Politicians, academics, and public unite in calling for health and wellbeing to be priority of Covid recovery

2020-07-07 13:42:00 +0100

A cross-party group of politicians have joined with academics, celebrities, and civil society leaders in urging the government to make public health and wellbeing the priority of the Covid recovery plan.

In an open-letter [1] MPs from six different parties call on the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use his Covid recovery speech this week to move the country over to a “health and wellbeing economy where everybody has the basics needed to be able to achieve good health.” 

Signatories to the letter say that Sunak has a “unique opportunity” to make good on the government’s own commitment to ‘level up’ society and to learn valuable lessons from Covid about the importance of tackling Britain’s systemic levels of inequality and the need to put wellbeing ahead of traditional economic targets.

They call for a “Covid Legacy Act” - which has been drafted by the cross-party group Compassion in Politics with professor Michael Marmot - which would make it the priority of every government department to meet people’s basic needs while working towards a set of health and wellbeing indicators such as child education, availability of green space, health provision, and adequate income. 

The letter has been signed by MPs and Peers from across parliament and by academics and public figures including TV presenter Prof Alice Roberts, philosophers Julian Baggini and AC Grayling, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, and the actor Jamie Bamber.  

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Polling carried out by Opinium for Compassion in Politics shows strong support for the proposal. 76% of people polled said they believed the government now needs to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met and the same number agreed with the idea of introducing the Covid Legacy Act. Over half (59%) said the ambition of such an Act should be to ensure that everyone has a “secure life” and a similar number (53%) said it should enhance public wellbeing. 

Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, said:

"I am proud of the work the government has done to support businesses, charities, workers and the economy at-large during this difficult time. During the pandemic we have reached a paradigm shift in what is considered a key worker and as we emerge from lockdown, we need to work towards building an economy that not only reflects this change but also supports those who have been most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“That is why I am supporting the proposal of creating a Covid Legacy Act which draws on what we have learnt from the crisis and highlights the need to improve our health system in Britain. As we recover from the Covid-19 crisis, I encourage the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to ensure basic needs are met and that people's health, wellbeing, and happiness are the determining factors in governments decision-making."

Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, said: 

“As a cross party group we are saying that the Government should listen to the public mood, ensure that we 'build back better' and monitor economic success not just through traditional measures such as economic growth but with measures that reflect the type of society we want where our children thrive, our workers are valued and our natural environment is cherished by all, for all, now and in the future.”

Baroness Warsi said:

“The last few months have once again laid bare the historic inequality that continues to shape people's lives and life chances. People from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds have been twice as likely to die from Covid. Black men are almost four times as likely. There are changes we can make now for example Ethnic minority pay gap reporting, a recruitment drives in BAME communities for key roles in teaching and the police, a less  Eurocentric curriculum, a well funded strategy for closing the attainment gap at universities and the Covid Legacy Act.”

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:

“Covid has changed our views of who and what really matters in our lives. More and more surveys are showing that people don't want to go back to ‘normal’ because normal was failing the vast majority of people and trashing the planet we all depend on. This is our chance to build a better society where people's well-being and the health of our environment is at the heart of all policy-making. It is vital that the Government seizes this opportunity and commits to building back better.”

Professor Michael Marmot said:

“What does build back better look like? Number one is taking a wellbeing approach to the economy - not getting back to the status quo. The status quo was not desirable. How do we get there? Invest in early child development and education and life-long learning...job security and proper training for essential workers....income - everyone should have at least the minimum income necessary for a healthy life... and healthy and sustainable places to life and work.” 


[1] Full text of letter with list of signatories:

Dear Prime Minister and Chancellor,

The Covid Pandemic has highlighted the best of the nation: our levels of compassion, the courage of our keyworkers, the sacrifices we are all willing to make for the good of others. However, it has also exposed how many are struggling to get by and having to do without the basics needed to be able to live a healthy life.

We have to build back better. We cannot have a Britain where the odds of surviving a pandemic are stacked against those in particular socio-economic or ethnic groups and where children go hungry. And we cannot head into a major recession without ensuring that at the very least everyone’s basic needs are met. After the Second World War we built a land fit for heroes and we need to do the same now. 

Polling conducted by Opinium, for the cross-party think tank Compassion in Politics, shows that 76% of the public would support a measure - a Covid Legacy Act -  that ensured that everyone’s basic needs are met. 

As we emerge from the crisis we have a unique opportunity to level up. We the undersigned call on the government to use this historic moment to shift to a health and wellbeing economy where everybody has the basics needed to be able to achieve good health.

Prioritising health and wellbeing across all departments would mark a new era in the UK’s history as well as leaving it with lower health costs and the resilience to better meet the challenges that lie ahead.



Debbie Abrahams MP (Labour)

Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party)

Christian Wakeford MP (Conservative)

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)

Ben Lake MP (Plaid Cymru)

Martyn Day MP (SNP)

Jamie Stone MP (Liberal Democrat)

Baroness Harris (Liberal Democrat)

Baroness Masham (Crossbench)

Baroness Ruth Lister (Labour)

Baroness Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Labour)


Professor Alice Roberts, University of Birmingham

Professor Michael Marmot, University College London

Professor AC Grayling, New College of Humanities

Professor Francesca Klug, LSE

Dr Matthew Agarwala, Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge

Paul Allin, Visiting Professor, Imperial College London

Professor Tracey Reynolds, University of Greenwich

Dr Louise Wattis, Teeside University

Professor Tony Ward, Northumbria University

Professor Paul Gilbert, Derby University

Professor Janice McLaughlin, Newcastle University

Dr Lizzie Seal, University of Sussex

Professor Ruth Holliday, University of Leeds

Professor Maggie O'Neill, University of Durham

Fiona Williams, Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds

Public figures

Helen Pankhurst, Chair of the Centenary Action Group

Jamie Bamber, actor

Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham

Laura Parker, former national coordinator of Momentum

Dame Julie Mellor, Chair of Demos



Muslim Council of Britain


Action for Happiness

Health Poverty Action

Winds of Change

Zero West

Equality Trust

Coalition for Economic Justice

Taxpayers Against Poverty

[2] Briefing here.

[3] https://www.compassioninpolitics.com/ 

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