William Eichler 18 July 2017

New ‘wellbeing indicators’ to help councils understand their residents published

Councils will now be able to tailor their services to residents’ needs by drawing on a wide-ranging set of data concerning ‘wellbeing’.

Local Wellbeing Indicators, published today in Understanding Local Needs for Wellbeing Data, are made up of data on things like job quality, anxiety levels, social isolation, green space and how physically active people are.

Currently, local authorities rely on traditional metrics, such as unemployment and material deprivation, to build an idea of their residents’ wellbeing.

However, the new Indicators, developed by researchers at What Works Centre for Wellbeing and Happy City and commissioned by Public Health England and Office for National Statistics, will give ‘a real-world set of measures for data that follows people’s quality of life from cradle to grave.’

The Indicators have been formulated in consultation with individuals in 26 different organisations, including nine city councils, seven county or district councils, the three devolved governments (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

Nine other organisations, including the Local Government Association (LGA), Defra, The Health Foundation and the New Economics Foundation, also provided some input.

‘These indicators are evidence-based, and are a response to local authorities calling out for more support to meet local needs in an increasingly complex and changing society,’ explained Nancy Hey, director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

‘The indicators look at people’s real experiences of what makes a difference to their lives. And, importantly, they show us a more nuanced picture of where problems may be growing, not picked up when you use only traditional measures, like unemployment.’

‘The Local Wellbeing Indicator set isn't perfect, yet,’ Ms Hey admitted.

‘It’s part of an initial scoping and we're keen to develop them, which means local authorities need to help us by telling us if they work; if there are gaps and if there is other information they are collecting that could be useful to understand and compare wellbeing.’

Ruth Townsley, director of operations and programmes at Happy City, who co-authored the report, added: ‘These indicators will make a big difference to the way local authorities approach decision-making, because they go beyond measures we know are useful but flawed or limited, like GDP, income or life expectancy.

‘Thinking about what really makes a difference to people's lives, rather than using idealised metrics, gives a greater range of options for action and a shared focal point for an area.’

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