The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (February 2022)

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

Public service reform

Time to Move Out: The case for civil service relocation – Onward (UK)

The UK Government’s desire to “level up” economic opportunity and govern in “the interests of historically left-behind areas” is being undermined by slow progress in moving large numbers of civil servants out of Whitehall, this paper argues. They claim that despite “bold ministerial commitments, ambitions to radically alter the footprint of the civil service are faltering”.

Levelling up: the IfG view on the white paper – Institute for Government (UK)

This paper summarises and analyses the UK Government’s much vaunted Levelling Up white paper, the flagship domestic policy of the administration.

‘Divide and level up’ won’t transform Britain – Demos (UK)

In this response to the Government’s recently unveiled Levelling Up white paper, Demos argues that, while the Government’s policies are ambitious and based on thoughtful analysis of the UK’s inequalities, and while the white paper is based on a comprehensive understanding of previous efforts to address these inequalities, ultimately the plans it sets out are just as likely to end in failure as previous plans have.

Levelling the playing field: it’s time for a national shared equity scheme – Grattan Institute (Australia)

In considering how home ownership is out of reach for many younger, poorer Australians, this blog argues that a national share equity scheme would help level the playing field.

Polling & policy outlook

Economic and Political Outlook 2022 – Committee for Economic Development (Australia)

This Economic and Political Outlook outlines key facts and insights to inform and frame the issues for the year ahead in Australia.

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and their Government – Public Policy Institute of California (US)

In January 2022, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) undertook a state-wide poll in California on state and national issues in the year ahead. Covid-19, homelessness, jobs, the economy and inflation top voters’ list of priorities for the Governor and legislature to tackle in 2022, although majorities approve of Governor Newsom and President Biden’s handling of the pandemic; two-thirds believe the worst of the Covid pandemic is in the rear-view mirror; one in two believe the state is heading in the right direction, but also that it is in a recession currently; a majority of Californians approve of Biden and Newsom’s performance in office; approval of the California state legislature is much higher than of the US Congress; and 53% are at least satisfied with how US democracy is working.

Justice & law enforcement

How Qualified Immunity Hurts Law Enforcement – Cato Institute (US)

Public faith in police in the US has declined in the past two decades, from a high of 64% in 2004 to a low of 48% in 2020. Police officers report that this loss of public confidence, and a string of high-publicity fatal encounters between officers and members of the public, make it hard for them to do their jobs. The decline in public trust is shaped by the perception that bad officers are not held accountable or disciplined for their actions: a perception not without merit, as a New York Times analysis found that the NYPD rejected or reduced severe discipline recommendations in 71% of severe misconduct allegations. Police forces are incentivised to retain bad officers by a Supreme Court doctrine known as qualified immunity, which protects state actors from liability even in cases of law-breaking and misconduct. This study calls upon readers to ‘back the blue’s best: end qualified immunity’, to allow police departments to rebuild the trust and respect they need from the public to serve their communities effectively.

A Path to Freedom and Justice: a new vision for supporting victims of modern slavery – Centre for Social Justice (UK)

This report explores the recovery journey of adult victims of modern slavery through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and the support provided in England and Wales under the Modern Slavery Victim Care onto longer-term recovery. The report was compiled following extensive intelligence gathering, including interviews with more than 20 specialist charities that provide support to victims and survivors of modern slavery.

Programs for Incarcerated Parents – RAND Corporation (US)

Approximately 2.7 million children in the US have at least one parent in prison – this is shown by studies to increase the risks of youth delinquency, academic underperformance and other social and emotional problems. Many American prisons offer programmes for incarcerated parents: this study concerns these programmes, including the availability of these schemes across US prisons, the frequency and content of such programmes and the challenges prison facilities face in implementing these programmes.

Crime, policing and the racial divide on the left – American Enterprise Institute

The recent rise in violent crime in the US – the murder rate rose 30% between 2019 and 2020 – has eroded support for defunding the police among elected officials in left-leaning American cities. But there also exists a sharp racial delineation in the views of Democratic voters, in that white liberals are far more likely to support reducing police budgets than Black or Hispanic voters.


Stopping the Small Boats: a “Plan B” – Policy Exchange (UK)

This report outlines a plan of action to address the “Channel Crisis”. Plan A, the authors argue, would be an agreement with France to accept the return of migrants and asylum-seekers attempting to crossing the Channel in small boats. If such an agreement cannot be reached, Plan B would be to remove persons attempting to enter the UK on small boats to a British territory outside the UK – whether it be Alderney in the Channel Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus or Ascension Island in the Atlantic – where asylum claims would be considered.

President Biden, tear down those walls and let immigrants take jobs in high demand – Brookings Institution (US)

This blog post argues that the US should, in the face of an unprecedented Covid-wrought labour shortage, liberalise its immigration restrictions and create pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Under new management: How immigration policy chance will and won’t affect the UK’s path to becoming a high-wage, high productivity economy – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The authors argue that although migration has had substantial effects on the UK economy over recent decades, claims that the move to a new immigration system (post-Brexit) will drive the UK towards a new high-wage economic strategy are overdone. In order achieve this goal, the paper argues that the country will need a clear economic strategy, not just a migration strategy.

Migrants’ access to decent work and housing in the EU – European Policy Centre

This European Policy Centre paper examines the EU legal and policy frameworks governing working and housing conditions for non-EU nationals living in the EU, and identifies how these can be improved to ensure improvements to these workers’ quality of life are made.

The Case against COVID-19 Pandemic Migration Restrictions – Cato Institute (US)

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many countries implement far-reaching restrictions on free movement into and within countries in an effort to suppress the spread of the virus. The Cato Institute finds that these measures have done little, ultimately, to prevent Covid from spreading, and have been at great cost to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people while curtailing the medical and scientific innovation to counter future such public health crises.

Why Immigration Relief Matters – Center for American Progress

It is estimated that 10.4 million undocumented immigrants live in the US. On average, they have lived in the US for 16 years, and 10.2 million US citizens share a home with at least one undocumented immigrant, including about 6.1 million children with US citizenship. This article argues that it is in the interest of the US economy to provide routes to legal status for undocumented immigrants: five million undocumented immigrants are classed as essential workers; undocumented immigrants and their households pay nearly $80 billion in taxes annually; and providing a pathway to citizenship would set the hearts of millions of Americans at ease. With such a pathway potentially creating 438,000 jobs and adding $1.7 trillion to the American economy, the article argues that this should be a policy priority for the Biden administration.


The NHS backlog recovery plan and the outlook for waiting lists – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

6.07 million people were on the waiting list for pre-planned NHS treatment in England in December 2021, more than one-tenth of the population. This figure has increased by around a third since the start of the pandemic due the disruption that Covid-19 has wrought on the NHS. This short article outlines the extent of the NHS backlog and forecasts how it may subside over the next few years.

How to tackle the COVID-19 curveball in cancer care – European Policy Centre

The EPC calls for the European Commission to implement its Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP), announced in 2020 but delayed by the Covid pandemic. The report recommends that the EU support and maintain the cancer care workforce; design telemedicine so that it works for everyone; rebuild trust in public health providers; and treat health as a long-term investment.

The Public Health Effects of Legalizing Marijuana – Cato Institute (US)

The Cato Institute provides a literature review of the public health effects of legalising marijuana, taking into account the effects on youth marijuana use, the use of other substances, traffic fatalities, and crime. The report concludes that legalisation does not increase marijuana use among teenagers, but does lead to lower alcohol consumption, leading to safer roads and highways. On other public health outcomes, however, the data is somewhat more ambiguous.

5 building blocks to help achieve greater health equity – Brookings Institution (US)

The Brookings Institution outlines five approaches, with case studies in the US and abroad, to reduce inequities in the American healthcare system: telehealth, to expand access to healthcare for disadvantaged communities; expanding team-based healthcare to deliver better care outcomes for patients; partnering with community assets, such as libraries or religious institutions, to deliver healthcare and win trust; improving coordination between housing and healthcare, as housing conditions can have a strong relationship with health; and increasing access to mental health services, of which there is currently a serious shortage in the United States.

The pandemic has driven an unprecedented surge in demand for mental health services for children and young people – Nuffield Trust (UK)

New analysis by QualityWatch, a joint programme between the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation, shows the impact of the pandemic on demand for mental health services for children and young people, particularly relating to eating disorders.

Does Europe need a Health Union? – Bruegel (Europe)

This policy contribution by Bruegel sets out several ways in which EU integration in certain health-related areas could result in better outcomes for Europeans. This includes a Health Union approach to address cross-border issues and health security; tapping into EU-level research and knowledge as well as surveillance systems for disease; better coordination and consolidation of scientific knowledge on which health protection measures in EU legislation are based; and a better understanding of how non-health policy objectives can inform EU health policies.

How does the health and care system hear from people and communities? – The King's Fund (UK)

This explainer is intended as an introduction for those working in the health and care system who want to understand more about this area of work. It looks at some of the terminology used in this area and outlines the different ways and methods that the NHS and local government can hear from people and communities at both national and local level.

Obesity across America – Urban Institute (US)

Four in 10 American adults suffer from obesity, and over the past decade obesity rates have increased in all states. This report creates a snapshot of obesity across the US, finding that state obesity rates range from 24.2% to 39.7% (and one county in Mississippi has an obesity rate of 50.1%).

Public perceptions of the NHS and social care: performance, policy and expectations – The Health Foundation (UK)

The pandemic has already had major consequences for people’s perceptions and expectations of health and social care services. This paper asks how public attitudes might be affected as a result and what it might mean for policymakers. This long read examines key findings from a new survey of public perceptions of health and social care.

The Mazankowski report, 20 Years Later – Macdonald-Laurier Institute (Canada)

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) has published a collection of commentary on the 2002 Mazankowski report, which MLI has called a ‘lodestar for health care reform in Canada’. This collection’s instalments examine the report’s proposals for the Canadian health system, how Canadians’ stubborn affection for the status quo prevents meaningful reform, but also how healthcare funding in Canada has grown increasingly unsustainable.

Healthcare as social infrastructure: productivity and the UK NHS during and after Covid-19 – Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Cambridge University (UK)

This paper discusses the implications of the demand surge experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic for the UK’s rationed, free at the point of need, National Health Service. It explores the impact of the past emphasis on cost efficiency of the service in light of considering the health system as part of the national social infrastructure.

Congress Can Expand Health Coverage and Lower Health Costs Now – Center for American Progress

The American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) expansion of the Affordable Care Act is due to expire at the end of the year, meaning millions of Americans – up to 15 million uninsured people benefited from the ARPA – will be faced with losing their health coverage in 2023. This article calls upon policymakers in the Senate to take into account the Medicaid coverage gap when crafting legislation to bolster the gains made in healthcare coverage.

Addressing the leading risk factors for ill health – The Health Foundation (UK)

In this report, the Health Foundation analyses the trends in recent years for some of the risk factors associated with long-term preventable ill health in England – such as smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, and drinking – and makes suggestions for how the UK Government can look to tackle these in the years to come.

Social care

Universal quality social care: Transforming adult social care in England – New Economics Foundation (UK)

“Successive governments have done little or nothing to tackle worsening conditions in social care, for either recipients of care or care workers”. The paper advocates three policies to transform social care: a generous new funding settlement; an expanded role for local authorities; and a new national body to “drive improvement”. 


Robust COVID Relief Achieved Historic Gains Against Poverty and Hardship, Bolstered Economy – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (US)

Since the Covid pandemic began in the US, federal policymakers have injected trillions of dollars into the economy in relief, a response which made the Covid recession the shortest in history and brought the unemployment rate, which peaked at 14% in April 2020, down to 4%. Relief measures furthermore reduced poverty, expanded access to healthcare, and reduced hardships such as an inability to afford food – overall, evidence indicates that this response was more comprehensive and effective than that of the US government following the recession of 2008-9.

Foundation Forum 2022: Recovery and resilience in the EU – Back to the future? – Eurofound

Ahead of Eurofound’s flagship event, the Foundation Forum, this paper sets out several challenges, such as the future of work, the climate and social inequalities, facing the EU as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Polling – February 2022 – SA Borders and COVID – The Australia Institute

Polling from the Australia Institute finds that a small majority (51%) of residents of South Australia disagree with the State Government’s decision to open the state’s borders on November 23, 2021. Furthermore, 76% of SA residents feel the State Government should have done more to prepare residents prior the border reopening.


Planes, trains & automobiles: The future of transport after Covid-19 – Institute for Economic Affairs (UK)

This collection of papers analyses the implications of Covid-19 for the UK transport sector, both in the short and long term. The contributions focus on aviation, rail and motoring in turn. Inevitably, any conclusions must be tentative. It is still not clear how the pandemic will evolve Such uncertainty is, in itself, problematic when major transport projects can take decades to plan, approve and complete.


Around the halls: Implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Brookings Institution (US)

In this article, Brookings experts analyse the potential ramifications the Russian invasion of Ukraine may have on the world order. These include how the war in Ukraine will affect: the liberal international order; Western defence policy going forward; European security infrastructure; how the West can effectively counter other expansionist autocracies such as China; energy security; and alliances more generally.

The Utility of Land Power to the British State – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

Following the UK’s 2021 Integrated Review, the report argues that the UK military must perform three board tasks: deterrence by denial of Russian aggression against NATO; deterrence by punishment to protect interests; and the projection of influence to build and strengthen strategic partnerships to secure the UK’s prosperity.

Realising the Ambitions of the UK’s Defence Space Strategy – RAND Corporation (US)

The UK Ministry of Defence is preparing to implement its new Defence Space Strategy, in support of the UK’s ambition to become a ‘meaningful actor in space’. The RAND Corporation examines the factors which will affect the success of the strategy and assesses the unique strengths and weaknesses of the UK space enterprise.

The Plot to Destroy Ukraine – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

Written prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this ‘Special Report’ outlines what the authors believe Russia is trying to achieve in Ukraine, and “how it is operationalising that intent through the synchronised application of state power.”

Public services and the environment

Fast track? European climate diplomacy after COP26 – Bright Blue (UK)

This collection of essays by UK and European politicians and academics primarily looks at the impact of climate change on two key areas of public service: Immigration and security.

Net zero places: A community-powered response to the climate crisis – Institute for Public Policy Research (UK)

Two case study areas have helped us to understand the challenges that different types of places face in the journey towards net zero. Liverpool City Region was chosen to represent a northern metropolitan city region and reflect the scale of change required to the UK’s urban areas. The Isle of Anglesey was chosen as it represents a dispersed rural area at risk from climate breakdown, but which could also see benefits from the net zero transition.

Biden’s war on fossil fuels has strengthened Putin and weakened America – American Enterprise Institute

This AEI op-ed in The Washington Post, published the day after Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine, criticises President Biden’s policy of ‘energy disarmament’. Upon inheriting what the article describes as an ‘energy superpower’ from President Trump, the Biden administration made tackling climate change a policy priority: this, argues the AEI, left the United States less able to impose sanctions on Russian oil and gas, which would have a meaningful impact on the Russian economy.

Greening Europe’s post-COVID recovery – Bruegel (Europe)

This blueprint by Bruegel concerns the work of the Bruegel Green Recovery Group, established in 2020. The Group’s purpose is to facilitate dialogue between EU policymakers and academics on how Europe can ensure its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is green.

Have we missed something interesting? Let us know by getting in touch through

Related articles

Marching Towards Inclusivity: Bridging the Gap Between the Armed Forces and Society

1st March 2024

The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (October 2023)

3rd November 2023

Saudi Residents Show Support For Green Ambitions As Part Of Vision 2030 Plans

24th October 2023