Current Affairs Digest: Social Policy

Catch up on social policy articles you may have missed in June 2020, including an article on young people and the internet.

Inequality and Covid-19

This blog post argues that changes to public health policy must be considered to support the UK’s transition to the ‘new normal’ after the coronavirus lockdown. The authors argue that changes are necessary now to free up NHS capacity in the short term. In the longer term, the authors believe changes could result in improvements to the country’s health and wellbeing overall.

The authors suggest a variety of policy proposals, such as:

  • lower speeding limits;
  • raising the legal age for buying tobacco;
  • limiting the amount of alcohol that can be bought in one transaction; and
  • introducing minimum unit pricing in England.

Looking specifically at smoking and alcohol consumption, they point to reports indicating 300,000 smokers may have quit their habit during lockdown and that up to a third of adults have reduced their alcohol consumption during the same period (whilst a fifth have increased it). The authors argue that the Government should build on this opportunity by introducing new policies, such as those outlined above, and by making additional support available to those who want to stop smoking or reduce their drinking habits.

The authors are advocating for immediate policy changes to be made in these areas. In addition, they called on the Government to introduce a long-term Government inequalities strategy to provide support to those groups most affected by Covid-19.

Read the full article: Adam Briggs and Harry Rutter, ‘Public health, inequalities, and Covid-19: Looking beyond the lockdown’, University of Bath blog, 14 May 2020

Young people and the internet

Researchers in this blog post are seeking to add to the growing field of study around the impact of the internet on children’s development. To further investigate the subject, the authors of this paper used openly available data from the Child Mind Institute which had conducted surveys with young people and their parents about their internet habits. The children and young people were also examined by a psychiatrist to assess any clinical disorders that they may have.

The researchers found a link in the data between children diagnosed with syndromes such as depression, ADHD or autism and children who showed signs of “problematic internet use”. Defining this, the researchers give a few examples of behaviour they may expect a child with “problematic internet use” to display, including aggression when internet time is limited, loss of sleep or negative effects on schoolwork or social relationships.

However, the researchers did note limitations of their findings. They explain that their research was confined to the specific data that they had available. It is therefore only a snapshot and cannot be used to draw a clear link between problematic internet usage and childhood disorders.

The authors hope that their research contributes to the wider body of work looking at internet use in young people. They intend to follow up with the subjects of the study to gain more insight as they grow up.

Read the full article: Anita Restrepo, Michael P. Milham and Kathleen Merikangas, ‘Problematic internet use in children and adolescents: Associations with psychiatric disorders and impairment’, BioMed Central, 27 May 2020