The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (June 2021)

What will the public services we use look like in the future? The Serco Institute’s new monthly digest – 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗧𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁 – pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.

Covid-19, vaccines & lockdowns

The great unequalizer: Initial health effects of COVID-19 in the United States American Enterprise Institute / National Bureau of Economic Research (US)

This detailed, data-rich report looks at the health inequalities – particularly in relation to race – resulting from Covid-19. Looking at mortality and hospitalisation rates in the US, the report finds that Hispanic, Black and Native American communities were disproportionately affected by the virus, particularly when assessed using the “years of potential life lost metric”. 

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Responses on Excess Mortality National Bureau of Economic Research (US)

Examining 43 countries and all US states, this piece of research looks at the relationship between deaths and shelter-in-place (SIP) or stay-at-home policies. It claims to find that excess mortality increases in the immediate weeks following the introduction of SIP policies and then trends below zero following 20 weeks of SIP implementation. They also claim that there is no evidence that countries or US states that implemented SIP policies earlier, had lower excess deaths than countries/US states that were slower to implement SIP policies.

Effect of the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020 on Life Expectancy Across Populations in the USA and Other High-Income Countries: Simulations of Provisional Mortality DataUrban Institute (US)

The US had a much larger decrease in life expectancy between 2018 and 2020 than other high-income nations according to this report. Losses were disproportionately high among the Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black populations, which the researchers claim is the product of longstanding and widening health disadvantages.

Covid-19 Vaccine Attitudes among Nonelderly Adults Who Reported Being Unlikely to Get Vaccinated Urban Institute (US)

Attitudes amongst those who said they would not receive vaccines has not shifted in the US, according to this study. Researchers found that the short and long-term side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines and their accelerated development were the main reasons cited by individuals not choosing to receive a vaccine.

Covid-19 futures: Implications for policy makers – Institute for Government / Wellcome Trust (UK)

This short report is a write-up of two round tabled convened by the Institute for Government and Wellcome Trust on medium to long-term future scenarios following the Covid-19 pandemic. The first roundtable was made up of scientists from the UK, US, India and Australia and examined best and worst-case scenarios, using different biological assumptions about how the virus would develop. At the second, a group of current and former policy makers discussed the implications of these future scenarios, focusing on key questions facing world leaders as they gathered for the G7 conference.


Use of preventive care services declined despite expanded coverage – American Enterprise Institute

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded insurance coverage requirements for preventive care services, such as blood pressure checks, flu vaccinations and some cancer screenings. Despite this increased coverage, this new analysis claims that for the privately insured, those using Medicare, and uninsured populations, the prevalence of the use of preventive care services largely declined.

Admin matters; the impact of NHS administration on patient care – The King’s Fund (UK)

This report focuses on how one aspect of NHS administration is often overlooked: the patient perspective. The authors explore what happens when you view administration through the eyes of the patient.

How Auto-Enrollment Can Achieve Near-Universal Coverage: Policy and Implementation Issues – Urban Institute (US)

The authors of this report argue that auto-enrollment into a health insurance scheme could have eliminated gaps that occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it could face resistance from some Americans who would newly be expected to pay premiums. Alongside the political challenges, they find that – based on learnings from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – any auto-enrollement system would require the development of new administrative systems and enhanced marketplace subsidies to improve coverage affordability. 


Rethinking permanent skilled migration after the pandemic – Grattan Institute (Australia)

When the borders are reopened, Australia should “unashamedly select permanent skilled migrants for their long-term economic potential” this new report argues. The authors claim that abolishing the Business Investment and Innovation Program and boosting the number of skilled worker visas would supercharge the economic benefits of Australia’s skilled migration program and result in nearly $4 billion in extra personal income tax receipts alone over the lifetime of each yearly migrant intake.

The EU Settlement Scheme and the Hostile Environment – IPPR (UK)

In this briefing paper, IPPR explore the implications of the end of the UK Government’s post-Brexit settlement scheme for EU nationals and outlines which cohorts of people are at most risk as the deadline passes. Based on this analysis, the think tank sets out a series of urgent policy recommendations for addressing the risks to EU citizens and their family members in the UK. 


How the Criminal Justice System's COVID-19 Response has Provided Valuable Lessons for Broader Reform – Rand Corporation (US)

This report is a collection of ‘lessons’ drawn from a series of panel workshops with representatives of different sectors within the Justice system. The panels focused on law enforcement, the court system, institutional corrections, community corrections, victim services providers, and community organizations. 

COVID-19 and the Courts: Lessons from the Pandemic – RAND Corporation (US)

This document is a write-up of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice and the UC Berkeley Civil Justice Research Initiative’s conference on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the courts. Topics discussed included how the pandemic has affected civil juries, the challenges for pretrial case management, and the implications that the pandemic might have for federal and state civil rules.

Transport & infrastructure

Build it Here: The economic cost of offshoring major transport projects in New South Wales – The McKell Institute (Australia)

Through six case studies of New South Wales transport projects, the authors seek to establish the ‘real’ cost of using international providers for infrastructure development. The report concludes that the “moderately higher costs alleged to be associated with domestic procurement would have been offset by the broader economic benefits of awarding the major tenders to domestic firms.”

Biden’s Plan Won’t Fix Our Infrastructure – Cato Institute (US)

The Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards argues that Biden’s $2.3trillin infrastructure plan will distort efficient state and local choices. He warns against the plan which will “further reduce the role of markets in guiding infrastructure investment.”

Getting Great British Railways on track – Institute for Government (UK)

This paper is the Institute for Government’s response to the UK Government rail reforms, The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail. Although the think tank says that many of the proposals address key issues in the rail system – such as fragmentation and complexity – there was still more detail needed on how the reforms would be implemented.

All aboard: A plan for fairly decarbonising how people travel – IPPR (UK)

Transport remains the UK’s number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. However, decarbonisation of the UK’s transport network could lead to further inequalities – disadvantaging some more than others. In this paper, IPPR “outlines a vision for a transport system that is fair to all, works to improve people’s health and wellbeing and provides a better environment for nature.”

Why Do People Stop Using Electric Vehicles? – KAPSARC (Saudi Arabia)

Recent surveys suggest that 20% of electric vehicle owners stop using them after a single use. This paper explores why people discontinue their use of electric vehicles and how this can be rectified through policy.

Evaluating Access to Riyadh’s Planned Public Transport System Using Geospatial Analysis – KASPARC (Saudi Arabia)

In the context of KSA’s smart city agenda, this study evaluates the accessibility of Riyadh’s transport hubs and road system.

Facilities management

The case for insourcing public sector cleaners and facilities management – New Economics Foundation (UK)

In this report from left-of-centre think-tank, the New Economics Foundation, the authors make the case for insourcing frontline cleaning and facilities management who are currently employed government contractors, such as Serco.


Persistent Challenges in UK Defence Equipment Acquisition – Rand Corporation Europe

Commissioned by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO), this discussion paper focuses on the broad drivers of cost, schedule and other performance problems often encountered in defence procurement programs. It identifies multiple issues with the current Ministry of Defence approach, including over-prescriptive and ambitious requirements, failures to understand and distribute risk, and frequent adjustments to programmes hampering the ability of the provider to supply equipment in the specified timescale.

A Strong Ally Stretched Thin: An Overview of France's Defense Capabilities from a Burdensharing Perspective – RAND Corporation Europe

In this report, RAND researchers examine the role that the French military might play as a coalition partner in a “hypothetical high-intensity conventional conflict in Europe”. The researchers conclude that France could support a “U.S.-led war effort in Eastern Europe now or in the next ten years”. France has maintained full-spectrum capabilities and training, has ambitious modernization objectives, and has strong political and public support for military interventions and support to allies. However, the report concludes that its military has limited depth overall and could not sustain a long campaign, and some of the capabilities it might need likely would not be reassigned.

Assessing the Value of Intelligence Collected by U.S. Air Force Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Platforms – RAND Corporation (US)

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) has become an increasingly important part of warfare. This report claims that despite its increased significance, the US Air Force currently lacks a “consistent, quantitative, empirically grounded method of assessing the value that the service's airborne ISR provides — which is essential to good resourcing decisions.” This report presents an approach to ISR assessments that seeks to articulate the costs and benefits of US Air Force ISR. 

Service-user satisfaction

An Evaluation of the Military OneSource Call Center in Select Groups of Callers – RAND Corporation (US)

Military OneSource operates a call center for US military personnel and their family members, as well as those who have recently left the military. The authors of this report describe their evaluation of Military OneSource call quality, call outcomes, and caller satisfaction. They find that operations and outcomes are generally positive, with a small number of possible improvements, including communications training and integrating other technologies to ensure a smoother process for customers.

Public service reform

Using Targets to Improve Public Services – Institute for Government (UK)

In this paper, the authors explore the perennial question: “do targets improve the performance of public services?” The report focuses on national targets and examines what evidence there is for how they have affected efficiency as public money is turned into outcomes for the public.

Government after Covid: A digitally enabled civil service – Reform (UK)

This event write-up brings together ideas generated at Reform and Fujitsu’s policy roundtable of the same name. The report discusses the changes that have been implemented as a result of the pandemic, as well as how digital transformation can be driven forward following a return to ‘normal’.

A State of Preparedness: How government can build resilience to civil emergencies – Reform (UK)

This research highlights deficiencies in the way that governments anticipates, prepares for and responds to emergencies, and puts forward a range of solutions to help them build long-term resilience.

The Digitisation of Critical Infrastructure Report – Dubai Future Foundation

This report examines how digital technology is “disrupting the different components that make up the critical infrastructures of countries.” It concludes that “just like a pandemic, cyber risks need to be managed collectively and through broad, coordinated planning and action that includes government, organisations, and banks.”

Public Service Innovation and Leadership During COVID-19: What Can We Learn? – Public Policy Forum (Canada)

With the focus on Canada, the authors carry out primary research to understand why innovation is more easily generated during crises, and how the learnings of the last 18-months can be used to foster a more innovative culture in public administration.

Securing supplies: How to prevent another COVID-19 breakdown – American Enterprise Institute

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the vulnerability of global supply chains during crises. In this paper, the AEI argues that governments must work with the private sector to “exercise crisis scenarios.” This can also be done, the report outlines, at the multinational level, reflecting countries’ interlocking needs and businesses’ global operations.

Skills & the future of work

Options Paper: Incentivising Tradeswork and Shiftwork Post COVID-19 – The McKell Institute (Australia)

In Australia, tradespeople science technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, as well as hospitality workers are in greatest demand according to businesses. These skills shortages have been longstanding and heavily rely on apprenticeships and vocational training. Despite the demand, apprenticeship commencements are at their lowest levels since the mid 1990s. This report examines the experience of this segment of the workforce during Covid-19 and outlines a policy agenda that will provide support for these professions so that they remain an attractive career in future.

Distanced Revolution: Employee Experiences of Working from Home During the Pandemic – Demos (UK)

This report seeks to better understand employees’ experiences of working from home during the pandemic – the benefits, challenges and future opportunities. The study found many home workers generally found it to be a positive experience. However, low-income households have experienced the opposite.

The future of flexible work – Trades Union Congress (UK)

This report from the UK’s leading trade union body highlights the appetite there is for flexible working options. Their research shows that more than four out of five (82%) workers in Britain want to work flexibly in the future, rising to 87% amongst women workers. It calls for legislative change in the UK to allow greater take-up of flexible work.

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