Latest updates

  • Stop ‘Project Fear’, over 50 of country’s leading psychologists warn government

    September 18, 2020

    More than 50 of the country’s leading psychologists have written to the government warning them that their current messaging on Covid could lead to increased rates of anxiety, stress, and depression. 

    The letter, written in partnership with the think-tank Compassion in Politics, argues that government efforts to ensure public compliance with anti-Covid measures through fear-based messages could badly backfire. In particular they criticise recent government messages which have suggested that the behaviour of young people risks the death of their grandparents and that Christmas’s might have to be cancelled if infection rates continue to rise 

    The signatories argue that this approach could have a devastating effect on a population suffering from the mental strain caused by the pandemic. There is also evidence that fear-focused messages aren’t the most effective way to produce the required behaviour change 

    The letter further warns that the attempt to label “young people” as the cause of a recent spike in Covid infection rates could actually have the opposite effect to the one intended. They argue that blaming and shaming certain groups in this way could have a demoralising effect, causing them to disengage entirely from efforts to stem the spread of Covid.

    Signatories to the letter urge the government to reframe their Covid messaging to be far more sensitive and understanding of the public’s emotional state while conducting much more research into the kind of targeted messages that might be needed to convince certain groups to engage with anti-Covid behaviours.  

    Frances Maratos, Associate Professor and Reader in Emotion Science at the University of Derby, and one of the authors of the letter, said: 

    “We know from studies of the aftermath of previous epidemics that fear messaging isn’t an optimal solution for behaviour change, especially when considering its long-term effects. For example, Ebola risk-elevating messages increased public anxiety, with messages delivered via media exacerbating stress and worry. The ramifications of this include, for some, poor mental health that can persist long-after fear-based messaging campaigns have ceased.” 

    Professor Manuela Barreto, Head of Psychology at the University of Exeter, said: 

    “The focus on young people is an unfortunate distraction from the bigger issues underlying the current situation, and one that is unproductive and will only make matters worse. Research shows that fear actually reduces empathy and pro-sociality, especially towards more vulnerable groups in society.”

    Jennifer Nadel, Co-Director of Compassion in Politics, said:

    “Dealing with a global pandemic requires care, concern, and compassion - it can’t just be beaten into submission by strong words and harsh rhetoric. The government must remember the burden the public has already had to shoulder, the amount of change they’ve accepted and the sacrifices they’ve made. It will require our collective strength to finally see off Covid - dividing us will only make us weaker. Rather than blaming, shaming, and debasing the public’s attitude towards Covid, the government must focus its energy on building a robust testing regime, on safeguarding the NHS, and providing financial security to those households most at risk from the oncoming recession."

  • Over one in three adults admit inequality in Britain is worse than they thought pre-Covid

    August 26, 2020

    Over one in three adults now believe inequality in Britain to be worse than they had previously thought, polling out today reveals. The survey shows that 39% of people have revised their estimation of the levels of inequality in Britain as a result of the Covid pandemic. 1 in 5 (18%) actually believe inequality to be “much worse” than they had imagined.

    The polling, carried out by Opinium in partnership with Compassion in Politics, also reveals that two-thirds (63%) of people agree the government should do more to tackle inequality. This includes half (49%) of Conservative voters with nearly 1 in 5 (22%) Conservative party supporters admitting the government needs to do “much more” to upend inequality. 

    The survey also pointed towards one way in which the government might start to reduce inequality: by creating a more supportive and less punitive welfare system. 

    More than half (57%) agree that the welfare system should become less punitive than it currently is - including 43% of Conservative voters. Over 1 in 3 (37%) also think that it is “unfair” or “very unfair” for people who have been made unemployed by Covid to now face benefit sanctions. 

    Co-Chair of the All Party Group for Compassionate Politics Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said: 

    “The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the endemic levels of inequality in Britain and this survey shows that the public agree that much more urgent action is needed to tackle it. We cannot continue with business as usual - with a system that left black and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and those living in deprived communities ruinously exposed to the dangers of Covid. With this context, I believe the time is right for an urgent inquiry into the role of the welfare state, and especially the adequacy of social security, in reducing the widening inequality in Britain. We must remember how the welfare state was established after the Second World War. In exposing the extent of our inequalities, the Coronavirus pandemic provides an opportunity to reset how our society operates, where our welfare state enables everyone to live healthy lives.

    Co-Director of Compassion in Politics Jennifer Nadel said:

    “Compassion in Politics exists to push, persuade, and cajole governments into taking a more compassionate, inclusive, and cooperative approach. This is most important and most badly needed when it comes to people’s livelihoods, their health, and their wellbeing. This survey shows that Covid has helped people become more aware of the suffering of others and with that more willing to support measures aimed at reducing that suffering, tackling inequality, and ending poverty. Government should take note. Very few get the opportunity to redesign the economy but Covid has afforded that chance to this administration. Their priorities must now be the public’s health and wellbeing and making good their commitment to “level up” the national economy.”

    Grantley White, Senior Research Executive for Opinium, said:
    “COVID-19 has created a huge economic and social shock in the UK, laying bare the long-standing inequalities already in existence and bringing them to the surface in ways we’ve not seen before. Where most have fortunately had the savings and a secure job to fall back on, millions on lower incomes and in precarious work have faced the very real threat of losing their livelihoods and homes due to COVID-19, with no solid safety net to shield them from the flagging economy and the unknown aftershocks we’re yet to experience for the remainder of 2020.
    “The public are looking to the government to protect those in the most vulnerable positions, and our research shows this appetite stretches across the political spectrum.”
  • Compassion in Politics submission to Lords Committee on Covid

    August 04, 2020

    Compassion in Politics has made a formal submission to the House of Lords Committee on Covid-19. The Committee is running an inquiry on life after Covid, looking specifically at the changes that should be made to our politics, economy, and society.

    Our submission emphasised that:

    • Covid has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities in society: there has been a significantly higher infection and death rate for deprived and BAME communities
    • This is the result of decades of willful ignorance of the inability of our current economic system to redistribute wealth or provide adequate services and housing to the less-advantaged
    • Now is the time to re-imagine our economic system. We should be looking at transforming it into one which ensures everyone's basic needs are met and their health and wellbeing protected.

    The proposal we have submitted is based on the work we have been doing recently with Professor Michael Marmot and the APPG for Compassionate Politics on a proposed Covid Legacy Bill. You can read more about that here

    Download the full submission here.


  • London's domestic abuse accommodation scheme extended to November

    July 27, 2020

    The Mayor of London has announced that a scheme providing accommodation to domestic abuse survivors in the capital during Covid will now be extended to mid-November 2020. 

    So far the programme has already given safe refuge to 92 women and 44 children (total of 136) who would otherwise have been trapped in lockdown with a domestic abuser. Of the women supported, 32 have no recourse to public funds. 


    Read more

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

    July 07, 2020

    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.  

    Read more

  • Event: how do we put health and wellbeing at the heart of the Covid recovery?

    July 06, 2020

    On 30 June 2020 Compassion in Politics hosted a discussion for parliamentarians on why we need to put public health and wellbeing at the centre of the government's Covid recovery plan and how exactly that can be done. 

    We were delighted to be joined for the event by fantastic panellists:

    • Dr Daisy Fancourt, University College, London
    • Lord Layard, LSE
    • Louise Aston, Business in the Community
    • Dawn Austwick OBE, National Lottery Community Fund
    • Prof Michael Marmot, University College, London

    Below you can see clips of each of the speakers as well as a recording of the event in full.

    Read more

  • London opens hotel rooms for domestic abuse survivors

    June 02, 2020

    (Image shown above is not of a hotel used in the scheme)

    Following a campaign by Compassion in Politics and Southall Black Sisters (SBS) the Mayor of London has agreed to open up 82 hotel rooms in London for domestic abuse survivors who would otherwise be trapped indoors with an abuser. 

    Compassion in Politics and SBS had called on the government to make hotel rooms available nationally but their response was to increase funding for domestic abuse charities. The two organisations have argued that this money, while welcome, is not what is needed right now - safe spaces for those who might be trapped indoors with an abuser. 

    Evidence from across the world has shown that domestic abuse rates increase during a lockdown and it was for this reason that the campaign was launched by Compassion in Politics and SBS at the start of the lockdown measures in the UK. 

    While both organisations are disappointed that a national solution has not yet been found, we are both very pleased that 82 rooms are being made available in London. They will continue to campaign together for more regional schemes like London's to be created even as lockdown is gradually lifted. 

    You can read more about the scheme here. Anyone in London who needs to access these rooms should contact the national domestic abuse hotline on 0808 200 0247.