• Research Briefing

    Data Protection and Digital Information Bill: HL Bill 30 of 2023–24

    The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill would amend existing data protection legislation and introduce new provisions in areas such as digital verification services and smart data. The bill was carried over from the last session and is due to have its second reading in the House of Lords on 19 December 2023.

  • In Focus

    Maternal mortality rates in the Black community

    Black women were at a greater risk of maternal mortality in the UK during 2018–20 when compared to White women, according to recent findings. The underlying causes of this disparity remain a complex picture. This briefing looks at the latest research findings, as well as a recent parliamentary report on Black maternal health and the government’s response.

  • In Focus

    Organ donation in England and the UK: Statistics and law changes

    The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act 2019 introduced an opt-out system for organ donation in England. This means that it is generally presumed upon a person’s death that they consent to donate their organs unless they or their family indicate otherwise. This is also the arrangement in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This briefing discusses this policy change and presents recent statistics on organ donation in England and the UK.

  • In Focus

    Fire safety regulations: Reform for furniture and buildings in England

    The government has proposed changes to how fire safety standards for furniture and furnishings are regulated in England. Scientists and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee have raised concerns that current regulations incentivise the use of flame-retardant chemicals, which have environmental and health impacts. The regulatory framework for fire safety in buildings in England has also been reformed following the Grenfell Tower fire and the Building Safety Act 2022.

  • In Focus

    Strengthening family life in England: Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households

    In April 2023, the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households published a report entitled ‘Love matters’. The commission examined how families and households in England could best flourish and called on the government and other institutions to put families at the centre of their thinking. In addition to proposals for Church of England action, the report included 29 recommendations for the government. These included supporting family hubs and developing high-quality marriage preparation.

  • In Focus

    Safeguarding in schools

    Staff and governing bodies in English schools have responsibilities to protect children from harm and help them to have the best outcomes. This is termed safeguarding. The government provides detailed safeguarding guidance for staff and governors that schools are required to follow. The government has updated this guidance in response to an increase in reports of child-on-child sexual violence and sexual harassment in recent years, which has occurred in the context of the widespread use of social media. The most recent guidance was issued in September 2023.

  • In Focus

    Free NHS prescriptions: Eligibility for benefit claimants

    In England, individuals in receipt of certain benefits or who meet specific criteria are eligible for free NHS prescriptions. The government have announced that they plan to terminate certain universal credit claims, and consequently revoke benefits such as free prescriptions, for those who fail to meet employment requirements. This has led to fears about its potential adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of affected individuals.

  • In Focus

    The 75th anniversary of the NHS: How is it doing?

    This briefing considers the performance of the NHS as it passes its 75-year anniversary. It includes statistics on waiting times, information on recent government policy, and commentary on suggested measures to improve NHS performance. It also contains a brief history of the NHS and links to further reading.

  • In Focus

    Early years education: Trends, issues and the impact of Covid-19

    Early years refers to the education and care a child receives between birth and five years old. In March 2023 there were over 63,000 registered childcare providers in England. Most were rated by Ofsted as either good or outstanding. However, the number of providers has been steadily declining since 2015. The sector is also characterised by high childcare costs for families, financial pressures for providers and issues recruiting and retaining high quality staff.

  • In Focus

    Life beyond Covid-19: Lords Covid-19 Committee’s recommendations for long-term resilience and wellbeing

    In a report published in early 2022, the House of Lords Covid-19 Committee called for a “reset” of the state through a new emphasis on governing for the long-term and a new focus on wellbeing. The committee’s recommendations spanned a range of policy areas, from addressing health disparities and supporting families through to expanding devolution and improving public service resilience and preparedness. The government responded to the committee’s recommendations in July 2022.

  • In Focus

    Educational technology: Digital innovation and AI in schools

    The usage of educational technology in UK schools is already growing and likely to increase significantly in coming years, particularly as a result of the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Many commentators suggest that these technologies present significant opportunities but also substantial risks. This briefing examines these issues ahead of a forthcoming debate in the House of Lords.

  • In Focus

    Agricultural fungicides: Impact on long-term food and biological security

    Agricultural fungicides are pesticides which are used to prevent or control plant disease caused by fungi. They can help ensure food availability, affordability and safety. However, they can also have negative environmental effects and exposure to chemical pesticides has been linked to a higher risk of chronic disease in humans. The government is due to publish a revised national action plan on the sustainable use of pesticides by the end of 2023.

  • In Focus

    Long-term segregation in mental health hospitals

    The Independent Care (Education) and Treatment Review (IC(E)TR) programme, chaired by Baroness Hollins, reviewed the care and treatment of 191 people who were detained in long-term segregation between November 2019 and March 2023. On 8 November 2023 a report outlining the review’s findings was published highlighting concerns about the practice of long-term segregation, including a lack of therapeutic benefit. The government’s response to the report was published on the same day. This briefing considers the findings ahead of a debate in the House of Lords.

  • In Focus

    Mental health support for children and young people

    Over recent years there has been a decline in the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. There has also been an increase in demand for mental health services. The government and NHS England have committed to a number of policies intended to increase the availability of these services and improve the quality of care. This article considers the types of care provided and the reaction to these recent policy announcements.