• In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Welfare

    The government has not signalled a specific welfare bill for the upcoming King’s Speech. However, it has committed to make some reforms to the benefits system that may require legislation. These include measures to reduce benefits fraud and error, and changes to the enforcement of child maintenance payments.

  • In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Pensions

    The chancellor’s Mansion House speech in July 2023 included a range of reforms to private pensions that may require primary legislation. These included initiatives to consolidate the defined contribution and defined benefit pensions sectors, and to encourage greater investment by pension funds in UK companies.

  • In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Levelling up, housing and communities

    The King’s Speech is set to take place on 7 November 2023. This briefing considers the possible measures the government may announce relating to levelling up, housing and communities. This includes introducing legislation to reform the leasehold system. In addition, carry-over motions agreed in the previous parliamentary session will see the continuation of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, Holocaust Memorial Bill and Renters (Reform) Bill.

  • In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Education

    There have been a number of high-profile announcements regarding education in the last year, such as proposed changes to A-levels and T-levels announced in October 2023. However, it is unclear when these measures will be introduced. Elements of the Schools Bill, abandoned during the 2022–23 parliamentary session, will likely be included in the 2023 King’s Speech. Notably, the government has indicated it intends to introduce a register of children not in school.

  • In Focus

    King’s Speech 2023: Health and social care

    The government will set out its legislative programme for the new parliamentary session in the King’s Speech set to be delivered on 7 November 2023. The speech and accompanying briefing notes are expected to detail certain health and social care-related initiatives, including measures to restrict the sale of tobacco products to young people and a draft Conversion Therapy Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in the new session.

  • Current Affairs Digest

    Current Affairs Digest: Science—part 2 (October 2023)

    Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are changing medical diagnostics. Trained on vast datasets of images and research, AI tools are designed to interpret scans, refine images for clinical review and map anatomy ahead of treatment. AI has the potential to save clinician time, costs and workload. This briefing presents a range of studies on applications, accuracy and challenges.

  • In Focus

    Impact of ultra-processed food on children’s health

    Ultra-processed foods have undergone a high degree of industrial processing and are typically high in calories, salt, saturated fat and sugar. Studies have linked these foods to obesity and other health risks. The government has expressed its concern over these potential links but has stated that the underlying causes are not yet fully understood. Therefore, government policy has focused on reducing the consumption of foods high in salt, saturated fat and sugar.

  • In Focus

    Access to music education in schools

    Music forms part of the national curriculum up to key stage three. However, evidence suggests there is significant variability between schools in the provision of music teaching. The government has committed to improving and expanding music teaching in schools through measures in the ‘National plan for music education’, published in June 2022.

  • In Focus

    Reforming adult social care: House of Lords committee report

    Government plans for adult social care have undergone several changes in the last decade. In December 2022, the House of Lords Adult Social Care Committee published a report examining the adult social care system and making recommendations to make it a “progressive, visible, fairer and kinder system”. In July 2023, the government published a response. It pointed to commitments in its April 2023 white paper, including reform of the adult social care workforce, housing for people who required care and tackling delayed discharge and unnecessary admissions to hospitals.

  • In Focus

    Reforming children’s social care: Public Services Committee inquiry

    In February 2023, the government opened a consultation on its new children’s social care strategy. The House of Lords Public Services Committee held a short inquiry to gather evidence on the proposed reforms. Although the committee largely welcomed the strategy’s focus on creating stable homes and using family networks, it raised concerns including around funding and the scale and pace of reforms.

  • In Focus

    Improving schools’ performance: Are multi-academy trusts the answer?

    Academy schools have grown significantly in number since the beginning of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010. In 2023, the government reiterated its support for academies, stating that it wants to “ensure all pupils and schools benefit from being in a high-quality multi-academy trust”. This article explores the development of government policy on academies and the extent to which multi-academy trusts help under-performing schools.

  • In Focus

    Teaching citizenship and life skills in schools

    Citizenship education is included in the national curriculum for secondary schools in England (and therefore compulsory in maintained schools) and forms part of a non-statutory framework in primary schools. Skills such as financial capability are also delivered through non-statutory personal, social, health and economic education. However, there have been several calls to strengthen citizenship and life skills education in schools, including from two recent parliamentary inquiries. This article examines those issues ahead of a forthcoming debate in the House of Lords.

  • In Focus

    Osteoporosis and fracture liaison services: Reducing future fracture risk

    Fracture liaison services are designed to proactively identify people who have had a fracture which may have been caused by osteoporosis. Patients can then be assessed and given appropriate treatment or signposting, with the aim of treating the underlying condition and preventing future fractures. The provision of fracture liaison services in England has been referred to as a ‘postcode lottery’ by the Royal Osteoporosis Society, and evidence shows variation in quality and provision.

  • In Focus

    Expanding the use of controlled drugs in healthcare

    In 2019 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended that paramedics be able to independently prescribe and administer a small number of controlled drugs, including morphine sulphate, diazepam and codeine phosphate. This followed an NHS England recommendation and would be subject to paramedics completing appropriate training. The government responded in 2022 to say it accepted this recommendation and would table regulations to effect this and associated changes when time allowed.

  • In Focus

    Housing in rural and coastal communities

    Issues such as the growth in short-term lettings and second homes disproportionately impact housing issues in rural and coastal areas. This exacerbates an already complex housing situation nationally. Charities and campaign groups have called for government intervention, arguing that the negative impacts, such as a shortage of affordable housing, are hollowing out rural and coastal areas.