The first Sustainable Care paper is now available to download on our website, written by Dr Kate Hamblin.

Summary

The concept of wellbeing has been included in policy literature in the four nations of the UK since the early 2000s, with a specific focus on social care from around 2011 (although there was reference to wellbeing as early as 1968 in the Seebohm report which recommended the creation of local authority social services departments to “enable the greatest possible number of individuals to act reciprocally, giving and receiving service for the well-being of the whole community” [p180]). Two main waves of political interest in wellbeing have been identified. The first, in the 1960s, highlighted that Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/ Gross National Product (GNP) were imperfect means of measuring how well a society is functioning. It sparked an interest in developing other social indicators, stalled in the 1970s (as nations entered recession) and re-emerged in the 1990s as interest in wellbeing, including in developing countries, revived.

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In the UK, Prime Minister David’s Cameron’s 2010 speech on wellbeing and the need for more precise measurement of the concept is seen as a key point in establishing wellbeing as a policy priority. A so-called ‘watershed’ speech, it called for measures of wellbeing to assist in assessing Britain’s progress in more than merely economic terms. Cameron challenged three notions. First, he refuted the idea that wellbeing is a distraction from the ‘urgent economic tasks at hand’, citing Robert Kennedy. Second, he contested the notion that improving wellbeing is ‘beyond the realm of government’, citing Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen. Third, he questioned the idea that wellbeing is a woolly, poorly defined concept and thus hard to measure. In response, the UK’s Office for National Statistics created a national programme to develop measures of wellbeing and an ensuing national debate on ‘what matters to you’ led to the development of a national wellbeing measurement framework with objective (e.g. employment, life expectancy) and subjective (e.g. life satisfaction, anxiety, meaningfulness) measures.

This review summarises main policy developments on wellbeing in the field of adult social care since 2000 in the four nations of the UK.

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