The Week, 12 February 2016

12 February 2016

This week, David Cameron delivered a speech entirely on the subject of prison reform. It fits squarely within the ‘life chances’ agenda he spoke about at the beginning of the year. The central premise is that effective public service delivery can transform lives, and in doing so reduce demand.

Charlotte Pickles, Senior Research Director

Reformer of the week

Prime Minister David Cameron, who on Monday gave a speech calling for “wholesale reform” of the prison system. He argued that it should “offer chances to change, that for those trying hard to turn themselves around, we should offer hope, that in a compassionate country, we should help those who’ve made mistakes to find their way back onto the right path.”

Reactionary of the week

Philip Davies MP, who on Monday said the Prime Minister’s proposed prison reforms were “frankly stupid”.

Good week for…


On Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice published an interim report from Charlie Taylor’s review of the youth justice system, which calls for “re-imagining youth custody”. The report recommends secure schools in order to place education “at the heart of youth custody”.

Police workforce reform

On Wednesday, the Policing and Crime Bill was introduced to Parliament. The Bill includes provision for police chiefs to confer a wide range of powers on police staff and volunteers in order to more effectively use their workforce to combat changing crime.

Digital public services

On Thursday, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matt Hancock, announced a new advisory board of “digital heavyweights” to help the Government transform public service delivery. The board includes members from digital companies such as LoveFilm, Amazon and Facebook.

Holding the line

On Thursday, Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced that, after the collapse of negotiations with the British Medical Association, he would be preceding with the introduction of a new contract for junior doctors. In making the announcement he stated that three quarters of junior doctors will see an increase in their take home pay and no trainee working within contracted hours will see a pay cut.

Bad week for…

“Prison works”

On Monday, the Prime Minister argued that “the failure of our system today is scandalous” and that greater autonomy for professionals, increased transparency of outcomes, and improving rehabilitative provision will deliver a “revolution in the prisons system.”

Living within budgets

On Wednesday, HM Treasury announced a £205 million cash injection for the Department of Health, and a £950 million raid on their capital budget, in order to increase NHS spending by £1.2 billion. The Department received a similar bailout in 2014-15.

Hospital productivity

On Thursday, The Health Foundation reported that productivity in NHS hospitals fell for the third successive year as inputs increased at a faster rate than outputs. Between 2009-10 and 2014-15 acute hospital productivity increased by an average of just 0.1 per cent a year. The Five year forward view assumes 2-3 per cent efficiency savings a year over this Parliament.

Quotes of the week

“For years, education was set back by the soft bigotry of low expectations—the idea that the most disadvantaged children shouldn’t be expected to achieve the best results. Likewise, police reform was partly set back by the false notion that the number of officers you had mattered, more than how smartly they were actually deployed. And welfare reform was set back by the lazy idea that fairness could be judged by the size of a cheque, rather than the chances you offered. One by one, in this government we’ve taken those arguments on—and we created the platform for reform. Today, we need to do the same with prisons.”

Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday

“Children who are incarcerated must receive the highest quality education from outstanding professionals to repair the damage caused by a lack of engagement and patchy attendance. Perhaps our most worrying finding is that the culture of aspiration and discipline which is evident in the best alternative provision schools—whose pupils share many of the characteristics of children in custody—has rarely been encountered in youth custody. Even in those establishments where the quality of education is better, there is still a clear gulf between this provision and the best to be found in the community.”

Review of the Youth Justice System: An interim report of emerging findings, published on Thursday

“I congratulate my right hon. friend on taking this clear and correct decision, because it is quite obvious that after three years, the BMA was prepared to let the whole thing drag on with talks and days of action until he either abandoned the seven-day service or gave the junior doctors an enormous pay settlement in order to buy their agreement to do it. In future discussions, will he keep concentrating, as he has, on the essential public interest, which is to meet the rising and remorseless demand on the service resulting from an ageing population and clinical advance? Will he also use the extra resources that the NHS is getting at the moment to deliver a better service to patients and not allow it to be taken away, as so often happened in the past—including a little more than 10 years ago in 2003—by very large pay claims by the various staff unions, as that would lessen his ability to give us the modern NHS that he is talking about?”

Rt Hon Ken Clarke MP, speaking in response to the Health Secretary’s statement on Thursday

Reform’s week

Media Coverage

On Wednesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, wrote a blog for Conservative Home supporting Jeremy Hunt in his efforts to reform junior doctors’ contracts.

On Thursday, Andrew Haldenby wrote a letter to the Financial Times arguing that spending now on social reform will reduce costs to the Exchequer later.

The Reformer Blog

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby wrote a blog asking whether the Government has a public services policy following bad signals on NHS reform.

On Wednesday, William Mosseri-Marlio, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog on the Prime Minister’s ambition for a policymaking framework that judges progress on the promotion of wellbeing.

On Friday, Elizabeth Crowhurst, Researcher at Reform wrote a blog arguing that improving transparency in our prison service is essential for delivering better outcomes for offenders.



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