I have heard hollow laughter when the phrase ‘evidence-based policy’ is mentioned. Perhaps the ‘dodgy dossier’ that got us into the Iraq war has much to answer for here, but the fact is that all policy these days relies on statistical data about us and our lives. As a quick visit to the website of the Office for National Statistics will immediately confirm the amount and depth of data held by Government is stunning, and growing in sophistication with every year that passes. It is also very open to public scrutiny in a way that our personal supermarket shopping preferences are not.
The pursuit of a national well-being index is an important part of the picture for all policy-makers, who need to understand the connection between their decisions and the opportunities and challenges we face in daily life. How surprising it is, then, given the acknowledged importance of culture in all societies, that culture is not included as a domain in the draft index. Reliable indicators exist. Access to culture and opportunity to participate is measured robustly through the DCMS Taking Part survey of arts and cultural participation, and through questions within the Active People survey on sport and leisure.
Compare the omission of culture with the inclusion of the ‘fear of violent crime’ indicator from the British Crime Survey, which will certainly find a place in the index. What an upside-down view of well-being it is that defines it as a reduced likelihood of being murdered in our homes rather than an enhanced opportunity to express ourselves and our ideas in the company of others! Not surprisingly most of the groups involved in the consultation process to date also rank culture relatively high on the list of indicators of well-being making its omission seem doubly perverse. There is a full report of the responses to date on the ONS website. You can take part in the consultation yourself by completing a questionnaire by 23 January. This can be found at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/user-guidance/well-being/index.html
Chair, Turning Point Yorkshire & Humber