From the perspective of international comparisons, Britain’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a chastening experience. Both in terms of economics and in terms of public health, we endured outcomes far worse than many other similar nations.
In a new report, produced in partnership with Local Trust, we argue that the key reason for this was a lack of resilience – or rather, the inability of so many of the systems that our society relies on to continue to operate under stress. From our struggles to source PPE and set up a test and trace system, to shortages of certain supermarket items, much of our what’s needed to keep the public and private sectors ticking along failed to deliver in the early months of 2020.
So how do we address this? How do we build a more resilient Britain?
In the report, we identify 5 pillars that need to form the centre piece of any approach. This means building up the strength of systems under the following headings:
1) Economic Resilience: This includes things like supply chains, food security and energy security. They ensure that our most basic needs as a society can continue to be met, come what may.
2) Public Sector Resilience: This includes things like public services and our systems of governance. This means working out how government and the things it’s responsible for can be flexible, adaptive and effective during a crisis.
3) Community Resilience: This means building up things such as community groups and voluntary sector organisations, as they have hugely important roles to play in ensuring that some semblance of normal life can continue during events such as pandemics and other disasters.
4) Environmental Resilience: Many of the biggest crises we are likely to face in the coming years will be environmental in nature. Building up resilience through both preventative and mitigating measures is something we have to start now.
5) Workforce Resilience: This includes things like skills and welfare systems, as well as labour market conditions. While public health has been the focus of this crisis thus far – COVID-19 will increasingly be a story about employment. We need to ensure our systems are up to that challenge.
If we create resilient systems that span the breadth of areas listed above, Britain will be in a far stronger position to withstand the next major crisis that comes our way. The 21st century has already delivered its fair share of shocks to the status quo. More will come. We need to be ready.