The Triple Test shows that the social dimension is the elephant in the room when it comes to an integrated approach to public policy.
The Relationships Foundation recognises the sense of public unease about the best way forward. In the front of many people’s minds are anxieties about the world economic situation and the effect of the failure of financial institutions on their daily lives. While a turning towards one’s own circumstances is understandable it doesn’t mean that other areas of great concern have gone away. In particular, we shouldn’t lose sight of deeply-felt concerns about social issues which have become an increasing feature of our national life over the past decade, one of which has been that human and social relationships have suffered in the mad dash for growth.
In light of this the Relationships Foundation proposes a ‘Big Idea’ to the political parties and people alike. We want all parties to subscribe to this basic premise: that policy development, proposals for legislation, and government action should all be subject to a triple test – economic, environmental and social.
The economic test has long dominated political debate. Recently, however, policymakers have begun to move towards a second test by recognising the importance of the environment and seeking the tools necessary to address that vital sphere of life in their assessments. We now need to go further and add to this double test the neglected third element – the social test. This would truly lead to integrated public policy – economic, environmental and social: the Triple Test.
The social aspect of ‘The Triple Test’ is fundamentally about relationships. Twenty years ago the Relationships Foundation recognised that relationships were often undermined in organisations, public services and policy decisions. Our research since then has shown that the essential building blocks of a good society are good relationships, from family and community to public service and business.
Public policy is never neutral and we believe that policy makers and implementers should always test their proposals not only to ensure, as far as is possible, that these do not damage existing relational links, but also to see if ways can be found to encourage people increasingly to connect with each other in the public sphere. Strong communities and extended families can build financial and social capital, increasing wellbeing and reducing long-term pressures on public spending.
It’s time for the Triple Test!