LibLink: Siobhan Benita: We can’t afford to let today’s acts of kindness become tomorrow’s memories

Lib Dem London Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita writes for Mental Health Awareness Week on her website.

As we went into lockdown in March, the UN released its World Happiness Report. It ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.  As in previous years, Nordic countries dominate the top slots, scoring strongly across all six measures: GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, autonomy, generosity and absence of corruption.

Reflecting on the success of the Nordic countries, the report concludes that there is no “secret sauce” to their happiness. Instead, there is a “general recipe” that everyone can follow:  non-corrupt, high-quality state institutions able to deliver what is promised and generous in taking care of citizens.

The Covid19 pandemic is a tragedy.  Families and communities have lost loved ones to the virus and fear of contamination, financial uncertainty and social distancing are having a serious impact on the mental health of the nation. At the same time, the pandemic also creates a unique opportunity for us Brits to consider how we can create a better “recipe” for our citizens in the future.

The togetherness and community spirit we’ve seen during the pandemic must become permanent, she argues:

The proliferation of Mutual Aid groups has been one of the most heartening things to come out of the pandemic, with neighbours coming together to create local communities that help each other and support the most vulnerable.   And even in these darkest of times, our spirits have been lifted by daily news stories of acts of compassion.

We shouldn’t think of such acts as being confined to this period, as a special spirit for exceptional times.  Rather, we should be planning now for how we create a society that values this type of approach all of the time.  And we should demand that our policymakers do the same…

…The pandemic has exposed deep flaws in traditional thinking and now that we know better, we must do better – never forgetting that when push comes to shove, our welfare state isn’t good enough, low-skilled workers are actually key workers, green spaces are invaluable and doing things radically differently doesn’t have to take a lifetime.

Instead, with our new recipe, we should aim to build stronger communities, deepen social connections and see happiness not as a by-product of policy, but as a central objective itself.  By setting factors that crucial to our wellbeing, like excellent social support, as key aims of Government policy, we will create a host of opportunities.

You can read the whole article here.

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One Comment

  • Good stuff from Siobhan. Oxfam has published a paper – The UK Doughnut: A framework for environmental sustainability and social justice
    “The UK Doughnut demonstrates that our current economic model is, in many ways, both environmentally unsafe and socially unjust. Inequalities in the distribution of the UK’s wealth are causing deprivation across many indicators, as people find themselves out of work, unable to afford to heat their homes and forced to visit food banks or simply go without enough food. The report shows that 23 percent of the adult population lack any formal qualification; over a quarter of households are in fuel poverty; almost two thirds (59 percent) of people feel they have no say in what the government does; and over half of people do not access the natural environment each week. The report provides a visual representation of the UK’s performance, while substantiating the need for significant change in the way we produce, consume and distribute resources if we are to develop an environmentally and socially safe and just space within which to exist.
    Choices can be made to develop a more environmentally sustainable future. Debates surrounding potential solutions are ongoing and are focused on changes to industrial and agricultural production, consumption patterns and broader mechanisms to tackle resource demand. We now require the political will to implement policies designed to shape such decisions and to tackle the detrimental impacts created by our production and consumption patterns.
    Nor are the social failures described here inevitable. They are the result of the way we currently organize our society. They are the result of successive governments’ policy choices on how we use the tax system and public spending, as well as how we regulate and deliver services and provide support for our citizens. A more equal distribution of wealth could create a social floor where all citizens enjoy what we define as the minimum acceptable standards for all.
    … the Doughnut model does provide a set of goals or objectives, which – if delivered – would make for a much more sustainable society, organized in a way that delivers a good quality of life for all, without compromising the ability of others either here or abroad, now or in the future, to attain an acceptable quality of life.”

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