Updated Jun 2014
Condition of Britain
IPPR's flagship Condition of Britain programme has sought to better understand the pressures facing people in Britain, the potential we have to overcome these challenges together and what this means for the priorities and practices of centre-left politics. The final report was launched in June 2014.
The Condition of Britain: Launching a landmark report
After 15 months' work and a series of visits that saw us travel the length of the country and hear the stories of hundreds of ordinary Britons, IPPR is very pleased to publish The Condition of Britain: Strategies for social renewal, the culminating report of the Condition of Britain programme.
The book was launched at an event in London's East End, attended by lots of the people from community groups who contributed to our research. Also attending were Labour MPs Ed Miliband, who gave a keynote speech; Jon Cruddas, who is leading Labour's policy review, and Rachel Reeves.
Launching the report itself, IPPR director and co-author Nick Pearce gave a presentation outlining the book's three major themes (spreading power, fostering reciprocity and building institutions) and the report's recommendations in six key areas of social policy:
- children and families
- young people and the school-to-work transition
- work and welfare
- crime and social exclusion
- living well in older age
In combination with the visits our team made around the country, our Voices of Britain video blog made a real contribution to the recommendations of the report and how they seek to address the challenges people are facing.
Public launch for Condition of Britain interim report
A large and diverse group of people gathered at Coin Street children's centre to discuss the findings of the Condition of Britain interim report, which brings the first phase of this major project to a close and sets the scene for policy recommendations to come.READ MORE: The Condition of Britain: Interim report
- Jon Cruddas, head of the Labour party's policy review
- Glenn Jenkins, director of Marsh Farm Outreach in Luton
- Debbie Koroma, centre manager of Benchill Children's Centre in Manchester
- Kamran Hussain, student and National Citizen Service participant
- Mick Ward, from Adult Social Care Commissioning at Leeds City Council
- Kayte Lawton, senior research fellow at IPPR
- Nick Pearce, IPPR director
The event also included stories from members of the audience and via our Voices of Britain video blog.
- Watch stories from across the country via our Voices of Britain video blog
Condition of Britain in Brighton: A public listening event
IPPR's Condition of Britain event held during the 2013 Labour party conference in Brighton gave members of the public a chance to express their views on the condition of Britain to and alongside politicians.
Here's a selection of what people had to say:
'I think what is needed is a shakeup of the way our democracy works.'
'If we're going to be serious about engaging everyone in the community " let's have a proportional voting system.'
Caroline Lucas MP, Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion
'The Tories are definitely making clinical decisions for financial reasons at the expense of drug treatment.'
George, member of Revolving Doors
'This is not the kind of society I want to live in where instead of collecting taxes off people trying to avoid them we are pointing the finger at people on benefits.'
Nancy Platts, Labour PCC for Brighton Kemptown
'Our ageing population is one of the biggest challenges we face as a country and a society.'
Liz Kendall MP, shadow minister for care and older people
'It's incumbent on all of us, whatever party we're in, to try and make hope possible rather than despair convincing.'
John Cruddas MP, head of Labour's policy review
Jon Cruddas tells his story about the condition of Britain
Jon Cruddas talks about the challenges faced by people living in his Dagenham and Rainham constituency in north-east London, as well as wider issues concerning the condition of Britain. This is a longer version of the short clip Jon made for our Voices of Britain blog.
Condition of Britain in Leeds: Care and older people
This week IPPR staff travelled to Leeds with Liz Kendall MP, to talk to people about some of the innovative work done there to combat loneliness and isolation among older people. The visit formed part of the Condition of Britain programme, which seeks to understand the pressures and priorities of people in Britain today.
We visited two very different daycentres in the city, where we spoke to clients, volunteers and staff about life as an older person, sat down with members of the Adult Social Care team in Leeds to discuss their work to build upon existing community networks of support, and ended the day with a meeting with the director of an employee-owned care enterprise offering homecare services.
'Everyone here is just so friendly'
The first centre that we visited is home to the Neighbourhood Elders Team (NET) in Garforth, and acts as a meeting place for people over 60 who live in any of the 13 villages in the surrounding area. The centre, which has approximately 2,000 registered clients supported by 250 volunteers, offers a seemingly endless list of activities and events, including exercise classes, computer training, a singing club and theatre trips. The key benefit of this kind of service, service users told us, is the opportunity to get out of the house, socialise and even make new friends, but people also spoke enthusiastically about the support and advice that they receive from each other, and from staff and carers.
'We're designing services for people in the context of their community'
NET in Garforth is just one of 37 Neighbourhood Networks, community-based voluntary organisations that cover the whole of the Leeds Metropolitan area. Funded by Leeds Adult Social Care, they are largely run and staffed by older people working in a voluntary capacity, and services are designed, in consultation with service users, according to the needs of the immediate local area. According to Mick Ward, head of commissioning, they are absolutely fundamental to Leeds' efforts to enable older people to live and flourish within their own communities.
'All we're doing is building on existing social capital in communities'
Leeds Adult Social Care is also piloting a more holistic approach to support for older people, through the 'Local Links' project. In this scheme, the local Neighbourhood Network can provide a support planner to arrange for people's statutory needs to be met through both conventional and local voluntary support, which can deliver savings that are shared between the local authority and the Neighbourhood Network to invest back into local services.
'This is a poor area: we have no resources other than people'
We also visited Caring Together, a community-based organisation based in the Woodhouse and Little London areas of Leeds which runs mutual care programmes. There are currently 350–400 members, aged between 55 and 101, who help and support each other according to each individual's capabilities and needs and, according to the manager, Cherril Cliff, there is a lot of crossover between volunteers and service users.
'We have a committed workforce, along the lines of the voluntary sector'
Allowing someone into your home to assist you with personal day-to-day tasks can be a difficult decision to make. And continuity is a key demand of those receiving home care, not least because it allows for a trusting and productive caring relationship to build up over time. According to Guy Turnbull, managing director at CASA, such continuity is a key feature of an employee-owned model for care providers, which in itself helps to drive up quality amongst a committed workforce who have a stake in the company. However, there are still issues with the procurement process for care provision, which is too often driven by short-term cost analysis.
Overall, what came out across most strongly from our visit was a keen sense of people and neighbourhoods working to exploit what resources are available to them to make life better for themselves and for those around them. One of the key questions we are keen to explore is how policy can best enable communities to make the most of the considerable assets already available to them, in order to deliver real benefits to people's quality of life.
Condition of Britain in Luton: Communities and housing
This week we were joined by shadow housing minister Jack Dromey and Gavin Shuker, Labour MP for Luton South, on a trip to Luton as part of IPPR's Condition of Britain programme, which seeks to understand the pressures and priorities of people in the UK today. We wanted to talk to people about their local neighbourhoods, visit organisations doing innovative work to regenerate their communities, and learn more about the impact of housing policy in the town.
We visited a community centre set up by local residents, spoke to a director of Luton Town FC about their community cohesion projects, had a meeting with the local council about Luton's housing shortage and finished the day at TOKKO, a brand new youth centre in the middle of town.
'People call it gangs, but it's growing up with no opportunity, no jobs, with brothers and dads in prison'
Our first stop was to talk to members of Marsh Farm Outreach, most of whom are residents of the Marsh Farm Estate, an area considered to be one of the most deprived areas in south east England. The group has an unorthodox history, organising parties in warehouses for people who couldn't afford a night out in town and restoring derelict buildings to house homeless people and poor families. They now work to regenerate the community and create jobs for residents.
'We're putting responsibility as well as power in people's hands'
Members were critical of what they saw as a 'usurping process' in major regeneration projects like New Deal for Communities, where plans were designed and often implemented by external experts. Instead, they argued, real community development must be 'for the people, by the people', giving them not only the power but also the responsibility over projects designed to improve their neighbourhood.
The centrepiece of their project was the refurbishment of a large empty factory building in the middle of the estate, paid for by New Deal money under the previous government, which is now an impressive community enterprise and resource centre. This new centre, which is completely owned by the community, is already home to a children's play centre, the local police station and various local businesses, and the group hope to encourage more local services and enterprises to set up shop to boost employment and keep local money from leaving the estate.
'We want our crowd's demographic to reflect the town'
Next we spoke to David Blakeman, director at Luton Town Football Club. David is adamant that the club has both a moral?, responsibility and a financial need to reach out to the majority Asian community that surrounds the ground. He has launched a variety of initiatives in the local neighbourhood designed to encourage more young people to train with the club, and to entice members of the community into the ground on match days. Key to the club's approach is their desire to work with trusted voices and young leaders in the community.
'The current policies were not intended to deal with problems like Luton's'
A lack of housing and overcrowding is an increasingly serious issue in Luton. According to staff and councillors at Luton borough council, who we spoke to at the town hall, there is simply not enough space within the town's boundaries for the houses needed to meet forecasted demand. At the last assessment, 11,000 new homes were required to house its growing population, but using every available space would only deliver 6,000. To further complicate matters, the desire to build affordable housing to combat overcrowding must be balanced with the equally pressing need for commercial properties that raise vital business rates for the borough in straitened economic times.
'It's all about young people doing it for themselves'
Just behind the town hall is an impressive modern building that houses the TOKKO youth centre. Young people were firmly involved in devising nearly all aspects of the centre, including the building's design and location (in the middle of town to ensure a 'neutral' space that everyone can visit), right down to the colour of the chairs and the wallpaper design. They also have a say in the activities on offer, but must also choose a way to cover any additional costs. The centre, which was set up by a grant from the government's Myspace fund but which is now financially independent, currently houses a climbing wall, a gaming room and a dance studio, and offers counselling and employment advice as well as drama courses and arts and crafts sessions.
Condition of Britain in Glasgow: Getting into work
The latest visit in the Condition of Britain programme took us to Glasgow and Motherwell where we talked to local people about work and social security.
We ran two focus groups on the benefits system, focusing on what protections working people are looking for from the system. We also visited two charities running back-to-work services and held a roundtable meeting with third sector organisations offering temporary subsidised jobs to young people across Scotland.
'You can understand why they choose not to work'
The people we spoke to in the focus groups were concerned about the complexities and contradictions of the benefits system. While there was little hostility towards those on benefits, participants were worried that too many people are better off unemployed than in work, and that the system doesn't push people hard enough to get back into work . This was said to be unfair for working people but also for benefit recipients, who could get trapped in the system.
'If you've paid in, you're entitled, you should get more'
We talked to the focus group participants about what they would expect the state to offer if they faced losing their job or having a baby. There was disagreement about the amount of jobseekers' allowance the state should provide in order to support people and incentivise them to get back into work, although very few thought that the current rate of £71.70 a week was too generous. Many felt the rate was too low for someone who had worked for years – one person said it was 'a tragic amount of money'. There was support for changes that would see the level of unemployment benefit (JSA) more strongly linked to people's work record and previous earnings.
'There's no jobs where you can say "I can build a future on that"'
But for the people without a job who we met on our trip, talk was not of incentives, but of the lack of decent local jobs. At Routes to Work, a welfare-to-work charity operating in North Lanarkshire, we spoke to a group of jobseekers on the Work Programme – including some young people who had never had a permanent job, and some older people who had been made redundant because of the recession. Job prospects in Motherwell , they all agreed, were 'bleak', with agencies offering mostly warehouse jobs, on minimum wage and with temporary contracts – sometimes offering just a day or two's work. Two of the young men we spoke to were getting to the end of their two years on the Work Programme without any prospect of finding work.
There was also a lot of frustration at the 'in and out' mentality at the local Jobcentre Plus, where jobseekers are not encouraged to spend time with staff, 'as if they don't want you to be there'. The people we spoke to were more positive about Routes to Work, as they are assigned a personal advisor and are encouraged to spend time at the local office looking for jobs.
'A stepping stone into work'
Just under half of disabled people are in employment compared to 83 per cent of non-disabled people. According to staff at the Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living (GCIL), this is in part because disabled people often lack on-the-job experience. GCIL helps to rectify this situation with its 'Open Door' programme, offering 12-month subsidised jobs for local disabled people with help to find permanent work afterwards. This helps participants develop the skills, networks and confidence necessary to enter the workplace.
We spoke to Craig, an employee at the centre and a direct beneficiary of this scheme. He was unemployed for a year and a half after he finished his master's degree in physics. He found that the graduate schemes that he was applying for demanded previous work experience but gaining work experience while studying would have been too difficult given his disabilities. Craig was enjoying his role at the centre, which was helping to develop his confidence in the workplace.
'People get that it's a real job, and they're treated as a member of staff'
We finished the day with a meeting at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO). SCVO manages the Community Jobs Scotland programme, which is funded by the Scottish government and offers subsidised temporary jobs in the voluntary sector for unemployed young people. The scheme is open to young people age 16 to 24 from the first day of unemployment, including graduates, but is not open to people taking part in the Work Programme.
We met with SCVO staff and staff from a number of organisations involved in the scheme. They were very positive about the benefits of working with young people, and introducing more people to work in the third sector. Many of the organisations employing CJS participants are keen to help them find work at the end of the placement, although there are no formal targets for long-term job outcomes.
Condition of Britain in Birmingham: Education and opportunities
Last week, IPPR travelled to Birmingham with local MP Liam Byrne as part of our Condition of Britain programme. We talked to people in the city about education, skills and youth unemployment, which remains perilously high across the country in general, and Birmingham in particular.
We started the day at a session run by the Challenge Network, a national charity that invites groups of young people from diverse backgrounds to work together towards a common goal with a social purpose. We then met with staff of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values at the University of Birmingham, who have done work outlining the need to develop character and moral identities in the classroom. Next, we travelled across town to visit Aston University Engineering Academy, a university technical college, where we spoke to a group of year 10 students and to the principal of the college, Lee Kilgour. We ended the day with a visit to Birmingham Metropolitan College, where we toured the facilities and spoke to representatives from local employers and college staff about what is needed from national and local government, as well as from businesses, to get more young people into work or training.
'The best thing I've ever done'
The young people who we met on the Challenge Network programme were bright, confident and talkative. But what was truly impressive was the understanding they demonstrated of their situation in life, and the grounded yet positive way they spoke about their futures. While one spoke of the necessary steps she'd need to take in order to achieve her goal of becoming a lawyer, another, who didn't have such a clear career plan, spoke about the need to build skills and networks to be in the best position possible in future years.
One young person worried about her job prospects after university, and spoke about the need for work experience as well as formal education. Another explained that no-one offered advice about which A-level subjects he should choose in order to follow his chosen career path. Indeed, a key theme was a lack of advice and support on career and education pathways from both parents and schools.
The Challenge Network works with groups of young people who have just finished their GCSE exams. Young people from a deliberately diverse set of backgrounds are put into teams of twelve, and work together on a project to benefit their local community. The idea is that all are given an opportunity to make friends outside their normal circles, to develop networks that may prove useful as they move into employment, and to gain the all-important 'soft skills' that those from under-privileged backgrounds sometimes lack.
'[We are] holding children back from realising their potential'
Researchers at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Values would doubtless approve. They told us that schools are typically judged on exam results but that the development of young people's character and moral values should also be an important focus. There is an academic consensus on the value of producing a more 'complete' individual through education, which is sometimes underemphasised in debates about education reform.
'You don't get this type of equipment anywhere else'
The opportunity to develop core values and life skills is written into the curriculum at Aston University Engineering Academy, which opened its doors in September 2012 with a mission to provide young people aged 14 to 19 with all the skills and knowledge necessary to enter the world of engineering. The Academy is full of impressive equipment and state-of-the-art technology and the students were keen to show off their work: a pair of teenagers showed us a solar-powered mobile phone charger that they had built that afternoon.
However, the academy encounters difficulties in recruiting specialist teachers in areas like physics and maths, and because its curriculum, that is designed to reflect a 'working day', requires staff to work longer hours than other schools.
'Different, flexible models for different companies'
Our final meeting of the day was with staff at Birmingham Metropolitan College, who have worked to develop flexible employment schemes for recent graduates. The college works with local businesses to help with recruitment and provides training and advice to their graduates in order to prepare them for interview and for employment. The college works closely with them to ensure that values key to employers are designed into the training provided.
We spoke to local businesses, who reminded us that a lots more needs to be done by schools and parents to get young people into work, and that local government needs to address the lack of co-ordination across the city, in order to sell Birmingham as an attractive destination for prospective employers and ensure that local people can take up new jobs.
Voices of Britain provides a snapshot of our country in 2013
Voices of Britain is a vital part of the Condition of Britain project.
The aim of this project is to better understand the everyday pressures facing people in Britain, and to explore ways to support the potential we have to overcome these challenges together.
Through the Voices of Britain website, and with the help of People's Voice Media working across the country, IPPR will hear from people about their everyday experiences, the pressures they are under, and what they need to lead more fulfilling and less pressured lives. Through these stories, combined with rigorous analysis of the latest data and trends, we hope to generate new insights about 'the Condition of Britain' and to define the main challenges for social policy over the next decade.
You can also follow progress on Twitter using the hashtag #VoicesOfBritain.
Condition of Britain in Manchester: A focus on children and families
IPPR went to Manchester to talk about children and families as part of the Condition of Britain programme. Along with Jon Cruddas, we started the day with a visit to a fantastic SureStart family centre in Benchill, a district in southern Manchester and part of the Wythenshawe council estate. We then moved on to the Wythenshawe Forum, a successful community and leisure centre, where Jon made a speech about the pressures on modern childhood and the vital role of fathers. We chatted to staff, volunteers and service-users from Woodhouse Park Family Centre, a small charity offering services to local families. We finished the day with a meeting at Manchester town hall with council leaders, officers and school heads from across Greater Manchester.
Benchill SureStart family centre
The centre, run by Barnardo's on behalf of Manchester City Council, focuses on engaging local families in a range of services, with a comprehensive outreach service and lots of support for parents as well as children. Along with other centres in Manchester, Benchill Sure Start is pioneering a baby registration service to reach out to new parents – both mothers and fathers – and start to build relationships between parents and staff. We chatted to a group of parents about the pressures of bringing up children in Wythenshawe and their hopes for the future. Some parents felt cut-off in Wythenshawe, which is some distance – physically and psychologically – from central Manchester. 'I feel stuck here', one mum said. Money worries were also a big issue, often driven by benefit changes and the lack of suitable local jobs, but parents really valued the support offered by the centre.
'I don't have family nearby so this place is like my family'
A speech by Jon Cruddas at the Wythenshawe Forum, followed by a panel discussion
Jon talked about the issue of engaging dads in children's lives. Local services are too often based around the child's relationship with their mother, he said, with fathers sometimes feeling pushed out. Excluding fathers 'lets them off the hook', said Jon. We should have high expectations of fathers but also make sure they get the right support.
Jon was joined on the panel by councillor Afzal Khan, executive member for children's services at Manchester City Council, and Jonathan Rallings, assistant director of policy and research at Barnardo's. Audience members raised concerns about the lack of support for grandparents as carers of children, as well as fathers.
'Grandparents are the glue that hold many families together'
We also talked about the commercial pressures on young children and how to tackle gender stereotyping.
Woodhouse Park Family Centre
This is a small charity in Wythenshawe set up by a local church to provide services for local families. A central part of their work is running a child contact centre, a safe space where non-resident parents can spend time with their children. It means parents and children who don't live together can experience a 'normal' relationship while cooking a meal or playing in the garden. Staff and volunteers were passionate about the local services they provided but found it difficult to secure funding due their small size and lack of capacity to secure large contracts. They had also seen a large increase in families requesting food parcels over the last few years, and talked about desperate parents eating newspaper to stave off hunger while making sure their children had enough to eat.
Meeting at Manchester town hall
We ended the day with a meeting with local government officers, council leaders and school heads from across Greater Manchester to hear about local children's services. Participants were keen to stress that Greater Manchester does not expect to get more cash from central government, but wants longer funding settlements and more integrated public budgets. Officers stressed the priority given to evidence-based tools in Greater Manchester, like the 'Incredible Years' programme that's designed to improve young children's behaviour by engaging parents and early years staff.
School improvement was also a key topic, led by the Manchester Schools Alliance, which brings together local schools and practitioners to raise school performance locally rather than relying on national interventions. Manchester has seen major improvements in school performance over the last decade but concerns remain around both pre-school children and school leavers. Further investment is needed to boost school readiness through early years care and education, while Manchester's academy schools are working with local employers to raise pupils' soft skills and help more young people move into work in the local area.
Listening event with St Mungo's and Revolving Doors
As part of the Condition of Britain programme, IPPR held an informal discussion group with service-users of Revolving Doors Agency and St Mungo's, two charities that work with people who have faced – and often overcome – serious challenges in their lives, including homelessness, reoffending, addiction and mental health issues.
The discussion was led by Jon Cruddas, who is leading the Labour party's policy review.
We talked about how it feels to hit crisis point and what needs to change so that people get better support to regain control over their lives.
'You go to the council and you see people dealing with numbers and rules. You're not seen as a person, as someone with needs'
There was a real sense of frustration that statutory services don't treat people as individuals with complicated lives. Staff were seen as focusing on targets and rules, and lacking the time develop a relationship with their clients. This kind of support had to come from charities like St Mungo's and Revolving Doors, where caseworkers were praised for dealing with multiple problems together and maintaining support over time.
'If you go to a restaurant, you chose it and you choose what to eat. All we want is to be able to choose the services we get, how we're treated'
Statutory services were seen as bureaucratic and inflexible, with users having little say over the nature or quality of the support they received. In places like St Mungo's and Revolving Doors, user involvement was at the heart of service design and delivery, with an active programme of user forums and volunteering.
'If you're homeless, you're vulnerable. Doesn't matter who you are, where you're from'
A lack of housing for single adults leaving prison was consistently raised as the most important problem among the people we spoke to. Most had left prison with no secure housing or job offer and had no access to social housing, with many ending up homeless and dragged back into reoffending.
'None of us have ever said we want more money from the state. We want the services to work better'
Despite the many challenges they faced, the people we spoke to weren't demanding more money from government. They wanted existing services to work better – to have the support in place to help them move on and give something back. They relished being part of the solution, whether helping to design services, training as caseworkers and volunteers to help others facing similar challenges, or talking to politicians about what needs to change.
What can we learn?
The challenges faced by the people we spoke to are exceptionally difficult to tackle. For decades, policymakers have been grappling with the question of how to better support people with serious and multiple problems. Some of the questions raised in this session that we want to explore further include:
- How can we make sure people are treated as individuals while also making sure that everyone gets the right support and service providers are held to account?
- What is the right balance between specialist services for people with multiple problems and mainstream services that don't ignore people with serious difficulties?
- How do we balance the desire to reward contribution while ensuring that those in most need get the right help to turn their lives around?
- How can we reconfigure statutory services for people with complex needs so that user involvement in service design and delivery is systematic?
- What we can learn in the context of supporting single adults from the Family Intervention Project model of a dedicated caseworker to smooth interactions with statutory services?
Jon Cruddas and Liam Byrne write for Juncture
Labour MPs Jon Cruddas and Liam Byrne have co-authored a brilliant essay setting the scene for the Condition of Britain work to come. It was originally published in the latest issue of Juncture, IPPR's journal for rethinking the centre-left.
The authors frame the central challenge and focus of our major programme of work:
'Out in the country, people are full of hopes for society and ideas about what we can do together to make it better. There is a hunger to find ways we can: end the waste of long-term unemployment; lift the deadening burden of personal debt; mobilise the leadership of our towns and cities; ensure disabled people are in charge of their own lives; provide all young people with a shot at making something of themselves; release the energies of the people and institutions who provide our public services; and connect those with time and a sense of compassion with those who lack relationships and suffer from loneliness or isolation.
'The challenges facing the country are great and we will not have a good society by accident; it will depend on how each of us choose to live and the sort of politics we are able to forge ... Our task now is to show how we can silence the siren calls of pessimism to offer the hope that, by coming together, we can overcome the obstacles facing this generation and build a good society for all our citizens.'
Embracing a conservative case for justice reform
A provocative new paper by US conservative Pat Nolan, with a response by UK shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan, makes the case for rebalancing justice systems on both sides of the Atlantic towards rehabilitation and away from imprisonment, particularly for vulnerable and minor offenders.
By focusing on improving outcomes for offenders and communities, and the fiscal realities that cast doubt on the value for money of long-term incarceration, two commentators from opposite sides of the political divide agree that the justice system can work more effectively and efficiently.
IPPR associate director Rick Muir has written a blog about these issues for the New Statesman. Rick is the author of an earlier IPPR report arguing for 'justice reinvestment' as a model for redirecting resources away from imprisonment and into community-based alternatives.
IPPR launches The Condition of Britain
Jon Cruddas MP, head of Labour's policy review, spoke at the launch of IPPR's new flagship research programme, The Condition of Britain, which will explore the major pressures facing individuals, families and communities in Britain today.
Jon Cruddas discusses the Condition of Britain on Newsnight
Introducing 'The Condition of Britain', a major new project
IPPR's flagship Condition of Britain programme is seeking to better understand the pressures facing people in Britain, the potential we have to overcome these challenges together and what this means for the priorities and practices of centre-left politics.
Britain is a country with a unique history, great strengths and compassionate, creative people. However, economic turmoil and deeper social trends are testing our society and placing significant strain on people's lives. In the early 1990s, IPPR ran the Commission on Social Justice and redefined the mainstream political response to core social policy questions. Now, as Britain emerges from recession and faces up to major social trends like ageing alongside a decade of limited public resources, IPPR is once again asking what the central challenges facing society are and whether we have the right politics, policies and institutions to respond.
The overarching question for the Condition of Britain programme is: how can we come together to build a good society in uncertain and austere times?
The programme has three core objectives:
- To understand the major pressures facing people across Britain
- To identify what resources exist to advance core social goals and where responsibility for action should lie
- To reorient the goals, priorities and methods of centre-left politics to respond to these challenges
In the course of this project, IPPR researchers are talking to people across the country about their experiences, the stresses and strains they encounter, and what is needed to help them to live more fulfilling and less pressured lives. Combined with rigorous analysis of the latest data and trends, we are generating new insights about condition of British society and defining the central challenges for social policy over the coming decade.
The programme will consider core policy questions across a range of areas, including social security, employment, housing, childcare, community safety and ageing.