I will present two challenges and two opportunities that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. Together they create the ideal conditions for a policy initiative that will profoundly enrich the lives of children around the country, re-forge the bonds of local communities, and provide engaging and fulfilling employments to millions.
One dramatic effect of COVID-19 has been to turn tens of millions of urban office-based employees into home-workers based in the heart of their local communities. Many have artistic talents, cultural interests, and sporting ability which if tapped into could significantly enrich the cultural lives of adults and children alike.
The Arts, Entertainment and Recreation sector has been hardest hit by the pandemic. The challenge post-COVID is to ensure that theatres, football clubs, dance instructors, off-road bike trail providers, guitar teachers, and climbing centres are given an economic shot in the arm so that the permanent loss of large parts of this life-enhancing and community-enriching sector is avoided.
The proposed post-COVID government stimulation package will deliver a demand shock which aims to kick-starts the economy. It will also hope to create benign market conditions in which supply chains can grow and strengthen until the quality and value of their products sustain a natural demand. How this money is spent will determine the structure of our future economy and presents an opportunity to transform the very fabric of our society.
At an age when children should be building friendships, discovering talents and learning how to enjoy rich and varied lives, they have been stuck at home. This could lead to a generation with a narrower range of talents, that experience worse mental health, and who lack the rich network of community bonds essential to life resilience. Our challenge is to ensure this doesn’t happen.