quips about the usefulness of what has been dubbed the “happiness index” from various quarters. Next year we will have much richer data when the ONS has the results from the full 200,000 households that are currently being surveyed.

I believe that a single national measure of well-being should help generate a national debate about what really matters to people. “If you treasure it, measure it” is a good adage. It will be relevant to government, of course, but also to employers, the media, the producers of consumer goods and many others involved in our national life. Others are calling for a wider set of indicators that local communities can use to measure their population’s well-being against other communities. Given the general thrust towards localism, this has much to commend it, and I would be very interested to hear from the Minister what he thinks on this.

There is much evidence, to which I have alluded, about what is important to well-being. It includes income, loss of income, unemployment, being able to do interesting and stretching work, the number of hours worked, commuting, consumption decisions, debt, being able to walk around the local neighbourhood, being able to participate in community activities, volunteering and trust in local institutions. It is a very long list. I do not have time to go through it in any detail here. Evidence shows a clear relationship between levels of well-being and inequality when different countries are compared. Well-being tends to be lower in countries with higher inequality of income and wealth. It is important to understand that. Equally, in terms of what drives well-being, evidence from surveys and research is quite consistent about what matters most in people’s lives. Individuals across nations and social classes put more value on non-monetary assets than on their financial situation. Indeed, quite often in surveys the biggest factors by far that influence people’s happiness are their family relationships and their relationship with their partner.

Turning to the workplace, Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of the working-age population in 2008 identified business as a key partner in promoting or otherwise adult health and well-being across Britain. According to that review, the annual economic costs of sickness absence and worklessness associated with ill health and well-being were over a staggering £100 billion, which is greater than the annual budget of the NHS.

Where does all this lead me? I would like to draw three conclusions. First, well-being should be a key political priority, as it encompasses the things that are most important for our society as a whole and to us as individuals. While prioritising well-being includes ensuring that we have a stable and thriving economy, it crucially also takes a much broader view of success than can be measured in just economic terms.

Secondly, we should warmly welcome the fact that the UK Government are now measuring people's subjective well-being in a substantial and meaningful way. I think it is important that we keep a cross-party consensus going on the importance of this. Thirdly, we need to move rapidly from measurement to action. Measurement on its own achieves very little, so it is essential that we reshape the processes of policy development, implementation and evaluation to take well-being into account as soon as we can. There are some encouraging signs here, with the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, already ensuring that guidance for policy-makers is being updated so that well-being is taken into account. That includes the Treasury Green Book, which will be well known to some, and the setting up of the Social Impacts Task Force within government. Taken together, I very much hope that these measures will finally lead to that holy grail of truly joined-up policy-making in Whitehall. I know from many years’ experience in Whitehall how very difficult that is.

I welcome this focus on practical action. Nowhere is this more important than in family policy and the services available to support families and children, including help with parenting. We heard recently from the 2011 UNICEF child well-being report that British parents often feel stressed and lack the time or, indeed, the confidence to build a strong nurturing relationship with their children and family. Sometimes that gap is filled by a focus on material things and consumer goods. The message from children themselves was clear. Their well-being centred firmly on being able to spend time with a happy family whose interactions with them were consistent and secure, having good friends and having plenty of things to do outside the home.

That is why I think that personal, social and health education, focusing on the importance of relationships, is so critical and should form part of the core national curriculum and include a strong focus on emotional well-being. It is no co-incidence that schools that have pioneered this sort of approach, where well-being and building positive relationships run through the whole school ethos and curriculum and where counselling is available for those who need it, say that there is a clear link to improved academic performance. It is also why I would like to see counselling and other types of emotional support available in all schools in England, as it is currently in Wales and Northern Ireland.

I can think of no better way of concluding my opening remarks than to quote the oft-quoted words of Bobby Kennedy in a speech more than 40 years ago. I know noble Lords will have heard them before, but I will say them again. He said that GDP,

“does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play ... It measures … neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford Portrait Baroness Sharp of Guildford
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Tyler for raising a very interesting and important question. I attended the seminar held about six weeks ago in Portcullis House at which Sir Gus O’Donnell spoke about the work that the Office for National Statistics is doing on measuring well-being. I am interested in this topic because, as an economist, I have always been aware of the shortcomings of GDP measurement and of how much more there is to life than just the goods and services on which monetary value can be placed. Yet there is the difficulty of developing any proxy that tries to measure these other things in life. I remember the early days of cost-benefit analysis, when we had the Roskill report on the third London airport and the lengthy deliberation over what value one would place on a Norman church. The value that was put on it in the study was the value that the parochial church council had placed on it for insurance value, but the council admitted that that was the value that it felt it could afford to put on the church rather than any real valuation.

There are very real difficulties here, and there is the conundrum that many of us have pondered over for a very long time. I was an assistant lecturer at the LSE with the noble Lord, Lord Layard, in the 1960s when the Roskill report was being deliberated over. I remember even then, at the time when GDP was going forward on a fairly regular basis, there was the conundrum of why it was that if we were all getting so much richer, we were not feeling happier. This is a fundamental question that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, has been asking for some time.

I wanted to speak in this debate because I want to share with the House my experiences over the past six months when I have been leading an inquiry looking at the role of further education colleges within their communities. It fits into the scenario of the Government giving further education colleges greater flexibility over decisions about how they should spend their budgets. I was sponsored in this inquiry by the National Institute for Adult and Community Education, the AoC and the 157 Group of colleges. My remit was to look at the role that further education colleges do and can play within their communities and the added public value that their leadership can bring to those communities. It led me to do a lot of reading, a lot of visiting, a lot of talking and a lot of thinking about this subject.

My visits were perhaps disproportionately to very good colleges classed as outstanding by Ofsted. What hit me more than anything else was how brilliantly some of our colleges are reaching out to their communities and working with them in all kinds of different ways, not only in spreading the message of learning and skills but giving to those communities the self-confidence and the self-esteem that give them a much greater sense of community and, from that sense of community, a greater sense of well-being.

I would like to give three illustrations of the sorts of activities that I experienced. I visited a community hub in Bolton where the college worked alongside the local authority, using an old primary school in an area that was acknowledged to be disadvantaged. It had been going for some 20 years, and it provided the community with anything and everything from cookery classes and knitting groups through to adult literacy and numeracy. It also ran a youth group that had attached to it a boxing club and a cycle club. It served old and young alike. Graduates from the community hub had gone on to other college courses—access courses, A-levels and degrees in social work—and a lot of them had come back, stayed within the community and worked as community leaders and at the hub itself helping to bring others in. They were the activists and community leaders there; they instilled a sense of community and pride within the neighbourhood. It was this hub that organised street parties for the royal wedding. The cycle club had a sponsored ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising money for a local charity. The boxing club was winning trophies all across the north-west, and they were extremely proud of it. The hub was very much the centre of the community, organising it and giving it a considerable sense of pride.

Another college that I visited did a great deal of youth work. It linked up with local youth clubs, the local police and youth offending teams. It provided for those young people facilities where they could meet, sports activities such as football and basketball, in addition to things like motorcycle maintenance classes. It brought in young people to use the college facilities so that they might get used to the idea of coming into college. Having seen the facilities and the classes that were being run, they might be induced to sign up for some of them. They turned from being NEETs—those not in employment, education or training—into being in training and very often going on to further qualifications. Again, it was an obvious linking up.

At another college, the principal discovered that the local PCT was having great difficulty in meeting its young people’s well-being and health targets. He said, “Well, why don’t you come and work from within the college?”. This was set up and the PCT within two weeks had hit the yearly targets which it had failed to meet for the previous two or three years. It now provides within the college a well-being centre for young people. It is a win-win situation, because the PCT has hit its targets; teenage pregnancies are noticeably down within the community; and college attendance rates are noticeably up. In addition to that, the nurse function within the college is now paid for by the PCT, which provides the staff for the well-being centre.

I found all this extremely encouraging. It seemed to me that there were three elements in this success. One was leadership, another was partnership, and the third was vision. The college leadership provided the catalyst for those partnerships to be formed, and the partnerships led to greater involvement in the community. Social energy is unleashed. As a result of this activity, I found myself reading over the summer the work of the Royal College of Arts on social productivity. It seemed to me that this activity displayed precisely what the college was describing. By involving people in these activities, you could unleash social activity which gave people the confidence and self-esteem which led to well-being. I coined the term—and this is the title that I gave to my report—“dynamic nucleus”: colleges could be like the centre of a Catherine wheel, as a catalyst, sparking off through partnership all kinds of other activities. These activities can add considerably to social well-being.