Sinking and Swimming: Understanding Britain’s Unmet Needs

Published: December 2009 Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Beth Watts, Dan Vale, Geoff Mulgan , Michael Dale, Rushanara Ali, Will Norman

This is a study of who is sinking and who is swimming in Britain today. Based on new analysis of statistical data, case studies, surveys and hundreds of conversations with people across the country, the study shows where the most acute needs are and how they interrelate. It looks at why some people can cope with shocks and setbacks and others can’t. And it draws on the implications for policy, philanthropy and public action.

The welfare state that was build up after the great economic crisis of the 1930s was designed to address Britain’s material needs – for jobs, homes, health care and pensions. It was assumed that people’s emotional needs would be met by close knit families and communities.

Sixty years later psychological needs have become as pressing as material ones: the risk of loneliness and isolation; the risk of mental illness; the risk of being left behind. New solutions are needed to help the many people struggling with transitions out of care, prison or family breakdown, and to equip people with the resilience they’ll need to get by in uncertain times.

Britain is still a rich country – but one with many poor people. And it is a largely happy country – but with many unhappy people. This study is a guide to the changing landscape of need – and a guide to how we can reduce the unnecessary suffering around us.

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