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The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill will enshrine long-term planning needed to unpick difficult social problems

Short-term ‘quick fixes’ are applied, which are far more expensive than if we could prevent people from sliding into homelessness in the first place, writes Lord Bird | PA Images

Lord Bird and Simon Fell MP

5 min read

The only way we are ever going to really help people is through long-term planning, rather than papering over the cracks.


January, a new year, a time for reflection, but also a time to look ahead. 2020 was a truly gruelling year; one tougher than most could possibly have conceived of this time last year. However, with vaccinations currently being rolled out and the end of the severest restrictions within our sights, we can begin to look beyond the immediate crisis – to ensure that future generations do not have to suffer in the same way.

As the co-chair and officer of the APPG for Future Generations, we are committed to ensuring that political decision makers today do not mortgage the futures of those yet unborn, whilst simultaneously, not compromising the needs of the present, which is why we are supporting the ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill’.

Simon Fell MP:

When I was elected as the MP for Barrow and Furness, I made a commitment to make tangible improvements in my patch that my constituents would be able to see and feel for themselves. But, as well as improving the reality for many in the here and now, I am determined to facilitate change that will endure for years, and for generations to come.

The UK has a proud history of leading the world in institutional design, policy and law - most recently, perhaps with its net-zero 2050 policy. The Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill builds upon that long-established work and looks to combat the short-termism inherent in modern democracies. My constituency is littered with excellent practices of ‘long-term thinking’; like off our coast where the single largest offshore windfarm in the world is sited, generating power for thousands of homes, or at Hobkin Ground Farm in the Lickle Valley where regenerative farming is reducing the carbon footprint of raising a cow from field to fork. If government adopts a similar approach to do ‘long-term’ thinking in Westminster, it will set a global precedent to improve our democratic institutions and for every pound spent on prevention and investment, we will save many more pounds in the future.

It is crucial that Parliament demonstrates its ability to learn from the COVID-19 crisis, and that it has mechanisms in place to adequately prepare for and reduce the risk of future pandemics, and also other existential threats. A Future Generations Bill provides an opportunity to tackle these significant threats pre-emptively, as well as providing more cost-effective solutions to long-standing issues from climate change to poverty. The ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations’ Bill, which has been introduced by my colleague, Lord John Bird, has support from across the House and looks to do exactly that; to enshrine a legal commitment to the wellbeing of future generations.

Government spends millions every year but we’re still not getting people out of poverty

Lord Bird:

As Simon has rightly alluded to, taxpayers are currently not getting ‘bang for their buck’ because politics has a nasty habit of firefighting, rather than fireproofing.

As the Founder of The Big Issue, a social enterprise offering self-help and sustainable business solutions that dismantle poverty now and for future generations, I have seen first-hand the failed methodologies that consecutive governments have applied to try and deal with homelessness. Pernicious 5-year election cycles mean that we are not getting to the root of the problem; rather, short-term ‘quick fixes’ are applied, which are far more expensive than if we could prevent people from sliding into homelessness in the first place.

And, it’s expensive to keep people poor. It costs the UK £1 million on average to produce one Big Issue vendor. That’s because 80 per cent of our vendors grew up in local authority care, which costs £15,000 a month, up to £250,000 a year. Government spends millions every year but we’re still not getting people out of poverty. The only way we are ever going to really help people is through long-term planning rather than papering over the cracks.

It is for that reason that last year, with the help of academics, lawyers and policy experts, I introduced the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill which is being taken forward by Green MP, Caroline Lucas in the Commons and is due to have its second reading in the Commons. My bill would legally enshrine long-term planning which is needed to unpick difficult social problems such as homelessness.


We are urging colleagues to take this opportunity to ensure that we can safeguard our children and grandchildren by attending the joint Big Issue + APPG For Future Generations’ ‘Wellbeing Week’ which will take place later this month from Monday 25th - Thursday 28th January.

MPs are invited to join a 5-minute virtual drop-in session to hear from young activists who want their MP to support this bill. This campaign has already been endorsed by a number of partner organisations, including The Body Shop, IPPR and The University of East Anglia. MPs can select a 5-minute slot here.


Lord Bird is a crossbench member of the House of Lords and co-chair of the APPG for Future Generations. Simon Fell is the Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness. 

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