The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) launched its interim report on Wednesday 14th January in the UK’s Westminster parliament, with proposals for how public policy can help make Britain a more ‘Mindful Nation’. Lord Richard Layard, the leading champion of wellbeing, called it ‘an incredibly important initiative’
The Interim Report presents the group’s provisional findings in advance of the General Election and the process of formulating party manifestos. The full report will be published in June, following the UK General Election
The Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group has carried out an eight-month inquiry into the potential for mindfulness training in key areas of public life – health, education, workplaces and the criminal justice system.
We find that mindfulness is a transformative practice, leading to a deeper understanding of how to respond to situations wisely.
We believe that government should widen access to mindfulness training in key public services, where it has the potential to be an effective low-cost intervention with a wide range of benefits.
We urge all political parties to consider our recommendations for inclusion in their manifestos for the 2015 General Election, as part of the pressing task of tackling the country’s mental health crisis.
Key figures spoke briefly to the meeting, held in a meeting room off Westminster Hall
Willem Kuyken: Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford University Mindfulness Centre
“Imagine a society that was influenced at all levels and at all ages by the qualities of calm, ethical and compassionate qualities of mindfulness. This is what the report is about.”
Madeleine Bunting, Co-Director of the Mindfulness Initiative described the meetings that had led to the Report’s publication, and identified key recommendations and challenges.
Chris Ruane, the Labour MP for the Vale of Clwyd and Co-Chair of the MAPPG
“This is a momentous meeting. Mindfulness is relevant to policy in two key ways. It can help us address the UK’s mental health crisis; and it can enhance wellbeing for those who aren’t in crisis. Mindfulness has a role in many policy areas, especially the key areas of health, education, criminal justice and the workplace. Mindfulness from ministers and shadow ministers have been listening with interest to what we have been saying, ncluding Liz Truss, George Osborne, Andy Burnham and Tristram Hunt. The MAPPG is a cross-party initiative and the co-chairs are a Liberal Democrat and a Conservative. David Cameron should be praised for how courageous initiative to establish the Wellbeing Index at the start of his premiership.”
Gus O’Donnell served as head of the UK Civil Service under three Prime Ministers
“In my former role I concluded that the biggest failure of policy-makers is short-termism. I urge governments to consider their real role. In my view, this is enhancing the wellbeing of our citizens, but this perspective is often lacking within government, which typically focused on goals such as national GDP.
However, I caution the audience, who are mostly supporters and advocates of mindfulness, against confirmation bias. You should listen closely to your critics, learn from them, and look closely at the limitations of the evidence.
Convincing the Treasury means offering compelling evidence in relation to clear goals. So, ‘If you treasure it, measure it’. However, wellbeing can be framed as such a goal and the role of mindfulness can be seen in in that context. We also need to show how the impact of mindfulness compares with other interventions. A problem here is that the gains are likely to be in the Treasury and the DWP while costs would be borne in departments such as Health and Education. The way around this sort of impasse is concerted leadership from the Prime Minister and Chancellor, pushing ministers to set aside departmental biases.
Lord Richard Layard former Head of the LSE and a champion of the wellbeing agenda who has achieved several major shifts in government policy in his career, most recently the development of talking therapies in the NHS
“We are much richer, but we no happier than fifty years ago. In founding the modern welfare state, Beverage spoke of the five giants it aimed to defeat – Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. In comparison to those times, much of these aims had been achieved, but we need to add a sixth giant: the lack of internal wellbeing. For most people, mental and physical wellbeing are the most important parts of life, and while we have seen big improvements in mental health treatments, we haven’t addressed the issue of prevention. Mindfulness can help.
Every society needs some kind of practice or structure that allows space for a sense of calm and compassion and for the faithful prayer still performs that function. But the 97% of society who are secularised lack such a structure. That’s why mindfulness is spreading like wildfire.
Tracy Crouch and Lorely Burt, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Co-Chairs of the MAPPG described how mindfulness had helped them in their personal lives and their work in parliament. Tracy Crouch described how it had helped her manage depression and Lorely Burt described the moments of unexpected joy mindfulness had brought her. Both mentioned the stresses of facing re-election with small majorities, but as Lorely Burt said, ‘It doesn’t matter if I am here. The ball is rolling and gathering momentum.’
We recommend that access to Mindfulness- Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is substantially widened for adults with a history of depression, because it significantly reduces risk of depressive relapse and can reduce healthcare use.
We recommend that public sector employers such as the NHS and civil service pioneer good practice and set up mindfulness pilot projects, which can be evaluated as part of their responsibility to combat stress.
We recommend making mindfulness in schools a priority for development and research. Mindfulness programmes are popular with children and teachers, and research has shown promising potential, with an impact on a wide range of measures including wellbeing, executive function (attention, focus), emotional self-regulation and improved relationships.
Criminal Justice System
We recommend those in the criminal justice sector develop and evaluate pilot projects to identify appropriate forms of mindfulness teaching and establish their acceptability and effectiveness.
I am an Associate of the Mindfulness Initiative, the group that is supporting the MAPPG and part of the group editing the report