June 11, 2021

Making history: Recovering, reimagining and redesigning wellbeing in the North of Tyne

by Sarah McMillan (Co-Chair), Assistant Director of Policy, Northumberland County Council and Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE (Co-Chair), Carnegie UK Trust Trustee/Newcastle University

The North of Tyne is an area of rich history, stunning coastlines and impressive architecture. It is proud of its heritage as a cradle of the industrial revolution but also home to a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, a working fish quay, and the birthplace of the British prime minister, Earl Grey who extended the right to vote and helped abolish slavery. The area may have a vast history, but it is far from stuck in the past. The region – which combines Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside local authority areas – has impressive plans for a post-pandemic future. It’s one of the first in England to be running a Citizens’ Assembly on climate change; is seeking to introduce new low-emission measures and green jobs; and is committed to building on the ‘spirit of togetherness’ that saw communities come together and support each other during the early stages of the pandemic.

It’s clear that those living in the North of Tyne want to go further than to Build Back Better: they want to recover, reimagine and redesign. This is important because – despite such cultural history and local assets – the North of Tyne is also a region with high unemployment rates, increased numbers of people working in insecure and poorly paid work, poor health outcomes, and low life expectancy. A baby born in Northumberland today is estimated to live on average four years fewer than one born in Kensington[1], while average earnings are almost £60 a week less than the average compared to England as a whole.

The social, environmental, economic and democratic areas of our lives which impact our collective wellbeing are all intimately linked. And though it has taken a pandemic for many to recognise this, recovery offers an opportunity to reset, to think differently, and forge an inclusive economy for the future. This means everyone in the region having what they need to live well now, and in the future.  It means removing the barriers which make it difficult for people to take up employment or to stay connected with family and friends (social, economic); it means enabling residents a choice and opportunity to participate in local decision making (democratic); and it means thinking long term when making decisions that will affect people here in the future.

To explore what a successful recovery looks like for residents in the North of Tyne, Carnegie UK in partnership with the North of Tyne Combined Authority, is bringing together experts, local policy makers, and practitioners. We want to understand better what collective wellbeing means to people in the region. We recognise that recovery from COVID-19 requires responding to the ongoing social, health and economic challenges, and believe that an approach that enables outcomes to be improved across many different domains of wellbeing – what is known as a wellbeing approach, could further build on the work already started in the region.

The wellbeing approach has been embraced by governments across the world. They acknowledge the complexity of people’s lives and recognise that collective wellbeing and the economic recovery from COVID-19 are not mutually exclusive. A wellbeing framework for the North of Tyne is an exciting opportunity to shape a wellbeing approach at a local level.

Returning to the region’s history, it’s fitting that Northumbrian born Prime Minister, Earl Grey kickstarted UK modern democracy with the 1832 Reform Act. Because now, we’re asking residents living and working in the area to make history again by telling us what ‘wellbeing’ means to you. To think boldly and challenge the status quo. We would like to hear from individuals, groups, and organisations about the most important issues for the North of Tyne now. By the North of Tyne, we mean anywhere in Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle.

We look forward to hearing from you.

To find out more visit: https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/project/wellbeing-in-the-north-of-tyne/.


[1] Based on ONS pre-COVID estimates