Well-being may go down as well as up

We all care about making children’s lives better – that is why we set up NPC’s Well-being Measure and that is probably why you are reading this.

But in the relentless drive for improvement, we can forget that life is complicated and things don’t always turn out how we hope or expect.

With this in mind, it’s worth reminding ourselves that changes to well-being don’t just go in one direction. Scores can go down as well as up.

Recognising this is important for two reasons. First, we can learn from what goes wrong. A reduction in well-being may point to a genuine problem that needs addressing and help us identify its cause. Secondly, being honest about the changes we see helps us better to understand young people’s lives and what we are doing to help them.

Take the example of a group of young carers in Wales, supported by the charity Barnardo’s. Using NPC’s Well-being Measure, the charity observed an overall reduction in resilience (combined with increases in emotional well-being and life satisfaction).

This was an interesting finding but perhaps not surprising. As they had grown up, the carers had developed resilience through having responsibility thrust upon them at a young age. By attending the programme, resilience dropped as they begin to come to terms with their situation.  Paradoxically, this reduction came at a time when their lives were getting better not worse.

So reductions in well-being scores are not necessarily a bad thing. They can teach us more about our own work as well as give us a richer understanding of young people’s lives. And that can only be a good thing.

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About John Copps

John is part of NPC's research and consulting team and is the founder of NPC's Well-being Measure, a social business that provides an online tool to measure young people’s well-being. He has eight years experience of research and consulting, and is passionate about how data can be used to improve the performance of organisations. John is a regular contributor to NPC's blog and has also contributed to pieces for BBC Radio, the Guardian, and the Financial Times. John is a governor of a secondary school.
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