Former Prime Minister David Cameron Letter to Lord O’Donnell after Legatum Commission
I am determined that we build on the rich and growing data being produced by ONS and others, and on your work and the literature it stands on. I am therefore delighted to announce that, together with the Economic and Social Research Council and Public Health England, we will be funding a ‘What Works’ research centre dedicated to understanding what local and national governments, long with voluntary and business partners, can do to increase wellbeing.
Former Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs Jo Swinson
The jobs growth we have seen in recent years is good news and I am proud of the role this Government has played in facilitating it. Ultimately, though, working helps us improve our lot and our wellbeing, so I want to better understand individuals’ experience of the labour market and how it affects their wellbeing.
The research published today shows wellbeing is not just a ‘nice to have’ but can have a positive impact on business performance. Already, through policies such as flexible working, the Government is aiming to improve work-life balance, and we know that this not only boosts productivity and staff morale, but also reduces staff absenteeism. The WellBeing Centre will bring together not just government, but academics, charities and others to provide a detailed insight that will influence the decisions government and other decision makers take that have a similar impact on an individual’s well-being and work-life balance.
Former Minister for Government Policy Oliver Letwin
The What Works Network is designed to support commissioners and decision-makers at every level of government – from head teachers and local police chiefs, to ministers and civil servants. It’s great to see a wellbeing centre added to this growing network, to support public health directors, businesses and charities in improving wellbeing across the UK.
Former Culture Minister Ed Vaizey
We know that culture and sport have a tremendous intrinsic value that is at times difficult to quantify. This brilliant new centre will offer new insight into how culture and sport can improve people’s wellbeing, and how communities and specific groups in society can benefit through local initiatives.
Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Lord Ahmad
I am delighted by the launch of the new What Works Centre for Wellbeing. We want to create great places for people to live and work, and believe that better local services are integral to creating such environments. The What Works Centre seeks to inform decision makers, and those who deliver local services, on how they can use their resources more effectively to improve people’s lives.
Ultimately, the success of any Government rests in the positive impact and improvement we can have on people’s daily lives. So the Centre focuses on practical things that can improve quality of life and wellbeing, such as ensuring that local services meet the social, health and cultural needs of residents; whilst giving people more power to shape what happens in their local area.
Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Sir Jeremy Heywood
It is vital that the Civil Service has the skills and capacity to ensure that government decision-making is supported by high-quality evidence. We are using evidence and behavioural insights to drive real change across government. I welcome the creation of a What Works Centre for Wellbeing as the latest step in embedding evidence-based policy making across government and the wider public sector
Professor Kevin Fenton, Executive Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England
PHE are delighted to be one of the major players in the collaboration supporting the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the first of its kind in the world. The shift to wellbeing is a key aspect of public health and there are clear benefits to this approach. We are keen to see the evidence of what works for wellbeing much more effectively disseminated and adopted across the country. We are confident that this work will lead to better outcomes for health in communities, workplaces and more widely. We are delighted to be hosting the development team for the centre and are one of several partners providing funding to better understand what works to improve wellbeing and to communicate this to key stakeholders in local areas, Local Government, Health and Wellbeing Boards, Voluntary and Community Sector and business partners.
Dr Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Officer, BT Group
The work we do within BT group on employee wellbeing gives me professional and personal satisfaction. Not only are we doing the right thing by our people but we’re contributing to the success of the business.
Wellbeing can sometimes be viewed as discretionary, ‘a nice to have’ that you put in place when times are good. We have shown that efforts in this area are perhaps even more important when business conditions are tough – people then particularly need a bit of help to succeed for themselves and the company. I welcome the creation of the What Works Centre and in particular the focus on the practical things that both employers and employees can do to improve wellbeing. I look forward to seeing and implementing the outputs.
Former Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson
The notion of a national wellbeing measurement used to be greeted with some scepticism – but I think we all now recognise that this is about our quality of life which is so much more than that measured by the headline economic figures. We have been taking a strategic approach to wellbeing across the city and I look forward to sharing our experiences, and evidence, with the new What Works Centre as well as benefiting from its outputs.
Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician
The OECD has been at the forefront in the development of new measures of people’s well-being, and in the past few years we’ve seen rapid advances on this front in many countries as well. This is building an important evidence base for policy-making, but we need to learn more about how to put this evidence into action. The OECD is committed to using these new measures to support better policies for better lives. We therefore welcome the new independent What Works Evidence Centre on Wellbeing and look forward to working with it in the future.
Carol Graham, Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, College Park Professor, University of Maryland, and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: An Economy of Well-Being (Brookings, 2011)
We are not far from a time when governments around the world will collect metrics on well-being to complement those in GNP, and to provide a broader benchmark of progress which is based on citizens’ notions and experiences of psychological well-being. The UK has led the charge in this effort, and is now supported by efforts at the UN, the OECD, and even the U.S., among others. A remaining challenge, though, is translating the evidence that stems from these metrics into language and lessons that are directly useful for policy decisions and for public discussion. Again the UK is leading on this front, via the What Works Initiative. I can think of no other person better suited to chair the development group for this effort than Lord Gus O’Donnell, whose background combines deep understanding of statistics, inclusive of well-being metrics, and broad policy experience at the highest level. What Works is an exciting venture which will provide important lessons for scholars, policymakers, and publics around the world.
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Pursuing economic growth at all costs is a dangerous path towards ecological disaster and isn’t even making us any happier. It’s time our leaders started doing economics differently. The new Wellbeing Centre is welcome. It could be the next nail in the coffin of our callous, growth-at-all-costs economic ideology. But we’ll only know it’s working if we see changes in the kinds of policies Government pushes – such as closing our rampant inequality gap, tackling the causes of mental health problems and getting us off our climate changing, polluting energy system. The Treasury must also now be given a new priority to improve wellbeing and to be an active engine of building a clean, low-carbon and resource efficient economy.