Build Back Stronger

Drawing on the contributions of over 50,000 citizens, the landmark report of Renew Normal: the People’s Commission on Life After Covid-19 says that without radical reform to build a stronger, more resilient, and more united nation, the UK risks never recovering from the huge social and economic impact of the pandemic.

The final report of our Renew Normal Commission sets out an aspirational policy agenda, with resilience at the heart of it, that can bridge political divides and drive both recovery and renewal to Build Back Stronger.

The report has found that in order for the nation to succeed as we emerge from the pandemic, there are five key lessons that the Government must learn and take forward:

    1. There is consensus for change. Don’t pretend this didn’t happen – attempts to return the United Kingdom to the way things were before the pandemic will fail, because this is not what the public want or what business will invest in.
    2. Level up people, not just placesthe Commission found that the things people learned to value during the pandemic, like green space, are less available to those in poorer areas, with disabled and ethnic minority groups often less able to access them.
    3. Community makes us stronger, not just happier – the Commission finds that the pandemic has proved that community networks are a vital component of national resilience. National shielding support schemes and national test and trace were regularly out-performed by their local counterparts.
    4. Remote working and online shopping are here to stay. We have to adapt – there has been an unprecedented shift of our lives online. While it has not been perfect, the reality is that we are not going back to how things were before.
    5. We need to redesign the places where we live and work – pre-pandemic it was increasingly clear that we needed to reshape the places where we live to increase civic space, adapt to climate change, and to accommodate the needs of an ageing population. The pandemic accelerated many of these long term trends. This raises huge questions for the physical infrastructure of the country.

Based on the five lessons, the Commission puts forward recommendations including:

  • A comprehensive approach to ‘level up’ people – including: a higher minimum wage, strengthened employment rights and a stronger welfare safety net for ‘left behind’ workers; huge investment in green space and more flexible working to improve wellbeing for all; and a community development programme and support for volunteering to improve equality of social capital.
  • Set a goal that no-one should live more than five minutes away from green space, and that every urban area should have at least one landmark park.
  • An ‘Everybody In’ strategy for the digital world. Recognise internet access as an essential need, invest significantly in digital infrastructure in less well-connected areas, and provide help to those who are unable to afford sufficient internet connection. Introduce a Minimum Digital Living Standard.
  • Promote flexibility in all parts of the labour market, and support the economy through this transition.
  • More cycling and walking infrastructure, which should be part of countering obesity and improving wellbeing.
  • Insulating homes to be part of a plan to create new jobs, cut carbon emissions, and improve families’ financial resilience.
  • Creating new, local co-working hubs for public servants on high streets to help create jobs and civic pride in left behind towns, as part of the levelling up agenda.

Polly Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Demos and convenor of the Renew Normal Commission, said:

“Since March of 2020, people in the UK have experienced change on a scale we haven’t seen since the Second World War. Soon after the war ended in 1945, our nation saw the creation of the welfare state and the NHS. But that didn’t come from nowhere. This came from the lessons that were learnt during wartime.

“The Covid-19 pandemic comes at a different time, presenting new challenges and accelerated ones that already existed. Going into the pandemic, the UK was a divided nation, and the pandemic has entrenched divisions further. As we emerge from it, we need to ensure that we can form a consensus behind the kind of future we want for Britain. There is a consensus up and down the nation for the pandemic’s ‘1945 moment’. The Renew Normal Commission’s landmark report out today brings together over 50,000 voices of those across the UK and sets out a vision of how we start to build that stronger, more united future.”

Read the full report here.

Explore our lessons and recommendations here.