Early years: valuable ends and effective means

Early yearsJanet Grauberg
July 2014

This report sets out ways that early years policy can narrow the opportunity gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.

The report urges government to be clearer about how progress towards narrowing the gap should be measured. It calls for greater focus on helping parents develop their children’s home learning environment. It also backs calls to impose higher qualification requirements on staff working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Contributors to the report include respected children’s charity Barnardo’s, the Early Intervention Foundation, the Family and Childcare Trust, and academics from the University of Oxford and London School of Economics.

Download the report

Access the media release

Download background summary of policy interventions over the last 20 years (referenced on page 8 of the report)

Read the summary of the report launch on 16 July 2014

Select media coverage: Press Association, Public Finance

Promoting effective competition in UK defence procurement

Scottish independenceToby Fenwick
July 2014

Using the UK’s maritime patrol requirements as a case study, this interim report sets out the criteria that government should use to run a competitive defence procurement process without compromising the UK’s security.

The report expresses concern over suggestions that government could purchase American P-8 jets for maritime patrol at a projected cost of more than £160 million each – a figure it says cannot be tested on value for money grounds in the absence of competition.

It recommends that an open competition be held in line with Ministry of Defence (MoD) policy, with a robust assessment of through life affordability, concurrency requirements and UK job implications.

Additionally, the report calls for detailed consideration of whether the UK can integrate the civilian and military maritime patrol requirements which are currently split across several departments, agencies and the devolved assemblies. It explores the type of service model that could provide the best value for money if such integration took place.

The final report of this ongoing research project is expected in autumn 2014.

Download the report

Access the media release

Mental Health Commission: Final Report

The pursuit of happinessCentreForum Mental Health Commission
July 2014

Chaired by former minister for mental health, Paul Burstow MP, the CentreForum Mental Health Commission concludes its 12 month study on the state of wellbeing in England by identifying five key priorities between now and 2020.

The Commission's final report titled 'The pursuit of happiness' calls on policymakers to:

• Establish the mental wellbeing of the nation or the “pursuit of happiness” as a clear and measurable goal of government.
• Roll out a National Wellbeing Programme to promote mutual support, self-care and recovery, and reduce the crippling stigma that too often goes hand in hand with mental ill health.
• Prioritise investment in the mental health of children and young people right from conception.
• Make places of work mental health friendly with government leading the way as an employer.
• Better equip primary care to identify and treat mental health problems, closing the treatment gap that leaves one in four of the adult population needlessly suffering from depression and anxiety and 1-2% experiencing a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.

The report also calls for parity of funding for mental health which currently receives 13% of NHS spend in England but accounts for 23% of demand. It is estimated that £13 billion is overspent every year on dealing with the physical health consequences of this unmet need.

Download the final report

Download call for evidence summary of key findings

Access the media release

Select media coverage: BBC Radio 4 (You and Yours), IndependentThe Sun

Atlas of VariationAtlas of Variation

Accompanying the Commission's final report is the first ever mental health-specific Atlas of Variation.

The atlas focuses on unwarranted – or preventable – variations in the mental health and wellbeing of England's population, exposing huge differences in people's circumstances and access to services.

One of the most concerning findings is that people with serious mental illnesses have significantly higher rates of premature mortality. But the atlas tells us much more than that.

Here are some examples.

Social determinants of poor mental health and wellbeing

• Children living in Tower Hamlets are 16 times more likely to grow up in poverty than children living in the Isles of Scilly.
• Teenagers living in Blackpool are six times more likely to become pregnant that teenagers living in Rutland.
• Pupils living in Liverpool are four times more likely to persistently absent from primary school compared to pupils living in Rutland.
• Young people living in Middlesbrough are five times more likely to not be in education, employment or training than young people living in Harrow. 

Self-reported wellbeing and prevalence of mental health problems

• People who live in South Tyneside are three times more likely to be unhappy with their lives compared to people living in Cheshire East.
• People living in Middlesbrough are three times more likely to have a long term mental health problems than people living in Harrow. 
• If you have a mental health problem and live in Brighton and Hove, you are five times more likely to access NHS adult or elderly mental health services than similar people living in Shropshire.
• If you live in Middlesbrough, you are seven times more likely to need to go into hospital for an acute condition that can normally be managed in the community, compared to people living in Hackney.
• If you have a serious mental illness and live in Newcastle upon Tyne, you are four times more likely to die prematurely than if you have a serious mental health problem but lived in the Isle of Wight. 

Download the Atlas of Variation

Select media coverage: Mail Online, Sunday Times

Regional challenges: a collaborative approach to improving education

Regional challengesAnna Claeys, James Kempton and Chris Paterson
July 2014

A little more than a decade ago, pupil outcomes in London were worse than anywhere else in the country. Today they are the best. The school improvement initiative London Challenge has been integral to this transformation.

'Regional challenges: a collaborative approach to improving education' draws on lessons from London Challenge and nine emerging challenge initiatives around the country to explore how regional challenges could best be implemented today.

The report warns that "straightforwardly copying" London challenge is unlikely to generate the same positive results. It says that initiatives must be tailored to a specific place and context.

It also argues that regional challenges today will require a degree of top down support if they are to operate at sufficient scale to have maximum impact and therefore calls on government to provide structured organisational and financial help.

Download the report

Read a summary of the launch.

Access the media release

Select media coverage: BBC NewsGuardian

Minister of State for Schools David Laws MP said: "I warmly welcome CentreForum's report on regional challenges. All our children and young people deserve a high quality education, irrespective of where in the country they live. It is vital that we learn from the successes of initiatives such as London Challenge, so that all areas can work in partnership with other schools and organisations to address underperformance."

Shadow Secretary of State for Education Tristram Hunt MP said: "This is an excellent report - the success of the London Challenge programme at turning round the capital's schools, delivering excellence and high expectations for all learners, and lifting the life chances of disadvantaged children is one the great achievements of the last Labour government. The challenge now, as this report highlights, is to build on that and encourage local collaboration, partnership and challenge across the rest of England. The Labour party has a clear answer - a local Director of School Standards - which we believe will help spread this model and tackle underperformance wherever it lies. We welcome this powerful contribution to an increasingly crucial debate."

Chair of the Education Select Committee Graham Stuart MP said: "The precise causes of the 'London Effect' are complex. But the challenge model is an interesting and important one and this report sets out a strategy to use it to deliver success in other parts of the country. In particular, it grasps the key point that initiatives need to be in place to ensure experienced school leaders are available to share their expertise in the areas where it is needed most."

London Challenge Adviser now London Leadership Strategy, Professor David Woods said: "London Challenge has shown that with ambition, aspiration and a clear focus on raising standards and closing attainment gaps, backed by committed leadership at all levels, an education system can be transformed. Other regions can build on this to mobilise their intellectual, social and organisational capital to produce excellent educational outcomes."

Founder and CEO of Teach First, Brett Wigdortz OBE: "The success of London schools proves that the achievement of young people from low-income backgrounds does not have to be limited by where they grow up. However, understanding the lessons of London is only one part of the puzzle for how we respond to the changing face of educational inequality, particularly considering the unique challenges faced in rural and coastal areas many miles from the capital. We must recognise that wide ranging solutions across society are crucial, and that there is still much more to be done if we want to see long term change and a fair education for all children across the country. Bringing high quality teachers into the profession is fundamental to addressing the educational achievement gap. We were proud to see over 1,400 new Teach First recruits start their training last week, ahead of teaching in schools where the need is greatest from September. We also look forward to supporting similar initiatives to the London Challenge, including the Wales Challenge and Somerset Challenge".

Turbo charging volunteering: co-production and public service reform

Turbo charging volunteeringDavid Boyle
May 2014

Written by the government’s independent reviewer of public services David Boyle, this report sets out ways that ‘co-production’ of services can be applied more widely in health, housing, social care and other contexts.

Examples of co-production already in practice include citizen justice panels, co-operative nurseries as well as time banks, where people offer services to members and can choose services they would like in return.

The report says that there are clear social benefits from producing services in this way. It argues that service users, their friends and families, are able to build a much broader range of activities and gain the respect that goes with being “equal partners”.

In addition, the report finds that there are significant savings to be realised through co-production. Research has identified that it could cut NHS costs by at least 7% (£4.4 billion) a year and potentially up to a fifth.

Download the report

Access the media release

Scottish independence: a political and economic appraisal

Scottish independenceToby Fenwick
May 2014

Scots will vote on independence on 18 September 2014. The vote will be close, with the margin likely to be less than 15%.

While no serious commentators doubt that Scotland can become a independent state, this report contends that the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) proposals published in November 2013 as the 'Scotland’s Future' white paper do not stand serious examination in the key areas of currency, fiscal and monetary policy, and EU membership.

The report urges the UK government to seize the initiative by tabling legislation for further devolution in the event of a “No” vote. A vote against independence should not be interpreted as a vote in favour of the union in its current form

Download the report

Access the media release

UK new build nuclear power

UK new build nuclearToby Fenwick
May 2014

82% of Britain’s existing nuclear generation capacity is scheduled to be decommissioned by 2023 – more than half of the UK’s low carbon power supply. In order to meet the UK’s climate change targets and provide security of supply, new build nuclear is essential to the UK energy mix. State subsidy is appropriate given the risks of new build nuclear, but as this report argues, both the financing model and the selection criteria for the new Hinkley Point C project are flawed.

There should have been a public auction to secure the minimum subsidy level with a viable public sector comparator. Instead, consumer bills will be at least £12.4 billion higher than a public procurement over 35 years.

The assessment criteria in future should include the differential costs of grid connections and realising the value of government owned nuclear sites, and the savings available from burning the UK’s 140 tonne plutonium stockpile rather than continuing to store it. Finally, the options assessment should better reflect the through life costs of new build nuclear by considering the savings from transmuting existing high level nuclear waste to make it easier to store.

Download the report

Access the media release

"Fenwick offers a persuasive analysis of the present situation and raises some interesting ideas concerning ways of delivering valuable nuclear capacity at minimum cost."

"[The] proposals over setting nuclear strike prices by auction are sensible as long as these auctions are ring fenced to nuclear (and similar auctions are ring fenced to renewables).  In practice it will not be possible to come up with a genuinely technology blind single auction mechanism that values long term stability of supply, carbon emissions and cost equitably."

— Malcolm Grimston, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Imperial College London

Higher education as a tool of social mobility

Higher education as a tool of social mobilityMichael Brown
May 2014

This report by former Liverpool John Moores University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Brown, recommends that higher education policy in the UK should be redirected towards "output" measures of social mobility.

It points out that current policy focuses wholly on "inputs" – the type of students being admitted to university – rather than "outputs" – what happens to students once they leave.

The current input policy takes a special interest in the recruitment of disadvantaged students by research intensive universities. But progress made against even this limited measure of social mobility measure has been slow. When output measures are employed, research intensive universities are being outplayed by many other institutions in boosting the employment prospects of disadvantaged students.

The report unveils a prototype Social Mobility Graduate Index (SMGI) which ranks British universities by the professional outcomes they achieve for their students. The SMGI is offered as a tool for comparing the success of institutions in getting disadvantaged students into graduate level employment.

Download the report

Access the media release

Select media coverage: Guardian, Press Association, Daily MailTelegraph, Times Higher

Ageing alone: loneliness and the oldest old

Migration: a liberal challengeJames Kempton and Sam Tomlin
April 2014

Loneliness causes misery and poor quality of life for too many people, but it is the oldest old – the over 85s – who are most badly affected. Nearly half of this age group experience loneliness some or most of the time. Understanding loneliness in this age group is becoming increasingly important as what was once a small group of exceptional individuals rapidly grows into a whole new generation. 

This new CentreForum report by James Kempton and Sam Tomlin argues that loneliness should be a public health priority and explores practical steps that can be taken to reduce levels of loneliness among the oldest old. 

Addressed to politicians and policy makers in both central and local government, leaders and innovators in the voluntary and community sector, and wider society as a whole, the report urges them to give more priority to the services and support that we know can help older people avoid ageing in loneliness and isolation.

Download the report

Download the media release

Read the summary of the report launch on 29 April 2014

Select media coverage: The Guardian (Social Care Network)Mature Times, Voice of Russia

"Loneliness needs to be tackled by a change in society's attitude. Every one of us can help to combat loneliness and we all need to be more creative about how we help elderly people and the chronically lonely to feel more a part of society."

"We are working with partners like the Campaign to End Loneliness to reduce levels of loneliness and help people to understand the link between people's relationships and their mental and physical health and wellbeing. I am pleased to see CentreForum focusing on this important area."

- Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support

CentreForum proposals to Budget 2014

Migration: a liberal challengeAdam Corlett, Toby Fenwick and Tom Papworth
March 2014

In its formal submission to Budget 2014, CentreForum urges the government to scrap Class 2 National Insurance – a "poll tax" on self-employed people – to ease living cost pressures for the one in seven UK workers currently running their own business.

It is estimated that half of these workers have annual earnings of £12,000 or less. Scrapping Class 2 National Insurance would deliver them with a £143 tax cut and cost the Treasury next to nothing.

The Class 2 proposal is part of a package of recommendations for making National Insurance simpler and fairer. CentreForum argues that self-employed workers could be helped further by a rise in the other self-employment National Insurance threshold – Class 4 – so that it matches the personal allowance for income tax.

Additionally, CentreForum calls for the removal of the requirement on local authorities to hold a referendum on any council tax rise above 2%. It accuses the government of weakening the link between local finance and local democracy.

Other measures in the submission seek to address 'unfair' tax breaks. This includes the subsidy on red diesel which costs the Treasury up to £2.4 billion each year in lost revenue. The submission also reaffirms CentreForum's longstanding proposal to hand shares in RBS to the British public.

Download the report

Download the media release

Select media coverage: ConservativeHome, Left Foot Forward, Public Finance