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Lessons from lock-down

April 24th 2020

Director of the Bevan Foundation, Victoria Winckler, says it is time to start learning lessons from the unprecedented changes brought by lock-down.

 

Today it is a month since the UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments dramatically changed our lives, by advising people to work at home and by closing restaurants, pubs, gyms and all non-food shops.

For many people – but not all – life changed dramatically overnight. The broadsheets show the sudden popularity of home baking, yoga, vegetable growing and even crochet. And from resisting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day, an hour’s exercise is now a must-do.

Entertaining though these life-style changes may be, the policy responses are much more important.

Changes in major aspects of public policy, that have previously been claimed to be far too difficult, are suddenly possible.  Some of them were made on the Welsh or UK Government’s own initiative, without a single campaign or protest.  Increase Universal Credit? Done overnight.  Pay sick pay from day 1? Actioned. Find accommodation for rough sleepers? Tick.

There are of course things that arguably should have been in place, that were not. An adequate stockpile of personal protective equipment is one obvious one, but there are undoubtedly others.

Organisations have had to change how they operate and provide services. These changes too were made swiftly and without too much apparent difficulty. E-consultations with a GP? Once a pipe-dream of health service planners, now it’s the main way people are consulting their doctor. Railways were quietly taken back into government ownership, with little fuss or protest. And some lecture-based college courses are now being delivered online, via webinars, Facetime exams and all sorts of other innovations.

These changes were unprecedented and were also made extremely quickly.

There are lessons to be learned from the experience of lock-down.

In making unprecedented and extremely rapid changes, there are inevitably lessons to be learned. These are likely to be lessons for organisations themselves but there are also lessons about how to turn around service delivery, how to reach people confined to their homes and how to protect workers.

Nobody knows how long the lock-down will last. By the time it ends, some of the early lessons from the experience may well be lost or forgotten, and some of the good positive and progressive changes could be abandoned in the return to a new normal.

That’s why we’re launching our latest initiative to inform and inspire through the coronavirus outbreak, entitled ‘Lessons from Lock-down’. We’ll be publishing a series of articles from a diverse range of people and organisations across Wales. They’ll set out their experiences, warts and all.

We’re asking organisations to share their experiences about:

  • What is working?
  • What could be done differently or better?
  • What do we want to ‘stick’ for the future?

It’s too early in our view to start planning for life afterwards.

We’re focusing on lessons to be learned now and as the lock-down continues, because it is too early in our view to start planning for the future.  Indeed, many of the issues we are concerned with – poverty, inequality and injustice – are still all too evident during pandemic – they’ve just slipped down the agenda.

To know how to move forward, you need to know where you are. And it is by no means clear just how deeply damaged Wales’ economy, society and public services are. Re-opening businesses that have shut their doors for 6 weeks is a very different prospect to trying to restore an economy which has been closed for 6 months.

So for now, we’re looking at lessons to be learned. We’re welcoming thoughtful and reflective contributions from people and organisations across Wales, whether on housing, business, health or education – or anything else. If you would like to contribute please get in touch via our contact page.

Watch this space!

Victoria Winckler is Director of the Bevan Foundation

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