What does a COVID vaccine and the departure of Trump have in common? They both give us a chance of normality and to reflect on what we don’t want to go back to. An opportunity to re-engage everyone and re-establish truth and honesty as the foundations of recovery. Let’s start with honesty in the choices we need to make in for an economic recovery which everyone can share. Economic success and social justice can be merged. To start the debate, we’ll use three truths, three responses and something we can each do to make a difference.
A first fact is at £200bn and counting, there has been a massive amount of borrowing to dig us out of the COVID hole. That’s £840m borrowed each day. The futures of our children and our most vulnerable will be hugely impacted. There is a limit to what can be borrowed and the maths matter. Emergency funding will end and with that comes difficult choices of what we can afford. This isn’t theoretical, it’s already about the next financial year. Let’s be honest, we waste billions in antiquated systems and don’t invest enough in cost prevention. Take the findings of the Scottish Care Review for example. We spend £1.2bn to deliver a care system and spend £1.6bn to compensate for its failings.
Take the findings of the Scottish Care Review for example. We spend £1.2bn to deliver a care system and spend £1.6bn to compensate for its failings.
Secondly, based on what I have witnessed, we have already restricted and likely lost a generation of young people. COVID will have lasted a year, for many it impacts a lifetime. A double whammy of losing opportunities, and picking up the bill long term. We need to accept the most vulnerable have suffered the most in lockdown and not by any choices they have made. It is not about policy soundbites, it will take us all to help young people and ensure they don’t pay the price.
The third fact, and absolute truth, is simply that economic recovery and growth is the only way out of this and the basis we can take care of our most vulnerable. This means business needs to be prioritised, motivated to develop, sell more, make profit and then invest those profits wisely. That also means business taking a social responsibility to ensure as many individuals and communities benefit.
Recovery the Right Way
So how do we respond? Firstly, success is not random. It is about playing to strengths, picking sectors and getting behind them in policy and in practice. Which players and team can compete to get us to the next World Cup. If we don’t know or pick our best players, we have no chance. Sport has much to teach us. We have an abundance of talent, but a fragile confidence and no long term plan.
Secondly, it’s time to reward organisations who champion social mobility and those that make a social contribution. For organisations that work with the most difficult to reach, let's give them real opportunities and invest time to inspire and motivate. It should be the norm.
Thirdly, let’s accept that there are basic citizen rights in our definition of social inclusion. No one should be without food and nutrition, shelter and the internet. Digital inclusion is now as critical as the water supply. As with the Care Review, the cost of this will be far less than the cost of failure.
Digital inclusion is now as critical as the water supply. As with the Care Review the cost of this will be far less than the cost of failure.
Education is the way to build a better future. Education outcomes determine job choices and ultimately life chances for the most vulnerable. What can we all do to make a difference? I can be very specific. Mentor a young person through their education. It just needs you to care, the relationship is what matters. Your time to listen with them driving. You may direct but it’s all about persuasion. Believe me there is no more effective personal development.
Let’s face up to the fact there is no money. I’ve had the benefit of large-scale complex transformations, but it actually isn’t that complex. Once we know the issues, we rank them. We need to have honest dialogue on the ranking as we can’t do everything, but we can do the key things well. Thanks to Trump’s illusions, we know the value of truth and honesty and no amount of shouting or spinning should dilute it.
About the Author:
Dr. Iain MacRitchie Founder & CEO MCR Pathways Visiting Professor at University of Strathclyde