Skip to main content

Pandemic is a wake-up call: Lords Committee calls for new approach to resilience and wellbeing

16 March 2022

The House of Lords COVID-19 Committee publishes its report on 'Living in a COVID World: A Long-term Approach to Resilience and Wellbeing'.

The House of Lords COVID-19 Committee today calls for improved resilience and preparedness for a volatile and uncertain future. The Committee concludes that the pandemic has shown that our current understanding of resilience and preparedness is not fit-for-purpose. As we prepare for more frequent systemic shocks in future, a focus on robust supply chain and critical national infrastructure alone will not secure the national resilience that we so desperately need. To be resilient, we must have strong social capital and community connection within, and between, diverse communities, higher levels of social and economic equity, and resilient and adaptable public services.

As such, the Committee believes that it is now time to reconsider the role and purpose of the state, by placing a new emphasis on governing for the long-term and new focus on wellbeing. Any new system of government must have the wellbeing of its people at its heart – moving from a Welfare State to a Wellbeing State.

The purpose of the Wellbeing State would be to secure the wellbeing of all its citizens, and tackle those inequalities that hold back specific groups and communities. It is only be reaching into every part of our society, and actively engaging with them about the interventions that will improve their wellbeing, that we can improve our resilience. We cannot claim to be resilient, until all groups, communities and neighbourhoods are resilient, and continuing vulnerability amongst specific groups, communities and neighbourhoods will make us all vulnerable to the upheavals of the future.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Committee, Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho said:

“As we begin the process of living with the pandemic it reminds us that the cycle of politics does not cope well with long-term problems. This is a wake-up call which must be heeded. Political leaders and policy makers must begin to think about ways to deal with long-term issues, where the problems and possible solutions will extend beyond the life of one parliamentary regime or single electoral cycle.

“Our ability to plan and to co-ordinate has been shown to be wanting; now is the opportunity for us to reset the state and build it back to be more adaptable, more resilient, more devolved, and more collaborative so we can effectively deal with any disasters, crises or systemic shocks that may occur in the future. Wellbeing and resilience must be at the heart of this reset for it to be successful.”

Key recommendations

The Committee’s report sets out a range of recommendations to improve resilience and preparedness, reconsider the role and purpose of the state, and move from a Welfare State to a Wellbeing State.

  • Co-ordinated Government policy should prioritise narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy so that no one group is left behind. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities should collaborate with other Government departments and devolved administrations to assess lessons learned during the pandemic about the socio-economic determinants of health.
  • Renewed efforts to build trusted relationships between the state and all groups within society, including racial and religious groups, young people, disabled people and others. The Department of Levelling Up and Communities should conduct an assessment of the relationship between both the national and local state and communities, and develop a plan for improving trust over time.
  • Major efforts to build social capital through community-level public service innovation. This should start with a new wave of devolution to return power to local government, and beyond to local communities.
  • A new approach to efficiency, recognising the importance of some redundancy of provision in public services. This will require a major shift in our approach to workforce planning, in particular, which will need to continue to leverage volunteer and community capacity in a systematic way, alongside formal provision. In effect, we need to move away from a “just in time” model of provision to a “just in case” model for many services.

Further information