The Office of National Statistics is now consulting on the first set of national well-being* measures and the Happy Museum Project is shocked to see that the current proposals do not propose including specific measures relating to Arts, culture and heritage.

The first warning signal comes in the document’s footer which lists the following government departments – Children, Schools and Families / Communities and Local Government / Energy and Climate Change / Environment, Food and Rural Affairs / Health / Home Office / Information Centre for Health and Social Care / Justice / Office for National Statistics / Transport / Work and Pensions ? with the glaring and frankly perplexing absence of Culture, Media or Sport.

The detail of the proposals will need detailed consideration –  but in respect of Overarching Domains for collection of data, arts, culture and heritage are referenced only obliquely within ?an individual’s engagement with leisure activities outside work’ and ?access to communal ?facilities’.   The result is that when it comes to actual measures of these headline indicators there is very little material reference to arts, culture and heritage .

The current proposals have been developed from the responses to the national debate, research into well-being and international initiatives. Culture and heritage are referenced under the ?Where we Live’ heading where the ONS indicates that despite this area ?being raised in the national debate’ – ?we have not proposed headline indicators’.   Perhaps this needs to be re-considered?

This presents the first step in the development of domains (aspects of well-being) and headline measures of National Well-being and is published to obtain your views.

The sense we gained at a recent presentation at the House of Commons by the current Cabinet Secretary, Gus O’Donnell (report here) was that once implemented the measurement of well-being will have a significant impact on the design, targeting and impact of policy making across government ? in which case the absence of proper measurement of arts, culture and heritage would be disastrous.  As Sir Gus himself said in his presentation ?if you treasure it, measure it’.

We know that there must be a great deal of existing evidence/research out there around quality of life/well-being/engagement in arts, culture, creativity/heritage – perhaps we need to gather together the existing evidence to back our case?

The consultation will close on the 23rd January 2012 and the responses will be used to further develop the domains and headline measures. The Happy Museum will be working with others in the sector to produce a detailed response which it will also make public ? we urge others in the arts, cultural and heritage sector to take a moment to look further at the proposals and ensure the response from the sector is heard.  Details of consultation can be found online here.

Hilary Jennings

*’Well-being is one of most important aspect of our lives, as individuals and as societies. But despite unprecedented economic prosperity in the last 35 years we do not necessarily feel better individually or as communities.  Data shows that whilst economic output in the UK has nearly doubled since 1973, levels of happiness have remained flat. Beyond a certain level of income and material stability, more money has a negligible and even negative impact on the quality of our lives.’ – New Economics Foundation Centre for Well-being – more info HERE

STOP PRESS – the issue has also been picked up by Creative and Cultural Skills Creative Choices website and by Arts Professional.

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