Local Wellbeing: Can We Measure It?

Published: September 2008 Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Dr Marcia Brophy, Mandeep Hothi, Nicola Bacon

The concept and language of wellbeing was first introduced at the local level through the Local Government Act 2000. The Act included a new power of wellbeing, providing local authorities with the power to do whatever they consider necessary to promote or improve the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of their area. Following this, useful indicators aimed at measuring quality of life were developed and are now widely used by local authorities and their partners to track changing conditions of life at the local level.

There is now more interest in how policy making and service provision can help to enhance people’s experience of life – their wellbeing – alongside improving their conditions of life. The new local government performance assessment framework, Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), reflects this drive and will be heavily influenced by the views and experiences of residents and those using services in their local areas. Emphasis will be placed on measuring outcomes within an area or place, with local government and their partners playing a greater ‘place-shaping’ role to achieve better outcomes.

This document presents proposals for measuring wellbeing which will support local authorities and their partners in the shift to CAA, and in their placeshaping role, by improving their understanding of the feelings and experience of residents and those using local services. It recognises and values existing work in this area and aims to encourage more councils, health bodies, police forces, fire and rescue authorities and others responsible for local public services to develop their practice in relation to measuring and taking action on wellbeing at the local level; this report recommends a three-tiered approach for local authorities trying to measure wellbeing at the local level:

Universal – an overall, cross-cutting measure of people’s experience of life
Domain – measures of different dimensions of people’s wellbeing, like health or community safety
Targeted – measures of some of the underlying factors affecting people’s wellbeing, such as self-esteem.

This report has been developed by the Local Wellbeing Project in collaboration with the new economics foundation, with the support of the Audit Commission.

This report was also written by Nicola Steuer and Nic Marks at the centre for wellbeing at nef (the new economics foundation).

wellbeing at nef

Download a full pdf version of the publication.

Read the accompanying piece in The Guardian.