The Week, 22 January 2016

22 January 2016

As world leaders met in Davos at the World Economic Forum, low oil prices brought fears of a global recession. Could UK public services weather another storm? Only if more innovative ways to fund services are embraced, such as those floated by this week’s reformer. Reactionaries that wish to block new skills and expertise from entering the public sector workforce will only hinder the delivery of high quality, low cost services.

Amy Finch, Senior Researcher

Reformer of the week

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, who questioned whether it should be made “easier for families to flexibly fund social care by drawing down resources tied up in housing, pension pots and other benefits”. The rising cost of social care cannot reasonably be met by taxation alone; enabling people to better access their assets to support themselves in old age is one solution.

Reactionary of the week

Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation, who spoke against the proposal to use volunteers to help with policing, claiming the Government should “protect the police because we protect the public.”

Good week for…

Big data

On Tuesday, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser reported that ‘distributed ledger’ technology, whereby data is coproduced, shared and continually updated, could help make public services “more personal, immediate and efficient” and save billions in delivery costs, particularly by preventing fraud and error.

Pensioner freedom

Also on Tuesday, the Chancellor announced that he would bring forward legislation to cap “excessive" charges levied on pensioners who draw down on their savings.

Employment

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics released figures showing that the employment rate rose to 74 per cent in November 2015, an increase of 0.5 per cent since August 2015. Average earnings also rose but at a slower pace than in the previous quarter.

Bad week for…

GP access

On Sunday, it was reported that the proportion of patients unable to get a GP appointment at all had risen since 2012, with a greater proportion also finding it difficult to get through on the phone and attend surgery at convenient times.

School accountability

On Wednesday, the Education Select Committee reported that the current landscape of oversight, intervention, inspection and accountability is “confused, fragmented, and lacking in transparency”.

Narrowing the attainment gap

On Thursday, the Department for Education published revised GCSE performance data for 2014-15 showing that the gap between the attainment of pupils on Free School Meals and their peers remains stubbornly wide on most measures.

Quotes of the week

 

“Mr Macron [the French Minister of the Economy] is working on a new set of liberalising reforms — seeking to break down barriers to occupations ranging from hairdressing to bakeries… A reform of the labour code — the last big piece of legislation expected before the presidential elections — should be an opportunity to make more fundamental changes. It is disappointing that Mr Hollande has already significantly limited its scope: promising not to touch the sacrosanct 35-hour work week or the permanent contracts most in need of reform. The need for France to embrace economic reform increases by the year… Mr Hollande is running out of time.”

Leader, Financial Times, on Monday

“On what basis therefore should welfare reformers seek to build an agenda for 2020?… A first move must be to develop a range of niche programmes that improve the job prospects of those claimants who have been left stranded on the welfare rolls by successive governments… Our central proposal, however, is for the government to begin a programme helping raise productivity in lower paying firms so that higher wages become affordable without creating unemployment.”

Rt Hon Frank Field MP and Andrew Forsey, writing about their recent report for Civitas in The Spectator on Monday

“We need to physically take services out to people who use them the least because they’re the ones that probably need them the most. Businesses are increasingly offering us instant services at your convenience — things like Uber, Amazon Prime, Deliveroo — but how can we also apply this idea to services that offer help? In Jobcentres it means going out to meet the long-term unemployed client and having a coffee together. In education it means going to the park to work with the child that never made it to school. As a regular citizen, perhaps this means the next time you offer help to someone and suggest that they come to you, offer to go to them and offer help on their terms, not yours.”

Dr Charlie Howard, Founding Director of MAC-UK, speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday

Reform’s week

 

On Tuesday, Reform held a policy dinner in partnership with Alliance Medical on “Delivering value through partnership”. The event explored how to increase collaboration between NHS and independent sector organisations, and Rt Hon Alan Milburn, former Secretary of State for Health, provided opening remarks.

The Reformer Blog

 

On Tuesday, Leo Ewbank, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog summarising the key themes that emerged from the conference Reform held in partnership with NHS England last week, “The NHS as a social movement: the role of technology”.

On Wednesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, recorded the latest monthly Director’s video blog. In it he predicted an “active” year and outlined Reform’s work this month.

On Thursday, Ken Smith, Commercial Director of Memset, wrote a blog for Reform arguing that the Government has not met its own requirement to use open standards in the procurement of IT hardware and services on G-Cloud.

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