Our mission is to advance social well-being; we want people to feel engaged with, and supported by, wider society and to experience a good quality of life, regardless of their background. We fund research and development projects relating to people’s welfare at all stages of life.
Factors such as family, work and income can positively or negatively affect people in different ways. We want to understand how and why that is, and how people are differently affected depending on their class, gender, ethnicity, disability, age, and location.
Where people are disadvantaged, we want to identify what policy changes might address that and how the risks people face can be mitigated.
We also aim to understand the impact of digital technologies on people’s welfare, alongside the work of the Ada Lovelace Institute.
Why welfare needs research
The gap in Healthy Life Expectancy between local areas in the UK stands at 21.5 years for females and 15.8 years for males. We need to know more about the factors affecting geographical inequalities and how they relate to other types of disadvantage.
By 2066 there could be an additional 8.6 million people aged 65 years and over in the UK – a population roughly the size of present-day London. Through our research, we aim to improve understanding of what effect this demographic shift might have on work, pensions, and welfare in later life.
1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year. People’s health can affect their family and working life and make them vulnerable to financial insecurity and other types of risk. Research on the impact of mental health problems is needed so that we can identify ways to mitigate those risks.
Musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis affect 17.8 million people in the UK and are the single biggest cause of pain and disability. Our Oliver Bird Fund aims to improve the lives of people living with musculoskeletal conditions by funding interrelated policy, practice and research activities.
What do we fund in welfare?
Our funding priorities are motivated by how certain individuals and groups are potentially vulnerable to adverse outcomes, and how those risks can be mitigated, or channelled more positively. Mitigation will, in turn, involve drawing on resources, broadly defined to include financial and physical assets such as money and housing but also less tangible factors such as practical and emotional support. Support may come from oneself, such as through saving for the future, or from family, work, community and the state. The extent to which vulnerability can be mitigated will vary according to individual and group characteristics including age, gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. Applications are welcome in all of these areas, but we are particularly interested in:
- How these different sources of support interact with major social, economic and technological forces that are shaping our society. For example, how new technologies can alleviate, exacerbate and shift vulnerability, and affect concepts of trust, evidence, and authority.
- Research into how family, work, and the intersection of the two will affect individual and societal well-being in the coming years. These topics link strongly to other core domains of Education and Justice and we are also interested in projects which explore the intersections between these domains.
- What types of economic policies and systems would best enhance individual and societal well-being and challenge existing inequalities, as society adjusts to turbulent and uncertain growth in the economy, earnings and productivity in the post-COVID-19 world?
- How will the costs and benefits of the transition to a net zero-emissions economy be shared fairly across the population and across generations?
- How can we better understand the economic determinants of health outcomes and their impact on social well-being, both in the current context and in the face of long-term demographic trends?
- We also fund research into musculoskeletal conditions through our Oliver Bird Fund.