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Join us for a week of online debates exploring policy in a 'post-Covid' world with Understanding Society's Insights

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The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified the strengths and weakness in our society and our economy. Even before Covid-19, Britain’s social fabric, productivity, regional prosperity, racial equality and health equality were under strain, with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement revealing hard-wired societal problems and propelling them into the public consciousness.

Emergency measures have helped millions of people, but in some cases papering over historic cracks. Others have experienced loss of livelihood, distress and a decline in health and wellbeing, and educational equality and children’s mental health has received a set-back. Positively, the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that on its central estimate the economy will only be smaller by 3% by 2025 than the pre-Covid-19 scenario. Beyond 2021, the fiscal story is expected to be more pain and targeted public spending increases.

The focus on health and economic rescue measures now needs to give way to questions about future strategy and longer-term policy direction. What issues do we need to address with greater boldness? In general, the pandemic is changing many aspects of people’s everyday lives – from work, travel and consumption to health awareness, care, family life and technology use. Particular sectors are going through externally induced restructuring requiring redeployment of workers. While it is early to be precise about how Covid-19 will alter public expectations, behaviours and social norms over time, what is clear is that it has provided a trigger for social change and reform.

To kickstart our Wave 10 anniversary, Understanding Society is hosting a weeklong series of debates, designed to look beyond the pressures of reacting to Covid-19 and inform thinking about policy direction. How can the road to recovery be different from previous recessions to achieve a more balanced recovery? What are we learning through annually observing the complex lives of individuals, families and communities? What lessons can we learn from the Great Recession of 2008? What insights does Understanding Society give us on people’s priorities?

We have gathered a wide range of academics and policy experts covering education, employment, families, health and finance - join us to share your insights and ideas for what a balanced recovery could look like. The Insights debates are open to all - researchers, students, policy makers, Understanding Society participants - anyone who is interested in the future direction of the UK. Each debate can be booked individually, so join us for a single event or for all of them! Places are free, but advance registration is required.

Programme for the week

Education and social inequalities - what are the links? Monday 25 January: 10.00 to 11.15

The future of work - how can it generate a health dividend? Tuesday 26 January: 10.00 to 11.15

Parents and children - how one generation influences the next Wednesday 27 January: 10.00 to 11.30

Spending wisely on health - can we do better? Thursday 28 January: 10.00 to 11.30

Financial resilience and recessions - what are we learning? Friday 29 January: 10.00 to 11.15

Each event will last between 75 - 90 minutes and will include opportunities for discussion and Q&A.

Accompanying the events programme will be the launch of the Understanding Society Insights 2021 report.

Breaking with the past annual reports, this special 10th Anniversary Report will profile policy relevant evidence and set out some of most illuminating social science findings and stories emerging over the past 10 years.