When Health Minister Simon Hamilton and Finance Committee Chair Daithí McKay speak at Carnegie UK Trust’s important wellbeing gathering tomorrow, their appearance will provide further evidence that the holistic agenda continues to boast substantial support across party and department. It has not been proceeding in a vacuum.
As the debate around welfare continues its stubborn impasse, wellbeing appears less stricken.
Both Hamilton and McKay, co-patrons of Carnegie’s engagement with the political establishment in this regard, have demonstrated a keen interest in the efforts of the Trust; their taste for the subject has not faded. Indeed, the Minister – who took up the challenge while in his previous post at the Department of Finance and Personnel – and the North Antrim MLA are expected to restate their firm commitment to the new approach during the event.
Carnegie’s conference, due to take place in the refurbished splendour of Crumlin Road Gaol, flows from the organisation’s publication of its report of the findings from the roundtable established to define and measure wellbeing in Northern Ireland.
How can society encompass this outlook in a more meaningful, coherent fashion? How does Northern Ireland move from strictly econometric measurements of GDP to a rounded, outcome-based approach? These questions, and others, are posed tomorrow.
Carnegie seeks to place the concept of wellbeing front and centre, this convergence of social, environmental, economic and democratic outcomes, so useful in the continuing crusade against poverty and inequality. The upcoming gathering, a new chapter in the organisation’s ground-breaking endeavours, will define ways of weaving wellbeing into the fabric of high-level policy, policy no longer fixated on economic debates driven by growth and productivity alone.
Taking no little inspiration from a study excursion to Scotland, where the newly muscular SNP distilled Labour’s earlier, and somewhat unwieldy, 384 governmental performance targets into seven digestible ‘outcomes’, the roundtable group themselves produced a seven-point plan for raising Northern Ireland’s wellbeing output.
They represent easily understood goals, among them being the need to set wellbeing as a collective target, to engage with the public, to establish new ways of working and to sharpen the scope of governmental accountability.
This set of sensible recommendations subverts any notion that wellbeing might be cast as an abstract, woolly or unobtainable aspiration!