The government’s long-awaited exit plan to chart a course out of the UK Covid-19 lockdown was finally forthcoming on Sunday, and it was met with mixed reviews. For one director, Lisa Davies of consultancy firm Adtentus Ltd, the plans did not only leave room for ambiguity, but also came with major gaps. Speaking to The Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Davies discusses where the plans fall short and details the additional issues that she feels the government should acknowledge.
The Covid-19 lockdown period and the shutdown of many industries has triggered a period of self-reflection, which has notably brought about a renewed and heightened focus on the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Yet, despite the development of this, Davies feels that any acknowledgement of mental health is lacking in the government’s plans going forward.
Davies said: “The UK government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy outwardly appears to be a thorough one, however, there are some major gaps. Throughout, the government fails to mention the provision of mental health measures aside from access to exercise and the outdoors.
“While easing restrictions on going outdoors will aid mental health, this will fail to address anxiety and fear induced by these circumstances. Financial difficulties are a leading contributor of mental health problems and to dedicate no resources to meeting this issue indicates a lack of understanding by the government on what is foundational for businesses and individuals, to adapt and thrive in this new, even, alien environment.”
The failure of the government to address these issues and take heed of the lessons that the pandemic does have to teach humanity also constitutes a disregard for innovation, in Davies’ view.
“What the government is doing is dutifully providing monetary resources on a short-term basis when what innovation requires is a variety of resources including emotional resilience, critical thinking, problem solving, imagination and measured risk assessment.
“Lives may be lost or permanently affected because of the financial difficulties and higher environmental risk to the individual, because of the impacts these have on mental health.”
Davies went on to highlight that the issue is something which Adtentus itself has looked to address as a business during the pandemic.
She explained: “Our remotely accessed innovation training deliberately has a wellbeing quadrant. We feel this is a fundamental need to enable creative thinking that generates long term and sustainable solutions in business.”
Furthermore, Davies pointed out that the government’s “roadmap” out of lockdown seemingly fails to recognise two key groups of people who are among the most affected by the crisis: parents with young children and individuals over the age of 50.
Why is this? Davies was on hand to provide a response to that too.
She said: “Parents with young children are either being prevented from working due to the lack of childcare available or being restricted in what employment they can undertake. Where these parents are able work from home, they are under immense stress in meeting the care and educational needs of their children while almost simultaneously producing work for their employer or their own business.
“When these issues snowball, it burdens individuals with a significant amount of stress which will inevitably culminate in both short-term and long-term physical and mental health issues.
“Rather sadly, these parents may also experience hidden discrimination in employment opportunities due to the restrictions in their flexibility. And yet, these parents are those individuals who have invested in the future of the nation by bringing up the next generation of workers that will be supporting pensions, social care, healthcare, and public services.”
It begs the question, therefore, as to what the government could do to intervene. As a solution, Davies suggests: “In order to ease the burden and support this vital group, the government could and should treble child benefits for the next two years.
“These funds will directly flow back into the economy through purchase of clothing, food and equipment, and it is likely to help increase demand and therefore jobs in the childcare sector.”
As for over 50s, Davies raised a significant problem concerning those who are having to be out of employment for a significant time as a result of the pandemic.
“If we are seeing swathes of people over the age of 50 having to stop working for a prolonged period, their chances of gaining meaningful employment again prior to retirement will be limited. Yet, these individuals have extensive experience to offer and are important to businesses since they provide stability, workforce resilience and mentorship.”
A loss of income for over 50s also limits their capacity to contribute to their private pensions, meaning that only more of a burden will be placed upon state pension schemes in the future.
By contrast, as Davies rightly points out, younger people still have a great amount of time, flexibility, and physical capacity to take on different roles, and they can sometimes be favoured by employers, resulting in employment discrimination against older generations.
Davies added: “The Covid-19 pandemic is only going to entrench employment discrimination further if the government does not step in to help guarantee employment opportunities in future.
“These areas that the government is seemingly overlooking, if addressed, could seriously help rebuild a strong and thriving economy post-Covid.”