The Week, 3 June 2016

3 June 2016

The cost of welfare increased by £4.3 billion last year to £217.7 billion. The biggest increase was a rise of £3.6 billion in the state pension. Although the state pension age has increased, the Government has pledged to protect pensions and the triple lock creating an unsustainable ratchet.

Kate Laycock, Researcher, Reform

Reformer of the week

Prof David Reynolds, an advisor to the Welsh Government, who said evidence suggested that reducing classes to fewer than 25 pupils does not bring significant results.

Good week for…

Gender equality

On Tuesday, Deloitte named the highest-ever proportion of female partners in the firm’s annual promotions. Thirty per cent of new partners were female.

Spice in prisons

On Sunday, the New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) Bill was released and these substances illegalised. Reform held a roundtable in May on NPS in prisons where John Shaw, the managing director for G4S public services, stated that “without a doubt NPS is our biggest issue right now.”

Bad week for…

Northern productivity

On Wednesday, the Centre for Cities think tank suggested the Government focuses its energy on improving productivity rather than delivering a grand transport project.

Rising costs of welfare

On Monday, figures showed the UK welfare budget increased by £4.3 billion last year. Though increases were seen in tax benefits, child benefits, disability allowance and employment support, the biggest driver was pensions.

Quotes of the week

“The reason most young people enter higher education has always been to get a good job afterwards. That is why the numbers have grown, and why rising fees have not been a deterrent. That is why thousands of young people from around the world want to come to British universities. Whether we like it or not, higher education is a marketplace, and an international one too.”

Rafael Behr, writing for The Guardian on Wednesday.

“The question, then, is not whether to get rid of PBR, but how to make it work better. It is not inevitable that it should create odd incentives, but this is made more likely by poor contracting between the government and the provider.”

The Economist, today.

“Not many believe there should be no prisons at all, but if jails are to prove useful to society as a whole and to prisoners, most of whom will at some stage be released, they should not be overcrowded warehouses for the temporary storage of drug addicts and the mentally ill. They must be places of reform, education, hope and rehabilitation. Overcrowded prisons are difficult to manage, expensive to run and can do little to reduce levels of recidivism. Sending more people to prison to spend longer sentences in unsafe and unproductive jails that are already full may be immoral, but is also a waste of public money. The alternative is not no prisons at all but prisons with a purpose. That will come about not through wishful thinking but by public demand and vigorous political leadership.”

Sir Edward Garnier QC MP in a letter to The Times on Tuesday.

“What struck me about the best prisons is the way that you’ve got the potential for an in-built community of individuals who are mutually supportive in tackling their substance misuse.”

John McCracken, Drugs Programme Manager, Department of Health, speaking at a Reform roundtable in May.

“If you look at the academic evidence you don’t get much out of reducing class size…You can find other policies which are much cheaper which will give you the same kind of bangs for your bucks.”

Prof David Reynolds, speaking on Friday.

Reform’s week

On Wednesday, Emilie Sundorph, Research Assistant at Reform, wrote an interactive blog outlining Reform’s latest research on schools funding and costs, showing that spending per pupil is projected to fall by 5 per cent by 2019-20. Public Finance published an article based on the research later the same day.

On Friday, Alexander Hitchcock, Researcher at Reform, wrote a blog praising current primary−care reform, whilst noting that more can be done to improve care for patients.

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