We asked Meg Thomas, Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem, to tell us about the work being done at Includem and how it relates to the wellbeing economy. Read her guest blog below.
At Includem, we work 24/7, 365 days a year, to support families when they need it the most. We provide intensive, bespoke support to young people and families in challenging circumstances, building solid relationships of trust to help young people realise their full potential.
For many of the young people and families we support, entrenched poverty is the most common and persistent issue they face. This has of course been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our families report regular issues affording the basics, telling us they struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, and cover the costs of internet access. Social security payments are too low, wages are often insufficient, and the cost of living is too high. This in turn has caused a deterioration in mental health.
That is why discussions of a wellbeing economy are so greatly welcomed – a shift towards a social understanding of the economy beyond the narrow parameters of GDP could provide a vital framework (and impetus) for policies that end poverty and give families such as those we support a strong and reliable financial foundation.
To develop a wellbeing economy, it is crucial that the voices of those at the margins of society – who face the sharpest consequences of current economic policy – are at its heart. The increased emphasis on lived experience in policy development across Scotland gives us reason to be hopeful this can happen.
Initiatives such as Get Heard Scotland enable those affected by poverty to have their voices heard on the policies and decisions that impact their lives; Youth Justice Voices has given young people with care and justice experience a direct route to shape national policy and practice; and The Promise has put those with experience of the care system it is set to transform, front and centre.
At Includem, we too have focussed on amplifying the voices of our young people and families, conducting research on Digital Access and Poverty to highlight the key issues they face, as well as ensuring young people’s lived experience shapes our policy submissions to the Scottish Government.
But while progress is being made in Scotland, there are significant engagement barriers that must be dismantled to ensure marginalised voices are fully and authentically involved at all stages and in all areas of policymaking, service design and delivery.
Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society.
A key obstacle is digital exclusion, an issue that has become particularly prominent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society. Their voices are lost in the process. It is imperative that children, young people, and families can participate in decisions that affect them, and digital access is a crucial pillar in ensuring these rights are upheld.
From our experience of delivering intensive family support services, we also know that both stigma and a distrust of statutory services can prevent young people and families from engaging – particularly as families in poverty are 10 times more likely to have their children on the child protection register and to come into care.
Regrettably, this is rarely considered in discussions of tackling poverty and centring the voices of lived experience. I was particularly struck by Dr Calum Webb’s piece on Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality where he remarks on reviewing thirteen of the top selling and topcited books on the topic of inequality, injustice, and its consequences, including four of the highest cited books on the public health consequences of inequality, only to discover none of these books had a dedicated chapter about child protection or social work.
Despite the fact that families in poverty are more likely to receive state intervention, the most deprived local authorities in England “have seen the greatest cuts to their preventative spending, fuelling more disruptive and damaging forms of intervention.” I would argue that true preventative spending addresses the underlying causes of poverty, not the behaviours resulting from it.
Fundamentally, parents should not fear being separated from their children because of poverty – a structural inequality which current economic and social policies perpetuate.
I am Australian. I had an aunt who was from Australia’s First Nation. She was one of Australia’s Stolen Generation where children were forcibly removed from their families solely due to race. If current practices continue, we risk having another stolen generation, this time due to poverty.
It is vital that young people and families are given the space to be open and honest about their experiences and struggles without fear or likelihood of consequences. If we do not urgently create such an environment, they will continue to be afraid of speaking out, go unheard by decision-makers, and their voices lost.
As a society, our collective mission must be to ensure that those who are most marginalised have their voices both heard and acted upon. Ultimately, all children, young people, and families should be able to exert their right to be heard. Only then can we truly shape a wellbeing economy for all.
Meg Thomas is the Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem.
Bywaters, P., Scourfield, J., Jones, C., Sparks, T., Elliott, M., Hooper, J., McCarten, C., Shapira, M., Bunting, L., Daniel, B (2018) Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK
Includem (2020) Poverty and the Impact of Coronavirus on Young People and Families in Scotland
Includem (2020) Staying Connected: Assessing digital inclusion during the coronavirus pandemic
The Poverty Alliance Get Heard Scotland
Staf and The Children’s and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) Youth Justice Voices
https://www.staf.scot/blogs/blogs/category/youth-justice-voices Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
For further information on Includem’s policy and research work, including government consultation submissions, please see: https://www.includem.org/about-policy-research/
Andrea Somma Genta1973 to 2020
It is with sadness, but also love and admiration that we put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, to be precise) to share some thoughts about our friend, and partner in working to change the world, Andrea Somma Genta.
Andrea passed away recently, peacefully and with her loved ones surrounding her. She leaves behind a quite extraordinary legacy – and friends around the world who will miss her dearly.
Andrea was one of WEAll’s inaugural ambassadorial appointments.
Andrea had a strong understanding of the need for economic system change. She channelled this through her work at the Omina Foundation, which started championing sustainable fashion, and quickly evolved into championing regeneration and wellbeing, as necessary economic mindsets for the change needed.
Andrea’s vision adopted and promoted the principles of a circular economy and ecological urbanism. She was committed to identifying, or where necessary, creating pathways of climate action to avert the most pressing consequences of climate change.
She was a great connector – often literally putting people’s hands together. And she stood out because of the often unusual combination of elegance and glamour with warmth, humour and cheekiness. Andrea didn’t see hierarchies or status – she saw people’s hearts, their intentions, the sparkle in their eye.
She brought together fashion designers with trade ministers, economic activists with first ladies, diplomats with surfers who are cleaning up the oceans. Her charms resulted from a rare combination of culture, courage, and determination. She could convince the most dogged sceptics and create the most unusual of alliances – this is what made her so extraordinary and so influential.
We will surely and sorely miss her. But for those of us who collaborated with her and were touched by her magical gifts, we have inherited a responsibility to carry on with her legacy.
Let the energy of her passing become energy for our thriving.
– Alvaro Cedeno and Katherine Trebeck
On Wednesday, 28th October, Holyrood and the RSA held their online conference, “Scotland: The Recovery”. Chaired by WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas, the event provided an opportunity for the public, private, and third sectors to gather and discuss how Scotland can move forward and build a post-pandemic society that works for everyone.
After initial remarks from Sarah, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, opened the event by sharing her aspirations for a wellbeing economy. Acknowledging that economic policy should be “a means, not an end”, the First Minister called for the people of Scotland to work together to deliver an economy that places “wellbeing alongside wealth”—not just as an afterthought, but as a vital part of Scotland’s post-pandemic economy.
Also speaking by video address was Rt. Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government. The Minister also emphasised his commitment for a green recovery.
In other words, now is the moment for a wellbeing economy.
Throughout the day, there were numerous discussions, panels, and guest speakers (including WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Katherine Trebeck). The dominant theme was everyone’s shared commitment to taking wellbeing economy ideas and discussing how best to turn them into permanent, lasting reforms.
Sarah explained the shared vision of a wellbeing economy in her opening remarks:
“With nations across the world taking unprecedented steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the global economy and society is bleak, with many challenges ahead. It’s also widely acknowledged that climate change poses a major threat, placing further crises on the horizon. So, as we seek to build back better, we must do so in a manner that builds resilience and addresses what’s not working in the current economic paradigm.
“It requires us to ask fundamental questions and explore ‘radical’ solutions. How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?
How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?
“In other words, how do we build a ‘wellbeing economy’, transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet—the first time round.
“This requires us to consider questions like, what kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.
What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.
“It’s recognised that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the root causes of societal problems—leading to ‘upstream’ preventative measures—rather than focusing mainly on ‘downstream’ measures, which involve cleaning up and redistributing after the fact. Whilst the latter are also important in the short term, we won’t escape the downward spiral by patching up after the event. Instead, we need upstream systems change.
“As a founding member of the WEGo partnership, alongside Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is already at the forefront of global efforts to build a new, inclusive economy focused on societal and environmental wellbeing.
“So how do we do it? Today’s Holyrood event, in partnership with the RSA, brings together policymakers and thought leaders to explore that key question.”
As the conference came to an end, the closing keynote came from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, The Scottish Government. She spoke to Holyrood back in August about Scotland’s desire “to create a strong, resilient wellbeing economy”, and the need is just as prevalent today.
There’s still lots of work to do, but it truly is promising to see the wave of support for economic systems change that benefits everyone—including the key workers on whom we’ve relied so greatly this year.
Now is the moment to make it happen.
WEAll Scotland is delighted to welcome three new trustees to our board: Gillian Harkness, Charlotte Millar, and Siri Pantzar.
Our board oversee the work that our dedicated team carry out, and they’re also active in representing the organisation and contributing to our activities, both in public and behind the scenes.
Read on to learn a bit about each of our new trustees!
Gillian is a commercial, corporate and charities lawyer working with public and third sector clients, and with those private sector organisations interested in engaging with the public and third sectors (including as part of the wellbeing economy). Gillian is passionate about the part that social enterprise and the wider third sector can play in shaping the economy and in “building back better”.
Charlotte is a leader and strategist for systems change, with expertise in collaborative leadership, organisational development and coaching. She developed this expertise through co-founding the Finance Innovation Lab and the New Economy Organisers Network and growing them to scale. In both organisations, she led on strategy, culture, leadership development, diversity and inclusion and coaching. She was twice winner of NESTA’s New Radicals award and was recognised in 2019 as one of the UK’s 100 most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise.
Siri is passionate about imagining a future that is not only adequate, safe and sustainable, but also fulfilling and exciting—for all of us—and then working towards that future. She is currently working with Climate Outreach, a climate change communications charity, as an Executive Assistant. Her background is in community charity work in Edinburgh, and she has supported several young charities in fundraising, systems development and governance, helping them acquire the necessary tools to work effectively towards their mission. Siri has a master’s degree in Global Environment, Politics and Society from the University of Edinburgh.
Want to learn more about the team and what we do? Check out the WEAll Scotland team page to find out more.