People, Planet, Power: Towards A New Social Settlement

People, Planet, Power: Towards A New Social Settlement

People, Planet, Power: Towards A New Social Settlement

The world is facing a wide range of different social and economic challenges that need to be dealt with. As explained by Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy at NEF in 2015, we are seven decades on from the famous UK Beveridge report and there are new challenges now. The New Economics Foundation is the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. NEF has a remit to build a new economics. The goal of this is to better help people and planet. One of the key findings of a recent NEF study has been that a new type of social settlement needs to be established. This would focus on delivering social justice, environmental sustainability and a fairer distribution of power.

NEF proposes developing a new social settlement. This would provide a framework and structure for how people should live together. It would define what we can and should expect from governments and what we would like to achieve both for ourselves and for others. The idea is that it is based on the benefits of the Beveridge Plan, but clearly since this plan is rather out of date, the framework offers a new approach that is suited to meet the specific challenges of today.

NEF focuses on three main outcomes for the new social settlement. The three are thought to be closely interlinked with one another. The desired outcomes are: social justice, environmental sustainability and a more equitable distribution of power in society. It is argued that these three must be pursued all at the same time. The idea through doing this is to try to address some of the most difficult and troublesome of today’s problems such as widening social inequalities, worrisome threats to the natural environment and the growth of power of wealthy elites.

  • social justice
  • environmental sustainability
  • a more equitable distribution of power in society.

It is argued that these three must be pursued all at the same time. The idea through doing this is to try to address some of the most difficult and troublesome of today’s problems such as widening social inequalities, worrisome threats to the natural environment and the growth of power of wealthy elites.

In turn, the desired outcomes guide NEF towards a number of objectives that help to tackle issues that may be ignored in mainstream discussion. Obviously the objectives are closely linked with one another, and as such meeting one may help with the meeting of another. The first is to plan for prosperity without depending on economic growth. The second is to shift investment and action upstream to prevent harm. The third is to value and strengthen the core economy of paid work, wisdom and social connections that people depend on. Finally there is a need to foster solidarity and better understand what we need from each other to succeed in life.

NEF puts forward the idea that the current view that the best way to achieve progress is to deregulate markets, promote choice and competition and boost consumption is incorrect. Its new economics seek to serve people’s interests better. The organisation seeks to provide a different range of opinions that better serve to meet the needs of people in line with promoting the better use of the natural environment in a more sustainable way. The ideas also include consideration of inclusion and collaboration for making decisions and working better with one another. In doing all of this it is hoped that the needs of today will be met without damaging opportunities for people in the future.

To be able to achieve all of this there will be change needed. There is not currently a full plan, but rather some suggested ideas and guidance to drive future discussion about how society should operate in the future. In particular NEF calls for a better balance of work, offering childcare for people that need it, involving employees in decision making, providing more flexible hours and shooting for a 30 hour working week, and not allowing low pay, to ensure that everyone gets a decent rate of pay. Human resources also need to be released and organisations and people need to coproduce to be able to meet needs.

Social security also has to be built up in the NEF proposal. It is suggested by Anna Coote that in doing this there will be a need to:

“Turn the tide against markets and profit-seeking, developing instead more diverse, open and collaborative approaches.”

As well as this the system of benefits would be more democratic, rounded and inclusive. Particularly importantly NEF seeks a sustainable future, and to achieve this it will be needed that eco-social policies are promoted and that these focus on both social justice and environmental sustainability. It will be interesting to see if NEF really is able to turn the tide.