Being in a Good Place: investing in social infrastructure

Being in a Good Place: Investing in social infrastructure argues that major investment in social infrastructure is needed, particularly in communities experiencing ‘civic inequality’, and points to how this can be achieved.

It is written by the Director of Civil Exchange, Caroline Slocock, for the Early Action Task Force at Community Links.

This investment is especially urgent now, given the Covid-19 crisis, and can be justified by the long-term social and economic benefits and savings to the Exchequer as a result of better health and well-being, stronger and more inclusive local economies and reduced inequalities.

The publication is aimed at everyone thinking about social infrastructure, from policy-makers in national and local government, devolved administrations and public bodies, to charitable funders, voluntary organisations, social enterprises and businesses.

The report comes just after a Government announcement of a £4bn Levelling Up Fund for ‘the infrastructure of everyday life’, and includes ideas about how the new fund can be designed for maximum impact.

More widely, it argues for budgeting and planning changes to promote social infrastructure and includes suggestions about how best to set up and design local social infrastructure funds.

The report in more detail

Social infrastructure makes a good place and allows everyone within it to thrive. It is naturally preventative and helps people to recover more quickly when things go wrong. Good social infrastructure includes:

  • a good home that is affordable, healthy and safe, environmentally friendly, and well connected to other good quality social infrastructure;
  • the services that every community needs both to prosper and to support people when things go wrong;
  • including equal access to online services and mobile networks; 
  • physical spaces and places to meet, exercise, play, enjoy leisure and socialise;
  • with green spaces or a park within walking distance;
  • activities which help create connection and community and build social capital and social integration;
  • community hubs and connecting institutions and individuals that bring people together, connect up services and ensure everyone’s voice is heard and needs are met. 

The report calls for:

  • Changes to the budgeting and financial planning system to remove a bias against social infrastructure, with a Well-Being Comprehensive Spending Review and a Well-Being and Future Generations Act. 
  • Measures to make a national Levelling Up Fund more effective, including independent management, a broad definition of social infrastructure to give maximum flexibility to meet local priorities, mechanisms to ensure local people are involved in decision-making and control and the use of public land to reduce building costs. To ensure it is sufficient to meet needs, the Fund also needs to be topped up, for example, by use of dormant assets and dedicated taxes on social polluters such as gambling or international internet-based companies. 
  • The setting up of local social infrastructure funds, some of which may be seeded by the new national Levelling Up fund. 
  • Planning which gives priority to social infrastructure and ensures it is funded and which ensures new homes are only built with ready access to good social infrastructure.