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National Well-being debate comes to York

Posted on 31 March 2011

The National Well-being debate is coming to York, giving local people the chance to have their say about what matters to them.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has organised a range of events across the country to provide people with the opportunity to give their views on what affects their sense of well-being. This might be what they earn, time spent with family, the state of the environment - or something completely different.

The University is very pleased to be able to offer people who live or work in the York area a chance to contribute to this important topic

Professor John Local

One of the key York events will take place at the University of York’s Alcuin Research Resource Centre on 12 April 2011 and is co-hosted by the University’s Social Policy Research Unit and the ONS.

The expert panel of speakers will include Aileen Simkins, Senior Responsible Owner of the Measuring National Well-being Programme at ONS, David Darton, Director of Foresight, Equality and Human Rights Commission, and from the University of York, Professor Kate Pickett (author of The Spirit Level), Professor Roy Sainsbury, Research Director, Social Policy Research Unit, and Professor Jonathan Bradshaw (author of Developing an Index of Children’s Subjective Well-being in England). The debate will be chaired by Steve Hughes, Editor of The Press newspaper.

Aileen Simkins from ONS said: "The National Well-being debate is for everyone across the UK and we want to encourage people to tell us what matters to them. I am delighted that the University of York is hosting this event.

“The measures that are developed will be available for all government and commercial organisations to use in the way which helps them make decisions. These decisions will affect the UK and so it is important to make your voice heard. Get involved by visiting”

From April 2011, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is including subjective well-being questions on their Integrated Household Survey to capture what people think and feel about their own well-being. This event will enable practitioners and researchers to provide information on the viability of these and other measures of well-being.

Professor John Local, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of York, said: “The University’s Social Policy Research Unit has an international reputation for excellence in research in social policy, especially health and social care, poverty, welfare and social work, so it is fitting that the Unit will co-host this important event. The aim of the national debate is to develop better measures of well-being by gaining a greater understanding of what is most important to people. The University is very pleased to be able to offer people who live or work in the York area a chance to contribute to this important topic.”

To date over 8,000 people have joined the debate on how to measure national well-being. The aim is to provide a fuller picture of 'how society is doing’ than is given by traditional economic indicators. Understanding the economic performance of a country is important, but there is a need to look at broader measures, 'quality-of-life' indicators and the impact progress has on the environment when assessing national well-being.

The event will take place at the Alcuin Research Resource Centre at the University of York on 12 April 2011 from 5 to 7pm. The debate is free and open to all, but it is important to book in advance as places are limited. Visit to book.

To join the virtual debate or see what others are saying visit

Notes to editors:

  • On 25 November 2010 the National Statistician Jil Matheson announced plans to lead a national debate on measuring the nation’s well-being (see
  • Measuring National Well-Being - What matters to you? Join the debate at
  • ONS published a working paper called 'Measuring Subjective Well-being in the UK' last September which reviewed the measurement of subjective well-being, why it is important to measure it, how it can be measured, what subjective well-being questions are currently asked on social surveys in the UK and abroad and what the potential uses of subsequent data might be. Full details can be found at
  • Since its establishment in 1973, the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of York has been concerned with the development of policies and the delivery of services to support people made vulnerable by poverty, ageing, disability, chronic illness or neglect. Its research focuses on four broad themes: Disabled and Ill Children and Families; Children and Young People’s Social Work; Adults, Older People and Carers; and Welfare and Employment. Its research activity has been ranked as of ‘international excellence’ with many outputs being ‘world-leading’. The Unit was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education in 2009. For further information visit

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

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