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Editor’s Blog: Youth clubs and the ONS’s vision for a better economy

Forgive me a Daily Mail moment: if it was April 1 I would guffaw, hit delete immediately and forget about it. A press release that dropped into my inbox today from the Office for National Statistics delivered some frighteningly underwhelming information about what constitutes wellbeing – which, as we’ve written about recently in the magazine, David Cameron has asked ONS to compile an index to measure the state of the UK instead of focusing on stats like our GDP. So what’s the secret to a happy, healthy life for British people?

“A sense of community along with family relationships are the things that matters most to people’s well-being,” says the ONS, having gathered this kernel of the human condition from a series of nationwide focus groups and community events.

You don’t say!

And it gets better. “At a mother and toddler group in Swindon, people felt that a sense of community and education was vital to their wellbeing,” the ONS reports, “whereas in Aberdare, South Wales at a gathering for the National Old Age People Association, quality of life rated highly along with investment in our environment.”

pictureSo if I ever consider moving to Swindon, the secret to enjoying life there is to volunteer for Meals on Wheels and get a degree, while if I find myself retiring in Aberdare I should buy myself a nearby plot of that nice Forestry Commission land that the government is trying to sell and build my bungalow on that. What a lovely life. I’d definitely be happy with my lot if that was my lot. I’d be a model ConDem voter.

In short, if you want to be content, join Dave’s Big Society and see the good in the government’s big idea to sell off our precious green spaces.

Eureka!

And what’s this? Old people in Newport who’ve had heart attacks tell the ONS that they want society to provide more youth clubs as a route to more life opportunities?

Of course they do: anything to keep them off the streets. I recall that as a kid my local youth club, stationed in the Royal Military Academy where I also did Judo classes, was a hellhole that no child as weak and lily-livered as me would have survived five seconds in. Haven’t many of the UK’s youth clubs closed in recent years? And more are under threat due to the pressure on councils to make huge budget cuts – but we’ve been happy to issue ASBOs by the thousand rather than invest in what the silver foxes now say is the right way to go. 

I don’t see the government fronting the cash to revive youth clubs when they’ve the small matter of the national deficit to address – unless Tesco or some other Too Big To Fail corporate is going to be convinced to sponsor it: and I’m not convinced that there are enough people willing to volunteer to run Byker Groves up and down the country, Big Society-style.

It’s nice to have a way to tell the government that we’d be more well if it gave us the three-day week so we can spend time cycling with our kids through Forestry Commission land, instead of working three people’s jobs. But what is the government going to do with all this feedback that is In The National Interest?

And how does it help the economic recovery?

Read our article on the government’s idea for a wellbeing index here

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