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Economy ‘must be redesigned’ with focus on wellbeing and environmental sustainability

17 November 2022

Children in Scotland has joined more than 100 other organisations calling for Scotland to make a wellbeing economy a reality.

An open letter, issued yesterday (16 November) to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, once again calls for the Scottish Government to put wellbeing and environmental sustainability at the heart of all economic decisions.

Signatories welcome measures already put in place, such as the first Wellbeing Economy monitor, but stress progress is not happening fast enough.

The letter urges Nicola Sturgeon to transform Scotland’s National Performance Framework into a Wellbeing Framework and strengthen its power and reach.

Other calls include using devolved tax powers for a better distribution of wealth; investment in social security; universal basic services and reshaping the business landscape to prioritise enterprises that enhance collective wellbeing.

Amy Woodhouse, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said:  

“Scotland is still fighting what can often feel like an impossible battle when it comes to poverty and inequality. We know turning the tide on these will make a real terms improvement to people’s lives and collective wellbeing – but we cannot make this happen until we create conditions that provide the basis for change.

“Last year, in collaboration with Carnegie UK Trust, Cattanach and lead author Dr Katherine Trebeck we published our Being Bold report, outlining why and how to build budgets for collective wellbeing. In it we called for an economy that is outcomes-oriented, rights-based, preventative and participatory.

“Our 2021-26 Manifesto also places wellbeing at the heart of its ambitions for the economy, calling for a comprehensive Wellbeing Budget and an annual Scottish budget that is designed and implemented with the goal of improving the wellbeing of all.

“Last week at our annual conference, a panel of experts including Dr Lukas Bunse, policy and engagement lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance in Scotland, Juliet Harris, director of Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Jennifer Wallace, Director (Policy and Engagement), Carnegie UK Trust, and Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women's Aid again highlighted the importance of the Scottish Government taking a wellbeing approach to budgeting.

"They stressed how urgent this was, particularly in the context of children’s rights and our current cost-of-living crisis.”

“The commitment of the organisations who have been involved in our work so far, and our fellow signatories to the letter, demonstrate an appetite for change and a commitment from across sectors to move our economy forward so that it can better serve the society we want to create.”

The letter, co-ordinated by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, was submitted ahead of the Wealth of Nations 2.0 Conference which takes place on 22 November in Glasgow. The event will bring together fellow senior representatives of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, of which Scotland is a founding member.

Click here to read the letter in full

Click here for more on our Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing report, published in March 2021

Click here to view the Manifesto 2021-26

Click here to read a social media summary of day one of our annual conference

An open letter to the First Minister

Calls for the economy to be redesigned, signed by more than 100 organisations

Click here to access

Being Bold

A major report calling for the Scottish Government to make radical changes to budgeting

Click here to find out more

Manifesto 2021-26

Our calls to improve the lives of children, young people and familie

Click here to view

Annual conference 2022: Day 1

Explore the highlights from day one of our annual conference

Click here to access

Radical wellbeing-focused redesign of government budget ‘key to post-Covid renewal’

18 March 2021

A major report published today calls for the Scottish Government to introduce wellbeing budgeting to improve lives for children as part of a radical systems change in the wake of the coronavirus.

The new report, Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing, by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance’s Dr Katherine Trebeck, with Amy Baker, was commissioned by national charity Children in Scotland, early years funder Cattanach and the Carnegie UK Trust.

It makes a series of bold calls focused on redirecting finances to tackling root causes of inequality and poverty as Scotland emerges from Covid. Key recommendations include:

  • A post-Covid spending review, with all spend proposals assessed against evidence of impact on children’s wellbeing
  • Training of the civil service to ensure effective budget development and analysis, and moving to multi-year budgeting aligned with wellbeing goals
  • Establishing an independent agency, modeled on the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, to support activity and scrutinise effectiveness of delivery of wellbeing budgeting by the government
  • An overarching change to the ways of working in the Scottish Government budget process to ingrain greater transparency; cross-departmental working; and a participatory approach involving the public and the diversity of children’s voices.

The report argues that the Scottish Government’s stated aims of improving wellbeing across society and addressing the fact that one quarter of children live in relative poverty (click to learn more) cannot be met unless we create conditions for our youngest children to be healthy and supported from the outset.

To do this, it makes the case for directing funds at root causes that diminish child wellbeing, rather than targeting symptoms ‘downstream’, which is inefficient, stifles implementation of policy and legislation, and slows ambitions for societal change.

First steps towards wellbeing budgets would involve holding a conversation with the public about budget-setting to absorb lived experience; interrogating data to ‘map’ the distribution of wellbeing in Scotland; and ensuring policy development was properly connected to evidence on what would actually change outcomes for children and addressing the root causes of what undermines their wellbeing.

The report’s lead author, Dr Katherine Trebeck, said:

“If the Scottish budget is to be a mechanism that brings about change, we need to create a context where children can flourish in Scotland. Then we need to think about a few fundamentals. The budget needs to be holistic, human, outcomes-oriented, and rights-based. It needs to be long-term, upstream, preventative and precautionary. Finally, a bold budget for children’s wellbeing needs to be participatory – children’s voices in all their diversity need to be at the heart of setting the budget agenda.”

Sophie Flemig, Chief Executive of Cattanach, said:

“This report shows why it is necessary to set out a high-level vision for wellbeing outcomes and hardwire it into government processes. Countries need to acknowledge that the economy is in service of wellbeing goals, not a goal in and of itself. Meaningful public involvement is key. Ministerial responsibility for wellbeing outcomes drives progress. And cross-departmental work is essential for success.”

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK Trust, said:

“This project has focused on one important lever of change – the finance system, the way that we think about money and spend in Scotland, asking: what is value for money when we’re talking about our children’s lives? We know it’s not a silver bullet, but we do think it’s important that we consider how we spend that money if we’re going to begin improving outcomes for children and putting our money where our mouth is when it comes to children’s wellbeing.”

As the election campaign approaches, and following Tuesday’s vote to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law, the report’s calls and the case for wellbeing budgeting informs Children in Scotland’s manifesto for 2021-26, backed by organisations across the children’s sector.

The report is published as Scotland takes stock of the damage the pandemic has done to individuals, families, communities, and the macroeconomy, and an increasing number of people recognise that we must not revert to pre-Covid ways of working.

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said:

“Now is the time for us to reset our economy and the way in which we prioritise our budgets. Katherine’s work gives us a real manifesto for how we will secure children’s rights and wellbeing. We call on you to read the report, particularly the section which identifies what the crucial next steps are. We don’t need any more research or evidence – we need to work together to put a budget for Scotland’s children into place, this year, and we look forward to working with you to make that happen.”

Click here to download and read a copy of the report

Media contact: Chris Small


Being Bold: Wellbeing Budgets for Children

The report calls for major systems change in government to support delivery of child wellbeing outcomes

Click here to read the report

Lead author Dr Katherine Trebeck

Dr Trebeck is Advocacy and Influencing lead at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance

Click to learn about the Alliance

Project partner: Sophie Flemig

Sophie is CEO of early years funder Cattanach

Click to learn about Cattanach

Project partner: Jennifer Wallace

Jen Wallace is Head of Policy at the Carnegie UK Trust

Click to learn about the Trust

Project partner: Jackie Brock

Jackie is Chief Executive of Children in Scotland

Click to learn about CiS

A Manifesto for hope in hard times

Wellbeing budgeting for children is identified as a key priority in our 2021-26 Manifesto

Find out more