The immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our individual lives, wider society and the entire world, cannot be overestimated. Millions of lives have been lost, millions of people have been infected, and whole countries have been plunged into lockdown. Nevertheless, it is sobering to realise that, despite its devastation, the COVID-19 pandemic may only be a relatively small upheaval, compared to other catastrophes that we may face in the future. The pandemic is a wake-up call: we now need a drastic overhaul of our approach to resilience and preparedness so that we are more ready to face future disasters.
One of the biggest lessons for us as a Committee, and for the wider world, is that the impact of the pandemic on our individual lives, our communities, and society as a whole, is far-reaching, profound and permanent. When this Committee was established, in the early days of the pandemic, we were focused, like most people, on imagining a post-pandemic world. It is now clear that we will never be entirely free of COVID-19 and that post-pandemic the world will be very different. Instead, we must adapt our lives, and world, to the economic, social and health consequences of the pandemic.
Despite our best efforts to focus on the long-term impact of the pandemic, it has been almost impossible for us, and our witnesses, to disentangle the ever-changing reality of living through a global pandemic from its potential long-term consequences. As we are still facing new COVID-19 variants, fluctuating daily death rates, hospitalisation rates and case rates, it seems far too early to predict how the economic and social consequences of the pandemic will unfold in the future. Moreover, it has been impossible to fully unravel the impact of the pandemic from other changes driven by technology, demography, climate change and shifting global powers.
As a result, we focused our work on a number of individual inquiries concentrating on some of the specific social and economic impacts of the pandemic. While this report summarises our detailed findings on digital technology, families and the future of towns and cities, it also explains our overriding finding from all our work—the need to improve resilience and preparedness for a volatile and uncertain future and be ready for the likelihood of catastrophes to come.
We must not shy away from the fact that, in future, we will experience climate disasters, pandemics or other catastrophes that will be far worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore the inevitable, rather we must learn lessons from the current pandemic, to ensure that we are prepared for the more dramatic developments of the coming decades.
The pandemic has shown that our current understanding of resilience and preparedness is not fit-for-purpose. As we prepare for more frequent systemic shocks in future, a focus on robust supply chains and critical national infrastructure alone will not secure the national resilience that we so desperately need. The pandemic has shown that national level resilience is undermined by financial inequalities and health inequalities, which are often exacerbated by racial injustice. To be resilient, we must have strong social capital and community connection within, and between, diverse communities, higher levels of social and economic equity, and resilient and adaptable public services.
As such, we believe that it is now time to reconsider the role and purpose of the state. In this report, we outline our proposal to reset the state by placing a new emphasis on governing for the long-term and a new focus on wellbeing.
We want to see a new resilience agenda that addresses inequality, digital inclusion and public health, and strengthens civil society and the integrity of our information systems. Such a resilience agenda is not merely an agenda for the Government to enact alone. Resilience comes, in large part, from the capacity and capability of non-government actors, from individuals and communities to businesses and charities, to take action and mobilise; the Government’s role is to enable, support and co-ordinate.
This increased emphasis on resilience must be underpinned by an efficient, and effective, system of government. As we look to the future, we see a huge number of potential long-term problems facing the country, from our changing demographics and ageing population, to regulating technological change and dealing with climate risk. Our current system of government, so tightly tied to electoral cycles, is not well suited to deal with long-term issues. As such, we need to improve our systems of government—the balance of power between Westminster and the devolved nations, between national and local government, between state and non-state organisations.
Lastly, any new system of government must have the wellbeing of its people at its heart. As we explained in our first substantive inquiry, there are many definitions of wellbeing, but throughout our work we have used the Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) definition of wellbeing as “how we are doing, as individuals, communities and as a nation and how sustainable this is for the future” as our starting point.
The science of wellbeing has now reached a point where much is known in quantitative terms about how different life experiences influence people’s wellbeing. This makes it possible to use wellbeing as the criterion for choosing specific policy initiatives, and is at the core of our proposal to move to a Wellbeing State.
The purpose of the Wellbeing State would be to secure the wellbeing of all its citizens, and tackle those inequalities that hold back specific groups and communities. It is only by reaching into every part of our society, and actively engaging with them about the interventions that will improve their wellbeing, that we can improve our resilience. If specific groups, communities or neighbourhoods are left behind, not only will we have failed in our aim to create an inclusive Wellbeing State, but also failed in our aim to increase resilience. We cannot claim to be resilient, until all groups, communities and neighbourhoods are resilient, and continuing vulnerability amongst specific groups, communities and neighbourhoods will make us all vulnerable to the upheavals of the future.
1 Our first piece of work asked the public to share their opinions on life beyond COVID. UK Parliament, ‘New Committee asks people to share their views on life beyond COVID-19’: [accessed 4 October 2021]
2 COVID-19 Committee, (1st Report, Session 2019–21, HL Paper 263)
3 UK Parliament, ‘The long-term impact of the pandemic on parents and families’: [accessed 4 October 2021]
4 COVID-19 Committee, (2nd Report, Session 2021–22, HL Paper 115)
5 Office of National Statistics, Measures of National Well-being Dashboard (October 2019): [accessed 9 December 2021]