Girls’ Rights in the UK

This report looks at some advancements to UK girls’ lives that have been made since 2016, such as action on period poverty and the Government’s strategy to end violence against women. It states that there is work still to be done. The report recommends: making all places, including online and schools, safe for girls; tackling gender inequality in schools; raising the profile of girls at the local, regional and national level; and collecting more data on girls’ rights across the UK. The organisation also notes that, whilst its recruitment was inclusive, none of the participants that it spoke to identified themselves as transgender or as disabled; therefore, it called for further research into the lives of these two groups of girls.

This is the second report by Plan International UK into girls’ rights in the UK. The first report was published in 2016 and ranked areas of the UK by indicators such as child poverty, life expectancy and teenage conception rates, to determine the best and worst places to be a girl. The 2016 report called on the Government to “treat girls as a priority group”. In this report, Plan International UK conducted an analysis of UK laws in relation to global human rights guarantees that the UK Government is signed up to. In addition, it conducted research groups with girls across the country and analysed the experiences of those previously found to be most disadvantaged.

Elites in the UK

Based on the assumption that “the politics of Brexit has often been seen as a popular vote against the London ‘elite’”, researchers have investigated the relationship between these ‘elites’ and the rest of the population. The researchers defined the category of elites as “economic and wealth elites, as well as occupational elites who work in higher managerial, administrative and professional occupations”. They considered whether there was a growing gap between the elite and others in the UK economically, geographically and socially. To do this, they used various datasets, including the census data from the last 40 years. Their research found that London is fairly inaccessible for those who grew up outside of the area and who are from a working-class background. In addition, they stated that the ability to move up into elite occupations had declined in the last 40 years. Those who are economically elite are aware of the increasing inequality gap, but that group are more likely to identify themselves as upper middle class rather than upper class. The researchers found that elites do not have their own distinctive lifestyle or culture.

The researchers conclude their paper with some recommendations to address the issue. For example, they argue that unpaid internships should be prohibited and that internships lasting over a month should pay at least the minimum wage. They also state that there should be an increase in degree and high-level apprenticeships, which should be accessible to people from lower income backgrounds. They recommend that school admission processes be fairer and that state schools should increase their focus on teaching life skills to students.

The NHS as an ‘Anchor Institution’

The health and social care sector provides 12% of all employment across England, with the National Health Service (NHS) making up the vast majority of these roles. Writing for The King’s Fund, David Maguire examines the potential for the NHS to use this dominance in the labour market to become an “anchor institution” and improve current levels of health inequality. Maguire references a 2019 report from the Health Foundation which defines anchor institutions as “large, public sector organisations that have sizeable assets that can be used to support local community wealth building and workforce”. Maguire states that the unique benefits of the NHS operating as an anchor institution include the reliable and stable employment it offers, and the fact that it is not going to withdraw from an area at scale, in the way a private employer could. The NHS also has a stable and protected pay system, where workers nationally earn an average of 7.3% more than those employed in the wider economy. Maguire states that anchor institutions are also an important investor in skills and training for local communities. However, the author claims that although the NHS is in a prime position to take advantage of this, it currently lacks the funding, with investment in training falling from 5% of total health spending in 2006/07 to around 3% in 2018/19. Despite this drop, Maguire states there are still good examples of the NHS using its power to build skills in local communities. He uses the examples of Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust partnering with Leeds City Council to target career opportunities in poorer areas, and University Hospital Birmingham partnering with The Prince’s Trust to build a learning hub offering pre-employment advice and guidance to unemployed local people.