How does a country measure its success? The most reported measure of success is economic with gross domestic product (GDP) probably most often quoted. Of course ensuring people have the opportunity to reach their potential in their chosen occupation is important and this week’s good news of record levels of people from all backgrounds and ages in employment and growing wages is welcome. More of our children and young people are receiving a good education compared to 2010 and average life expectancy continues to rise. All these measure progress.
There is a growing recognition that how we are doing as a nation is at least as much about people’s well-being as it is about the country’s economic health.
In November 2010, David Cameron established the Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme. The aim was to monitor and report “how the UK is doing” by producing accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation. Twice a year the independent Office for National Statistics report progress against a set of headline indicators covering areas of our lives including our health, natural environment, personal finances and crime.
The measures include both objective data (unemployment rate) and subjective data (satisfaction with job) to provide a more complete view of the nation’s progress than economic measures can do alone.
The latest update of the Measuring of National Well-being programme published in April provides a broadly positive picture of life in the UK, with most indicators either improving or staying the same over the short-term (one year) and long-term (five years). It shows the strengths and challenges of different age groups in society. These insights can help target services where they are most needed and can have the best impact.
This programme has led to significant positive changes in the development of policy, particularly the promotion of good mental health and a very welcome focus on understanding and treating mental ill health. We changed the law so that mental health is taken as seriously as physical health.
The fastest growing NHS spending is on mental health £11.86 billion last year, with further growth committed. Spending by local GP NHS Commissioners on children and young people’s mental health services grew by £103 million between 2015/16 and 2016/17, up to £619 million. This is a 20 per cent increase year on year. I am pleased that our new residential children and young people’s mental health service in Bodmin is underway.
Last week, I visited Roseland Community College, an outstanding local school, and listened to children and staff who are participating in HeadStart Kernow. It’s a partnership between Cornwall Council, our local NHS, schools, voluntary sector organisations and the National Lottery. It aims to build resilience and mental wellbeing for children and young people and from what I heard is doing a good job. This vital prevention work matters to children now and in the future as the causes of mental ill health in adults often starts in childhood.
First published in the West Briton 17/05/18