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Policy & Politics is a leading international journal in the field of public and social policy. It spans the boundaries between theory and practice and links macro-scale debates with micro-scale issues. It seeks to analyse new trends and advance knowledge by publishing research at the forefront of academic debates.

Co-Editors: Oscar Berglund, University of Bristol, UK, Claire Dunlop, University of Exeter, UK, Chris Weible, University of Colorado, US

From the Policy and Politics Blog.

Ending gender-based violence: what role does research play?

Ensuring that that our research considers and promotes equality, diversity and inclusion is central to the work we do at the School for Policy Studies. Working in partnership with communities and stake holders to identify research questions that matter and ensuring that studies are co-produced wherever possible helps achieve these aims. This series of blogs looks at some of the ways what we research and how we go about it incorporates EDI principles.


In this blog, Kate Bowen-Viner (Social Policy PhD student) explores how research from the Centre for Gender and Violence is addressing inequalities and tackling gender-based violence.

Introduction

Gender-based violence describes any harmful act towards individuals or groups on the basis of their gender.

It includes domestic violence which UK law defines as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.’

Domestic violence is a gendered crime that is unequally experienced by women and perpetrated by men. It is extremely common in the UK. For the year ending March 2019, the ONS estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse.

Gender-based violence is a well-documented problem and there are many organisations and activists working to stop it. How can research help to address it? Academic staff in the Centre for Gender and Violence Research conduct high quality research, in collaboration with practitioners and activists, to inform action on addressing the inequality that is gender-based violence.

In this blog, I start by explaining why the Centre’s intersectional, inclusive and collaborative approach to research is vital for addressing gender-based violence. I then explain how findings from research projects contribute to ending violence and supporting survivors/victims.

Doing research: why is an intersectional and collaborative approach important?

Intersectionality explains how different social justice issues (e.g. gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age) cross over with one another.

Taking an intersectional approach is important for understanding how different forms of gendered abuse emerge and addressing the needs of marginalised groups who face violence. For example see: Rape, inequality and the criminal justice response in England: the importance of age and gender. This paper takes an intersectional approach and concludes that, ‘(r)esults suggest age and gender are significant factors in how sexual violence, and the criminal justice system (CJS), is experienced. Victims-survivors from BME or LGBTQ+ groups are underrepresented within the CJS, implying these groups are not seeking a criminal justice response in the same way as ‘white’ heterosexual victims-survivors.’

Collaboration with practitioners is also important. As Marianne Hester explains:

“The partnership between practitioners, researchers and activists is absolutely key. We don’t create change if we sit in our little bubbles. We need to work together.”

Using findings: understanding how violence works

The way domestic abuse manifests is constantly changing so it is important to know how violence works and changes in order to act against it, including emerging forms of coercive control. The Understanding and Responding to Coercive Control project addresses a series of important issues in tackling domestic violence and abuse that have not previously been dealt with to any extent, relating specifically to emerging forms of Coercive Control.

Coercive control is defined as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim, for example the use of chemical restraints (abuse via medication). The project will also look into the use of faith and faith practice as part of coercive control; assess domestic violence incidents recorded by the police for evidence of coercive controlling behaviour; improve measurement of coercive control; explore survivors’ mental health for implications on employment and ability to seek safe accommodation; develop briefings on the relationship between coercive control, financial /economic abuse and housing crises faced by DVA victims-survivors; and briefing on the abuse of pets in the context of coercive control.

Another project will be looking at the questions we ask to collect data about domestic abuse from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Conclusion

Research has a role to play in ending gender-based violence, but it does not operate in a silo. The Centre for Gender and violence’s work shows why an intersectional and collaborative approach to research is so important for making change happen.

Read more about some of the issues raised here

Articles and links based on research from the Centre for Gender and Violence Research:

Nine in 10 domestic abusers also target pets, survey finds – The Independent, 24 November 2021

‘My ex-partner would take his anger out on my dog – I’d rather he hurt me’ – The Telegraph, 23 November 2021

Student spikings: universities told to step up prevention efforts – Times Higher Education, 4 November, 2021

‘You couldn’t leave your husband. It just wasn’t done’, The Independent, 02 October 2021

Improving the justice and healthcare response for victims & survivors of gender based violence 

Developing smart cities: where are citizens’ voices? Learning from Mexico City and Bristol

Ensuring that that our research considers and promotes equality, diversity and inclusion is central to the work we do at the School for Policy Studies. Working in partnership with communities and stake holders to identify research questions that matter and ensuring that studies are co-produced wherever possible helps achieve these aims. This series of blogs looks at some of the ways what we research and how we go about it incorporates EDI principles.


In this blog, Kate Bowen-Viner (Social Policy PhD student) explores how research in the Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research is making smart city innovation more inclusive.

Smart city innovation raises questions about citizens’ inclusion and participation in city governance.  The term ‘smart city’ is usually used to describe an urban area that uses digital technology to collect data (e.g. from citizens and the environment) to monitor and manage spaces. Such management may lead to environmental and social benefits in urban areas. For instance, smart city technology can be seen as a way to improve environmental sustainability and citizen’s welfare by optimising cities’ limited resources or monitoring and deterring crime. Whilst these potential benefits appear promising, smart city technology necessitates consideration of equality and inclusion issues related to urban governance, including:

  1. What role could and should citizens play in developing smart cities?
  2. What are the opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities for citizens created by increasing reliance on digital technology?
  3. What does an inclusive approach to smart city development look like?

In this blog, I set out the problem with developing smart cities without citizens’ input and explain how research from the Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research is helping to make smart city innovation more inclusive and equitable.

What’s the problem?

Across the globe, cities are investing in smart infrastructure. The Covid 19 pandemic appears to have accelerated the growth and use of smart city innovations in some places. As the OECD highlighted in July 2020, “the pivotal role of digitalisation in emergency responses to the pandemic has pushed many cities to systematise the use of smart city tools more permanently, while staying alert and monitoring the risk of contagion.”  Whilst the rapid growth of digitalisation in some urban areas may provide solutions to some issues, not including citizens in decisions about smart city infrastructure could create long-term problems, including:

  1. Urban areas and citizens being ‘locked in’ to using certain types of smart city innovation

Decisions to buy digital infrastructure are likely to have long-lasting consequences. If one type of technology (e.g. from a particular company) is installed in an urban area, this may have impacts on what other forms of smart city technology can be used in the city. It may be expensive or difficult to install another type of technology in the future. Thus, not including citizens in decisions about smart city innovations could mean that citizens are forced to use and fund a type of technology that they do not want, for a long time.

  1. Smart city innovation not responding to citizens priorities and interests

If decisions are made about smart urbanism without citizens’ input, innovations may not respond to citizens’ priorities and interests. This could result in some citizens not engaging with smart city innovations and smart city innovations failing to address citizens’ needs.

  1. Individuals or groups being disadvantaged or excluded by smart urbanism

There is a risk that some citizens could be disadvantaged or excluded by smart city innovations. For example, if citizens need a certain level of digital literacy to engage with smart city technology, or if they need certain tools like smart phones, this could exclude some individuals or groups from elements of urban life.

Professor Alex Marsh from the Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research is working with Dr Arturo Flores from Anáhuac University, Mexico to lead research that aims to address these issues. In collaboration with Knowle West Media Centre, Professor Marsh and Dr Flores are leading the Empowering Citizen-Orientated Smart City Innovation in Mexico (ECOSCIM) project which aims to develop a new framework to guide smart city innovation to be more inclusive, responsive and reflexive.

The ECOSCIM Project

The ECOSCIM project aims to develop a framework to guide smart city innovation in a way that pays attention to citizens’ needs and priorities. The project involves examining smart city innovations in Mexico City to see how they measure up to the new framework, as well as investigating the social and political contexts in which Smart City innovation takes place.

To achieve its aims, the ECOSCIM project involves working with citizens, community groups and policy makers in Mexico City to understand different perspectives and to build a new method to help the smart city innovation project. ECOSCIM has a particular focus on Mexico City as the city is large and its smart city innovation has not been researched in great depth. Conducting the research in Mexico City, rather than cities like Singapore or London which have more digital infrastructure, therefore means that the project can shed light on new perspectives about how smart city development can work in different contexts. Whilst the project will help citizens in Mexico City and other parts of Mexico, research findings will also support citizens all over the world who are interested in being involved in smart city innovations.

To carry out the project, the research team is collaborating with Knowle West Media Centre and using the Bristol Approach to understand more about Mexico City citizens’ priorities and to involve them in developing smart city innovation. Developed by Knowle West Media Centre, Ideas for Change and Bristol City Council, the Bristol Approach is a way of working that aims to ‘understand the issues people care about’ and how digital technology might help to address problems that citizens experience in everyday life. It involves local groups working together to identify issues that are affecting their cities and gathering information that will help to tackle those issues. The ECOSCIM project is exploring how the Bristol Approach can be used in Mexico City, as well as how Mexico City is involving citizens in smart city development. These inquiries will feed into the creation of a smart city toolkit aimed at communities.

Toolkit for taking action

The key output from the ECOSCIM project will be a toolkit that will help to make smart urbanism more inclusive and equitable. The toolkit will support citizens to get involved in smart city innovation and help them to address issues or problems that people are facing in their cities. Whilst the toolkit will be based on the research project in Mexico City, the research team intends for it to be helpful to communities across the globe.

Citizens’ voices are important

Research from the Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research is helping to highlight the importance of citizen voice and the necessity for an inclusive approach to smart city innovation. In a world where digital and technological infrastructure is quickly becoming more ubiquitous in urban settings, it is vital to remember: citizens can and should be included in decisions about their cities.


 

Can research help to address inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities?

Ensuring that that our research considers and promotes equality, diversity and inclusion is central to the work we do at the School for Policy Studies. Working in partnership with communities and stake holders to identify research questions that matter and ensuring that studies are co-produced wherever possible helps achieve these aims. This series of blogs looks at some of the ways what we research and how we go about it incorporates EDI principles.


In this blog, Kate Bowen-Viner (Social Policy PhD student) explains how research in the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies is helping to tackle inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities.

Research can and should contribute to improved outcomes for people with learning disabilities. Academics in the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies have revealed the stark inequalities that people with learning disabilities face. Research from the Centre found that the difference in median age of death between people with a learning disability (aged 4 and over) and the general population is 23 years for men and 27 years for women. Projects led by academics in the Centre have also drawn attention to inequalities parents with learning disabilities face, including being more likely to have their children removed from their care compared to other parents whilst not receiving adequate support with parenting. In collaboration with disabled people, research from the Centre is also highlighting how services for people with learning disabilities can improve.

In this blog, I describe three projects carried out by academics in the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies, explain how this research is contributing to improved outcomes for people with learning disabilities and summarise what we can learn from Norah Fry researchers about tackling inequalities through research.

Addressing premature mortality

Research from academics at Norah Fry is helping to reduce premature mortality and health inequalities for people with learning disabilities. Led by the University of Bristol and Professor Pauline Heslop between 2015-2021, the national Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (LeDeR) supported local areas to review the deaths of people with learning disabilities and to take learning from those deaths to improve services. This programme is the first of its kind. It was established after the Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with learning disabilities (CIPOLD), led by Professor Heslop, provided evidence that people with learning difficulties are significantly more likely to die at a younger age compared to the general population and do not receive the same quality of care as people without a learning disability.

The University of Bristol’s involvement in the LeDeR programme came to a planned end in May 2021, but the work undertaken by Professor Heslop and other researchers from the University will have a lasting impact. For instance, with support from the University of Bristol, the LeDeR programme established a central point where all deaths of people with learning disabilities are notified. This central point will continue to be used. During the contracted period with the University of Bristol, the project also analysed core data from local reviewers and produced national annual reports which highlighted key trends. Alongside other achievements of the LeDeR programme, key learning from this research supports improvements in the quality of health and social care services for people with learning disabilities.

NHS England will continue with LeDeR. After reflecting on the programme when their contract with the University of Bristol came to a planned end, they published a revised LeDeR policy which incorporates a review process that will include reviewing the deaths of people with autism.

Supporting parents with learning difficulties

Research in the Centre is also helping to support parents with learning difficulties/disabilities. Parents with learning disabilities are overrepresented in the child protection system largely because of concerns regarding neglect. Reports suggest that professionals do not have adequate time, skills and support to work with parents with learning disabilities and provide them with the help that they need.

In collaboration with groups of parents, Beth Tarleton led research to investigate what good support for parents with learning difficulties looked like in three local authorities. The project used the term ‘learning difficulties’ rather than ‘disabilities’ to refer to parents with learning disabilities and those who do not meet the threshold to receive support, but struggle with everyday life and protecting the welfare of their children. The project explored local authority sites that had been identified as ‘successful practice’ by Working Together with Parents Network which supports professionals who work with parents with learning disabilities.

Based on their research, the project team made key recommendations regarding support for parents with learning disabilities, including:

  • The need for professional support to be both consistent and flexible

Parents learning difficulties are life-long. Therefore, their support needs and circumstances may change over time.

  • Practitioners should build and maintain mutually trusting relationships with parents

This would help to avoid repeated crisis-driven interventions and make sure that ongoing light-touch support can be provided.

This project took a collaborative approach. Input from two advisory groups (one professional advisory group and one parent advisory group) was invaluable for making the research relevant and accessible to parents with learning disabilities. Both groups guided the approach to working with parents. The parent advisory group collaborated with researchers to produce a video to make findings accessible to others with learning difficulties.

Access to housing

Work from researchers in the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies is helping to improve people with learning disabilities’ access to housing. In collaboration with Deborah Quilgars from the University of York and The NIHR School for Social Care Research, academics from Norah Fry are working to understand the ways that people with learning disabilities can be better supported to access their own tenancies, when this is their choice.

The project involves a review of housing for people with mild to moderate learning disabilities, including what tenancy options are available to people with learning disabilities who are on the edge of social care. Detailed interviews will also take place with people with learning disabilities who are living in social housing and private rented tenancies, as well as their families and other people who support them.

This project is being co-produced with a steering group made up of people with learning disabilities. As with other projects in the Centre, guidance from people with lived experience has been invaluable to developing an inclusive approach to research. For instance, the steering group highlighted that advertising for research participants should explicitly request participants from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to avoid studies only listening to the voices of white people with learning disabilities. Prompts like this from people with lived experience are important for maximising inclusivity and taking an intersectional approach that acknowledges how different social justice issues (e.g. disability discrimination and racism) cross over with one another.

Research tackling inequalities

Projects in the Norah Fry Centre for Disability Studies highlights how research can contribute to addressing inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities and also draws attention to the need for:

  1. Co-production

Working with people with learning disabilities to research the inequalities they face helps to make research inclusive and relevant.

  1. An intersectional approach

Acknowledging how different aspects of a person’s identity (e.g. disability, gender, ethnicity) combine to create different forms of discrimination or privilege is important for addressing the inequalities different people with learning disabilities experience.

As demonstrated by projects in Norah Fry, research using these approaches can play an integral role in highlighting, and developing ways to tackle, the stark inequalities faced by people with learning disabilities.

 

 

 

Why Does Inclusion Matter? Physical Activity and Disability

Ensuring that that our research considers and promotes equality, diversity and inclusion is central to the work we do at the School for Policy Studies. Working in partnership with communities and stake holders to identify research questions that matter and ensuring that studies are co-produced wherever possible helps achieve these aims. This series of blogs looks at some of the ways what we research and how we go about it incorporates EDI principles.


In this blog, Kate Bowen-Viner (Social Policy PhD student) explores how research in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health is helping to make physical activity guidelines more inclusive.

The way we talk about physical activity matters. Instructions that try to encourage people to be more active like “stand up more often” or “chairs are killers” may be well-intentioned, but they are ableist and can harm disabled adults and children.

In the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences, researchers have been working to improve physical activity guidelines, including collaborating with disabled adults, young people and children to develop sets of activity guidelines that are applicable to disabled people.

In this blog, I set out the problem with physical activity guidelines that do not consider disabled people and explain how co-produced research in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences is helping to ensure that guidelines for physical activity are not ableist, but more inclusive.

What’s the problem?

Research indicates that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive compared to non-disabled people. In 2017 Sport England reported that 43% of disabled people were inactive (doing less than 30 minutes physical activity a day) compared to 21% of non-disabled adults in England. Inactivity is a problem for disabled people’s health as evidence suggests that engaging in physical activity is related to positive health outcomes. It is therefore vital that activity guidelines are inclusive of, and applicable to, disabled people.

In 2011, the Department of Health published UK physical health guidelines, issued by the Chief Medical Officers. These were the first nationwide activity guidelines in the UK and they included guidance for adults and children of all ages. A set of related infographics were also produced to support health professionals to promote healthy living and to empower individuals to stay active. However, with little evidence on disability and activity at the time they were produced, the guidelines had limited applicability to disabled adults and children. The 2011 guidelines did not specifically consider disabled people and disabled people’s voices were not included in the public health messaging around physical activity.

To promote health equitably, it is crucial that the development and roll-out of national activity guidelines include disabled people’s voices and take account of their experiences. This is especially important given that harmful ableist language features in many everyday discussions about the importance of physical activity (e.g. “don’t sit for too long”) and needs to be challenged.

In collaboration with disabled people and other researchers, Charlie Foster OBE from the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health’s has been working to address these issues. Embracing inclusive practices and being open to challenge has been of utmost importance for this work. As Professor Foster explained:

We need to consider inclusivity at every stage of the research process and be open to challenge. If you’re not considering equalities, diversity and inclusion, you’re going to overlook the people who would benefit most from the work. I don’t mean the government; I mean the users and participants.”

Below, I describe two projects conducted in collaboration with disabled adults and children and explain how co-production and attentiveness to inclusivity has helped, and is helping, to improve activity guidelines for disabled people.

Collaborating with disabled adults

Starting in 2018, Professor Charlie Foster led a review of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ 2011 physical activity guidelines, which included analysing existing evidence regarding the benefits of physical activity in disabled adults. This involved collating evidence on disabled adults and physical activity for health benefits and comparing evidence to the CMO’s 2011 physical activity guidelines. The review found little evidence to show ‘that physical activity is unsafe for disabled adults when it is performed at an appropriate dose for their current level of activity and health conditions’ and provided evidence, aligning with the CMO’s 2011 guidelines, that disabled adults should do 150 minutes of physical activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity for health benefits.

Importantly, the review also involved collaborations with disabled adults, disability groups and healthcare professionals to produce public health recommendations. It also led to researchers and disabled people working together to create a set of infographics which summarised key evidence-based messages regarding physical activity. The colour and layout of the infographics were designed considering the needs of learning-disabled people. This resulted in more accessible infographics that would not have been possible without disabled adults’ input.

The co-produced review and infographics informed the CMO’s adult physical activity guidelines which were published in 2019, meaning that disabled people’s voices and experiences informed national guidelines. This was the first-time disabled adults were explicitly considered in physical activity guidelines.

 

Collaborating with disabled children

Professor Charlie Foster OBE is now supporting an evidence review of physical activity guidelines for children, with a particular focus on disabled children. This review will help to fill a gap in the existing physical activity guidelines. With limited evidence regarding disabled children and activity at the time the 2011 and 2019 guidelines were published, disabled children were not considered specifically in the guidelines.  Similar to the review of the benefits of physical activity for disabled adults, this review will involve analysing the existing research base regarding disabled children and activity. Publication is expected in mid-November 2021.

The project now involves collaborating with disabled school pupils to develop public health messaging and infographics to summarise and promote key messages about activity and health for disabled children, led by Professor Brett Smith at the University of Durham With a focus on prioritising disabled children’s voices and learning from their experiences, this is the first physical activity project of its kind.

The process of collaborating with disabled children in this project highlights the benefits of inclusive approaches to research. Co-production will be integral for ensuring that disabled children’s voices inform national guidelines on physical activity. By drawing on their personal experience, the pupils who take part in this project will contribute to making physical activity guidelines relevant to disabled children.

Improving health outcomes equitably

To improve health outcomes equitably, disabled people must be considered and their voices must be included in the development of physical activity guidelines. Research in the Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences demonstrates the benefits of working with disabled adults and children to promote the health benefits disabled people can achieve by engaging in regular physical activity.

 

 

Social differentiation in later life: the interaction between housing wealth and retirement in the UK and Japan

‘Social differentiation in later life: The 2nd UK-Japan international collaborative workshop exploring the interaction between (housing) wealth and retirement’

By Misa Izuhara, Professor of Social Policy

Who supports you in your transition to retirement? Is it the state, your employer or are you left to yourself to manage? Do you have sufficient financial resources including your own home to choose when to retire? Do you need to have paid work or will you look for different social participation such as volunteering after retirement? The process of retirement is becoming more complex and differentiated in terms of timing and financial resources. Active ageing policies in many advanced economies encourage older workers to remain in the labour market. However, the reasons and opportunities to do so depend on both market and institutions (e.g. retirement age, social security, attitudes of employers) as well as individual capital (e.g. health, skills, financial resources).

After a long break from the first workshop in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we re-convened via an online platform to explore those questions at the second collaborative international workshop on 17th September 2021. This workshop is part of the UK-Japan collaborative project ‘Social Differentiation in Later Life: Exploring the interaction between housing wealth and retirement in Japan and the UK’ which brings together scholars and stakeholders with the different disciplinary backgrounds of social policy, economics and management to examine the relationship between housing wealth and the extending working life of ageing baby-boomers in the contrasting welfare systems of the UK and Japan.

Five papers were presented covering inter-related themes:

  • Matt Flynn (University of Hull) talked about older workers’ mid-career job change in the UK and Japan and how institutional structures like internal and external labour markets; regulations; unions and jobseeker support facilitate and/or inhibit older jobseekers in their pursuit of meaningful second careers. Using Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach and illustrating his arguments using interview data of older jobseekers in the two countries, he discussed how older jobseekers were able to mobilise resources to make a successful job change. He concluded by noting that people who leave the Armed Forces after the age of 50 in order to pursue a civilian career might be a useful case study for comparing the experiences of people making mid-career job changes across different countries.
  • Jo Stokes (Community Services Manager, Age UK Bristol) highlighted the importance of a holistic approach to retirement in her presentation “What have we learnt from Post-Retirement Opportunities (PRO) programme”. PRO was a project, delivered by LinkAge Network in 2018-19, supporting people who had recently retired, were approaching retirement, or facing redundancy in later life to manage the transition from work to retirement. The programme delivered free workshops, events and work placements to help older workers explore opportunities and discover what they wanted from the next phase of their life. This presentation argued the importance of social participation and connections for older people beyond paid work in their post-retirement age and the role of the voluntary sector supporting the process.
  • Widening wealth inequalities within and between generations was the theme of the following two presentations. Drawing on the data from the Japan Household Panel Survey, Shinichiro Iwata (Kanagawa University) and Junya Hamaaki (Hosei University) examined the impact of unpredicted shocks to house prices on labour supply decisions among older homeowners. They found that Japanese older homeowners tended to remain in the labour market even when they experienced house price inflation. Instead of leaving the labour market, older workers tended to reduce their working hours. However, such practice differs by income level and employment status since reduced hours are only observed among older men in regular employment with a high income and women in non-regular employment. The presentation raised further questions regarding the use of housing wealth in later life including the availability and actual use of equity release schemes.
  • While the Japan paper discussed the impact of the economic crisis on house prices, James Smith (The Resolution Foundation) revealed the uneven impact of the COVID-19 crisis on wealth accumulation between households and between generations. The COVID-19 crisis is the first UK recession in 70 years in which wealth has increased but these gains are concentrated among households at the top of the income distribution. This partly reflects the effect on active changes in households’ savings and debt, varied by age but also by the labour market experiences and personal circumstances of individuals. For example, younger people without children were most likely to report that their savings increased during the pandemic (‘forced savings’ given the lockdown restrictions on social consumption). But changes in the value of household wealth were more affected by changing asset prices than by active changes in savings and debt. UK house prices are up around 10 per cent and equities are more than 20 per cent higher. These asset price increases drove an even larger intergenerational wedge in wealth shock. During the pandemic, adults aged 55 and older accrued 63 per cent (£559 billion) of the total increase in British household wealth (£900 billion). By contrast, those aged 20-40 accounted for just 13 per cent (£117 billion) of the total wealth rise. These large, and generationally uneven, increases in wealth mean that the picture of stalled wealth progress for younger cohorts is unlikely to come unstuck anytime soon. By way of inheritances, they are also likely to exacerbate absolute wealth gaps within younger generations, which we expect to open up in future.
  • Brian Beach from University College London (formerly International Longevity Centre, UK) presented three pieces of comparative work between Japan and the UK in relation to ageing. The first example covered work published in Ageing & Society, which included seven advanced economies and examined policies related to pensions and retirement and their relationship to labour market participation in later life. Scored across four dimensions each for early retirement and later retirement, Japan and the UK were quite similar in their scores, despite having very different rates of employment among older people. This may suggest that cultural factors related to work play a significant role, above that of policy.

The second example covered a fact-finding study in Japan in May 2017, which highlighted different initiatives to address wellbeing and healthy ageing. Genki-zukuri (health creation) stations are one community-based approach in Yokohama that helps older people set up, develop, and run health-based activities and exercises. Days BLG!, in Machida City, was also featured for its innovative approach to providing day care to people with mild and moderate dementia. With links to local businesses and organisations, the service ensures that participants are engaged according to their capacity, with the group reflecting on their activities at the end of each day.

The third example highlighted the work from the UK-Japan SWAN project (Social relationships and Wellbeing in Ageing Nations). The importance of social connections for wellbeing and other outcomes in later life cannot be underestimated, but challenges appear when conducting comparative analyses in the social realm due to the complexity of measuring social connections. The critical message from this work is that people from different groups, backgrounds, or cultures may view the exact same question differently; ignoring this potential difference risks drawing invalid conclusions from comparative work exploring best practice in policy.

The presentations brought together different issues associated with ageing and work such as work-related transitions, post-retirement opportunities, and widening wealth inequalities, which generated lively discussion among the panellists and participants. Retirement processes and decisions are often not experienced or made independently from one another. The workshop indeed highlighted the dynamic interactions between (housing) wealth and retirement trajectories and decisions. Moreover, we drew interesting comparisons by exploring the topics between Japan and the UK since institutions (social security, retirement age), the housing and labour markets as well as cultural factors related to work and home ownership combine to produce differentiated practices of late career transitions and retirements.

This international project is funded by the UK Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) UK-Japan Connections Grant. The Principal Investigator is Professor Misa Izuhara, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol, UK. The project members include Professor Shinichiro Iwata (Co-I) (Kanagawa University, Japan), Professor Matthew Flynn (Hull University), Professor Junya Hamaaki (Hosei University, Japan) and Professor Atsuhiro Yamada (Keio University, Japan).

 

Contact:

Misa Izuhara, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (E: M.Izuhara@bristol.ac.uk, T: @MisaIzuhara)

 

 

Blog from the winner of Policy & Politics 2021 postgraduate prize

Blog by Doug Cooley, winner of the Policy & Politics 2021 postgraduate prize to the student achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Power, Politics and the Policy Process’ unit of the Masters in Public Policy at the School for Policy Studies.

Originally published on the Policy and Politics Blog.

I’m Doug Cooley, and have just finished a one-year Masters in Public Policy at the University of Bristol, home to the Policy & Politics journal. I hope to use this MPP as a basis to conduct future academic or practical policy work. During the year, I have focussed my research on various theoretical concepts, including policy transfer, and power structures in the policy process, applying these concepts to neoliberal mechanisms in the Global Financial System, and to the UK’s local governance structures. I am delighted to have won the Policy & Politics prize for achieving the highest overall mark on the unit ‘Power, Politics and the Policy Process’ as part of the MPP programme.

In this post, I highlight a piece of my work which explores the link between policy transfer, which I define as replication of policy instruments between polities, and institutional isomorphism, or the convergence of organisational structures and governance mechanisms. The relative lack of literature on the link is surprising, given how intuitively similar these ideas are, and the different normative connotations of the two concepts. Policy transfer emphasises the benefits of learning between polities, whereas institutional isomorphism is seen as a constraining influence on innovation.

I posit, building on Radaelli (2002), that there may be a complex interconnectedness between policy transfer and institutional isomorphism. I explore this both theoretically, and empirically through the lens of central banking, and suggest this might be an avenue for future research. As Frumkin and Galaskiewicz (2004) argue, it seems likely that policy transfer can result in institutional isomorphism, for example where public sector organisations work together to develop a joint response in times of upheaval.

Furthermore, a reverse causal relationship is also apparent: in line with Stone (2001), the influence of international institutions has caused similar government bodies in different polities to look more and more alike, which has engendered convergence in the actual policies implemented by these institutions.

Comparing central banking structures is a valuable avenue for exploring the link between these two concepts. Marcussen (2005) focussed on central bank independence as an example of policy convergence, whereby, through the 1990s many central banks were structurally reformed, being granted increased independence from political influence.  Moreover, there was remarkable alignment in the timing with which the major central banks implemented Quantitative Easing following the Global Financial Crisis. Policy transfer hence appears to be prevalent in central banking.

I use central banking as a case study to explore the theoretical link between policy transfer and institutional isomorphism.  The use of similar policy instruments by different central banks, and an increased homogeneity of the underlying decision-making structures (such as policy committees), have happened concurrently. I suggest reasons for this, including coercive pressure by influential NGOs, and a desire to appease markets under the neoliberal global economic paradigm. These factors have led policymakers to ensure that their monetary policy mechanisms are in step with the global policy community and led to both policy transfer and to institutional isomorphism in this context.

Central banking, therefore, provides an intriguing example of an area where it appears that policy transfer and institutional isomorphism coincide. The mechanisms through which this occurs, and the causal interaction between the two concepts, indicate valuable future research avenues. This could take the form of close reading of policy documents and data analysis to further identify areas of convergence between central banks, and interviews with policymakers to understand similarities and differences in soft power structures, and how these interact with the convergence of policy instruments.

I hope to be able to explore these important issues further in the future, but in the meantime, I will continue to read others’ research in the area, much of which appears in this journal, such as Overcoming the failure of ‘silicon somewheres’: learning in policy transfer processes by Sarah Giest, Successful policy transfer and public sector reform in developing countries by Lhawang Ugyel and Carsten Daugbjerg, and Diane Stone’s article on Understanding the transfer of policy failure: bricolage, experimentalism and translation.

Blog from the winner of Policy & Politics 2021 undergraduate prize

Blog by Lara Gordge, winner of the Policy & Politics 2021 undergraduate prize to the student achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit at the School for Policy Studies

Originally published on the Policy and Politics Blog.

My name is Lara and I’m currently about to enter my final year of the BSc Social Policy with Criminology undergraduate degree at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (home of the Policy & Politics journal). Winning the student prize for the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit came as quite a surprise, but I’m thrilled and honoured to have been chosen. All of my peers are brilliant thinkers and so very talented, so to win has given me a lot of confidence in my academic ability.

One of the main things I loved about the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit was the ability to write about such a broad variety of topics. One of the essays I enjoyed the most focused on two key questions around power within policymaking in the realm of behavioural economics – who is given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the greater good, and why are those decisions considered the right ones to make?

Since behavioural economics focuses on the presumed irrationality of human beings and how good decision making may be inhibited by different social or psychological factors, my essay relies on the principle that people’s choices are largely predictable and manufactured by their environment (coined by Thaler and Sunstein (2003, 2008) as choice architecture.) Therefore, I discuss the ways in which policymakers exploit the biases that are inherent in us all in order to subconsciously ‘nudge’ individuals towards certain choices. I focus on herding and status-quo bias as two main examples of choice architecture, largely due to the ease of which policymakers are able to manipulate inexorable defaults and the human tendency to conform.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein (Penguin, 2009)

However, while writing this essay, discovering how easily our ability to make informed decisions can be undermined – even coerced – by those in power changed the overall tone and focus of my writing. I explored the shortcomings and criticisms of behavioural economics, focusing largely on the idea that nudges could be used to influence negative choices just as easily as positive ones depending on the intentions of the policymakers.

As behavioural economics relies on the notion that humans are imperfect and make flawed decisions, I make the assumption that surely those with the power to implement policy interventions are also primed to make bad decisions. Schmidt (2017) adds here that the ability to systematically nudge people allows those with the power to foist their will onto others, while possibly holding unobjective views regarding what constitutes a ‘bad’ decision.

Ultimately, my essay poses one major debate: who is the best judge of a ‘good’ decision – the individual, or the state? I conclude by stating that on the one hand, nudging can be an inexpensive method of encouraging healthy behaviour changes and creating small-scale, meaningful benefits at the individual level. But concerns over behavioural economics becoming too paternalistic remain – as exploiting human imperfection without the consent of the people will always be considered by some to be an immoral infringement on individual liberty.

I hope to be able to explore these important issues further in the future, but in the meantime, I will continue to read others research in the area, such as the recent special issue on nudge published in Policy and Politics. You can download the introductory article for free here.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Special Issue: Volume 49, Number 1, 2021
Beyond nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of behavioural public policy and administration
Guest edited by Benjamin Ewert, Kathrin Loer and Eva Thomann

 

 

Professor Phyllida Parsloe 1930-2021

Professor Phyllida Parsloe          J. Wilson – University of Bristol

Inaugural Professor of Social Work at the University of Bristol, first female Pro-Vice Chancellor and Warden of Wills Hall and Emeritus Professor in the School for Policy Studies, Professor Phyllida Parsloe died age 90 on 1st September. During a long and distinguished career, she made an immense contribution to social work education and research and to the development of social work as a profession. Further, her personal and academic credentials made it impossible for the male culture of the time to sidestep her and led her into senior roles in UK universities.

John Carpenter, Emeritus Professor of Social Work and Applied Social Science, writes:  Alongside her close friend and colleague, Professor Olive Stevenson at Nottingham, Phyllida Parsloe was regarded as a doyenne of social work in the UK. Blessed with a formidable intellect and clarity of expression, she would pick apart woolly thinking and challenge specious argument whether in writing about social work or in university committees. More than this, her ability to respect and understand the needs of each person as an individual enabled her to move debates forward and alleviate entrenched positions.

During the 1970s, social work was finding its feet following major developments in social welfare, notably the creation of social services departments in local authorities, the professionalisation of probation and the growth of the voluntary sector. Professor Parsloe’s voice carried great authority: unlike many critics of social work, she had been a practitioner herself and with Olive Stevenson, she had researched what social workers at the time were actually doing and thinking (Stevenson and Parsloe: Social Services Teams: the practitioners’ view, 1978 and Social Service Area Teams, 1981). She very evidently knew what she was talking about. She commanded the room. But her authority derived also from her humanity and quiet generosity to many: she was generous with her time and her ideas, but she wanted first to know what you thought. If your ideas made sense, you would get her full support. If not, she would help you examine them rigorously and fairly and develop them more sustainably. Her many doctoral students from Hong Kong and the UK would attest to this.

Phyllida had great ideas herself. Recognising from her own experience that the lack of good professional cooperation between doctors and social workers was to the detriment of patients/clients, she persuaded the Bristol University medical school to engage in a short programme of joint pre-qualifying interprofessional education – the first in the world. She brought ‘problem-based learning’, pioneered at McMaster University for the education of medical students, into the education of social workers as ‘enquiry and action learning’.  Hers was the inspiration; her colleagues made the ideas a reality, with her support. Determined to develop the pedagogy of social work education and its evidence base, she became the founding editor of Social Work Education: an international journal (1981). Under her leadership, Bristol acquired an international reputation as a centre of excellence in social work education. She had a special relationship with universities in Hong Kong and was a visiting professor first at Hong Kong and later at Hong Kong Baptist University.

At a national level, Phyllida Parsloe was a prominent member (1986-2001) of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work, then the regulating body for the profession, the Barclay Commission review of social work (1982) and the Wagner review of residential care (1988).

Phyllida combined again with Olive Stevenson to research the notion of ‘empowerment’ (Community Care and Empowerment 1993). The incisive introduction to her edited book Pathways to Empowerment (1996) remains well worth reading by social workers, counsellors and others who believe that they can ‘empower’ their clients. In her view, pathways to empowerment are those whereby people can increase control over their own lives and the services which they receive.

Phyllida Parsloe had graduated in history at Bristol University and qualified in psychiatric social work at the LSE. She was awarded a PhD by Bristol university and an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of the West of England.

Phyllida worked as a probation officer in Devon (1954-1959) and at St George’s Hospital, London as a psychiatric social worker (1959 to 1965). She returned to the LSE as a lecturer in the Department of Social Administration (1965-1970). In 1970 Phyllida was appointed as Associate Professor in Law at the University of Indiana in the United States where she taught law students how to interview. She returned to the UK as the first Professor of Social Work and the first female professor at Aberdeen University (1973-1978) where she established a department.

Professor Parsloe was appointed as the first Chair in Social Work at Bristol in 1978 and only the university’s second female professor. She held this post until her retirement in 1996 when she was appointed Professor Emeritus. A further measure of her stature with the university was that she was the first woman to be appointed as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University (1988-1991); in that role she once again proved her integrity, clarity and vision. She chaired a review of university halls of residence, seeing them as a place where the whole person was developed, not just their academic credentials.  Subsequently, she was an ‘inspired’ appointment as Warden of Wills Hall (1991-1997), the first woman to take this role. She enjoyed it enormously. It was a source of many anecdotes, including repelling an invasion of Viking marauders (conference delegates in fancy dress) who burst into her room at night; she awoke, they fled.

Following her retirement from the university, Phyllida took up senior roles within the health service as chair of the Frenchay Hospital NHS Trust, and subsequently of the North Bristol NHS Trust (1999-2003). She lived in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire for many years, became a town councillor and its mayor three times. She served as a trustee of many local and national charities and was a founder of Dementia Voice which enables people with experience of the disease to contribute to the work of the Alzheimer’s Society.

The School for Policy Studies, the University of Bristol and her many colleagues and friends and students around the world owe her a great debt of gratitude. She once wrote of her concern to prepare social work students for the complex and often hostile world they were about to enter. She wanted to “…help them keep alive their faith in being able to change the world at least a little…”. Phyllida’s life was an inspiration and example.

If you would like to add a tribute or share a memory, please write in the comment box below.

It’s time to flip the sexist script

It's time to flip the sexist script cover images

This article was originally published by Women’s Aid in their Safe blog.

 

Tuesday 20th July 2021: Today, Women’s Aid and the University of Bristol publish new research, “Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for Policy and Practice”. Lizzie McCarthy (Knowledge Exchange Fellow – based in the Centre for Gender and Violence Research while undertaking this research) and Sarah Davidge explain why it is vital that we recognise the role sexism and misogyny play in setting the scene for domestic abuse. 

At Women’s Aid we often get asked, ‘why do you say domestic abuse is gendered?’

Our answer would be that even though anyone can experience domestic abuse and should have access to appropriate support, the evidence shows us that  there is a disproportionate impact on women. We know that women are more likely to experience domestic abuse, are more likely to be subjected to coercive control (those abusive actions that restrict personal freedom and instil fear) and are more likely to be seriously physically and mentally harmed or killed. The kinds of support they need also tend to be very different.  

The question we ask is, why are women so much more likely to experience abuse and why is this experience so different to men?

The answer is because domestic abuse perpetrated by men against women is part of wider sexism and misogyny. It is rooted in women’s unequal status in society and is part of the wider social problem of male violence against women and girls. The root causes of domestic abuse are different for women and so the responses to tackling that abuse in policy and practice have to be different  too.  Similarly, it is important to consider how other experiences of inequality shape survivors’ experiences of abuse- including the barriers and discrimination faced by Black and minoritised survivors, LGBT+ survivors, disabled survivors and older and teen survivors.   

We know from our work with survivors that sexism and misogyny permeate their experiences of domestic abuse.

Feminist writers and activists have been speaking out about harmful gendered stereotypes and their link to male violence against women and girls for decades. Women’s Aid and the University of Bristol have come together to take a fresh look at this. Together, we analysed the interview transcripts of 37 survivors who had taken part in the recent ESRC* funded Justice, Inequality and Gender-based Violence Project. We looked for ‘gendering discourses’ to see where sexism and misogyny had played a part in survivors’ experiences of abuse. 

Today (20th July 2021)  we’ve published a report on the findings, Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for policy and practice.   

We found that sexist myths which are part of everyday society had enabled and shaped the survivors’ experiences of abuse. Here are three common sexist scripts that featured in survivors’ experiences of abuse, with quotes from the survivors we interviewed:  

1. Sexist script: Women and men should play traditional roles in the household

Flipped script: Patriarchal roles in the home can enable domestic abuse

“It really became apparent to me in … we moved in together … and it was very much … it was my job to run the household, and his to basically tell me what to do.” 

“Just to be subservient and just do everything that he said and not to have a voice or an opinion,…”   

“…[he] didn’t lift a finger round the house but expected me to do it. I’d be called to account if things weren’t done.” 

“…kind of everything revolved around him…” 

Survivors spoke about a hierarchy of roles in their homes or intimate relationships. For the survivors we interviewed, the man was in charge as the ‘head of the household’, and the woman had the unchosen role of the ‘homemaker’. The survivors were tasked with household chores or running the home efficiently, without having any say in how this work was carried out. They spoke of how their male intimate partners often dictated exacting rules about how household work had to be performed, even though the men usually refused to participate in this work themselves. Male authority in the household or relationship was both underpinned and reinforced by male violence and abuse. Evan Stark in his 2007 book on Coercive Control argues that it is easier for men to coerce women through household work (rather than vice versa) because this is already socially accepted as ‘women’s work’ (i.e. these are household roles that women are already socially expected to perform).  

2. Sexist script: Women are sexual objects

Flipped script: The sexual objectification of women underpins domestic abuse

“And I think just sort of like the society that we live in at the moment it very much pushes that idea … women are objects and they’re very much sexualised and … like yeah, they’re there for men, like yeah there for the use of … which is … yeah that’s really bad.”   

The female survivors we interviewed often described themselves, and how they perceived others saw them, in terms of sexual objects. They were seen as existing for the pleasure of men and expected to engage in sexual activity that was controlled and defined by their abusive male intimate partners. The interview transcripts included reports of many offensive sexualised terms used against women (“dirty bitch”, “slag”, “slut”, “nympho”)  that were never applied to men. Women  were seen as possessions, aggressively and jealously guarded by their male partners or ‘owners’.  The survivors commonly described being routinely subjected to rape and sexual coercion and harassment in their intimate relationships. It was this most intimate part of a relationship that abusive men used to cement their power and control over women. 

3. Sexist script: Woman are crazy and over-emotional

Flipped script: Women are silenced with the labels of ‘crazy’ or ‘over-emotional’ when they try to talk about domestic abuse

“The courts are extremely sexist places, and there is still very much a thing about an angry loud woman is crazy, you know, and abusive men are charming … and charming with professionals.”  

“…they’re painting me as this crazy woman…”  

The survivors we interviewed told us how labels of mental illness had long-lasting negative implications for them. Survivors themselves were seen as problematic rather than the abuse and violence committed against them being identified as the problem. This label of ‘crazy’ was a tool perpetrators could use to threaten survivors or call their credibility into question. Being mentally ill, or showing mental or emotional distress, seemed to be all too easily linked into wider stereotypes about women as a group being supposedly unstable, over-emotional or hysterical. Labels of being mentally unwell overshadowed many of the survivors’ experiences of external responses to domestic abuse (including in court, in interactions with the police and responses from friends and family) and formed a significant barrier to accessing justice and support.  

How can we flip the sexist script?  

Along with our new report “Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse”, we have today launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #FlipTheSexistScript. It is impossible to disentangle women’s experiences of domestic abuse from the violence, abuse and harassment that they are subject to elsewhere in their lives. Here‘s what we think needs to happen to #FlipTheSexistScript: 

  • Specialist domestic abuse services that are run by women, for women, understand how women’s experiences of abuse have been shaped by lifelong experiences of sexism and misogyny, and only they can help women truly recover from abuse. Similarly, those services that are led by and for women from minoritised groups, such as services for Black and minoritised survivors, disabled survivors and LGBT+ survivors are often best placed to support survivors who have been subject to multiple forms of violence and oppression. They all desperately need sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding.  
  • The root causes of domestic abuse by men against women lie in the disempowerment, objectification and silencing of women. The response must be building empowering spaces for women, challenging inequality and giving all women a voice, including women from minoritised groups. But these are under severe threat from dangerous ‘gender neutral’ funding approaches. You can take action to flip the sexist script by signing  our petition to require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women.  
  • Policy-makers and legislators must consistently recognise domestic abuse as a form of violence against women and girls. Unless we address inequality, we will never end domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has brought many positive changes for survivors, but in its statutory definition (the first ever statutory definition of domestic abuse) the government missed the opportunity to recognise the gendered nature of domestic abuse in law. We are also very concerned that the government is currently proposing to fragment domestic abuse from the violence against women and girls (VAWG) strategy. We strongly believe that domestic abuse must be part of single comprehensive, holistic and integrated framework to address VAWG.  
  • Structural inequalities create power imbalances in everyday life which enable violence, abuse and harassment. To end this we all must challenge all forms of discrimination and inequality. We all need to work together to call out the sexism and misogyny that enable and entitle men to demean, objectify, abuse and control women. We need to unlearn gender stereotypes, unpick power imbalances, and unteach misogyny.  

Feminist writers and activists around the time when Women’s Aid began in the 1970s (and even earlier than this) warned of the harm caused by social norms about masculinity and femininity. Our research shows that these warnings remain as pertinent today as ever. It is time (in fact, it is long overdue) to recognise that until we challenge sexism and misogyny and their prominence in our society, we cannot effectively tackle domestic abuse. In other words, it’s time to flip the sexist script.   

Want to join us in challenging sexism and misogyny?

  • Read our new report, Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for policy and practice here
  • Follow our social media campaign #FlipTheSexistScript   
  • Sign our petition to require local authorities to fund specific domestic abuse services for women.  
  • Join the Women’s Aid Campaign Champions and support our national campaigns on a local level, give survivors of domestic abuse a voice and help to ensure that politicians and other key decision makers are listening.  
  • Women’s Aid is working in partnership with Yves Saint Laurent Beauty to educate children and young people about intimate partner violence and challenge assumptions about gender, power and equality. If you work with children and young people, sign up to become an Expect Respect Advocate.  

  *Economic and Social Research Council