ESOL policy needs a re-think

Neil Stevenson investigates the benefits and obstacles to teaching English as a foreign language.

Net migration to Britain has been running between 200,000 and 250,000 per year over the past decade. Despite what political rhetoric sometimes implies, not all immigrants are the same. Beyond the distinctions between EEA and non-EEA origins, immigrants come to our shores with a range of valuable assets: resilient and optimistic attitudes, linguistic dynamism, a plethora of skills and educational backgrounds, as well as a determination to provide a better life for their children. Alongside th...

Posted by Neil Stevenson on 24 Apr 2014
Comments (7)
Continue reading

An unpalatable truth

Figures show an increasing reliance on food banks, but Jo Salter asks are they a sustainable solution?

Figures released today by the Trussell Trust show that almost 1 million food parcels – 913,138 – were handed out by its food bank network in the last year, compared to 347,000 the previous year; 51% of these were handed out to new clients. The reaction to these numbers has exposed how politicised the debate around food banks has become. Those on the political left have called them an indictment of the government’s welfare reform programme and claims to be helping the poores...

Posted by Jo Salter on 16 Apr 2014
Comments (5)
Continue reading

The method in the madness

Simon Wibberley of CASM provides a behind the scenes account of the Europe Debate live analysis.

The idea began light-heartedly – it was an opportunity to road-test the real-time rapid response capabilities of our social media analysis software and methodologies, by applying them to the live debate on Europe between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage. The arrival of a Newsnight team kicked the operation up a gear, really putting the pressure on to deliver results. We set out to investigate two things: firstly, the extent to which we could produce meaningful real-time outputs, and secondl...

Posted by Simon Wibberley on 10 Apr 2014
Comments (0)
Continue reading

Evidence-based campaigning

Claudia Wood applauds the Spartacus Network for their constructive critique of the welfare reform agenda.

On a day when the Work and Pensions select committee confirms the Universal Credit IT system is becoming a white elephant and the JRF calculates how little the Bedroom Tax has saved once you account for additional costs, it's tempting to dismiss the current welfare reform agenda as an expensive mess. Two of its key components have turned sour, proving – if proof were needed – that rushed implementation of seemingly ideological policies was never going to go well. Another repo...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 09 Apr 2014
Comments (2)
Continue reading

Nick versus Nigel: live analysis

Carl Miller introduces our live analysis of the BBC's debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.

‘Nick Clegg tells interviewer he need a coffee’ Tweeted the BBC’s Norman Smith this morning, ‘At 9.15. 9.15 ??? Wakey, wakey’. Perhaps he didn’t sleep well, and who can blame him? Both he and Nigel Farage woke up to face – whatever their bravado – a prospect that even the most veteran politician dreads: a live, prime-time, televised debate. At 7pm on BBC2 this evening, they will both face an hour in the full glare of the public. They...

Posted by Carl Miller on 02 Apr 2014
Comments (14)
Continue reading

The true cost of debt

Jo Salter unveils the Demos 'Harm Index' highlighting the emotional impact of debt.

£1.4 trillion. That’s the staggering figure attributed to the level of household debt in the UK. The average student now leaves university after three years with £20,000 worth of debt – before they have even got their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. But describing debt in numbers alone overlooks the fact that there is nothing intrinsic to having a lot of debt that makes it harmful – and debts like mortgages and student loans highlight the limitation...

Posted by Jo Salter on 26 Mar 2014
Comments (17)
Continue reading

Pensions puzzle

Duncan O'Leary untangles George Osborne's pensions announcement and examines the case for and against.

The pension reforms announced by George Osborne were unquestionably the most significant aspect of the budget. After a few days, some of their implications are starting to emerge. The chancellor framed the changes as a question of freedom. As he put it: ‘The tax rules around these pensions are a manifestation of a patronising view that pensioners can’t be trusted with their own pension pots. I reject that. People who have worked hard and saved hard all their lives, and done th...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 24 Mar 2014
Comments (4)
Continue reading

Tweeting the ballot

Richard Norrie reports on the latest findings into how social media can increase electoral turnout.

Barack Obama famously pioneered the use of social media as a campaign tool, to great effect. Demos is currently running a project to teach European third-sector organisations how to better use social media in order to improve turnout among under-represented groups. So far we’ve found that the potential for social media to mobilise voters is there, but to date this has not been realised at European elections. We are confident that this year is going to be Europe’s social media mom...

Posted by Richard Norrie on 20 Mar 2014
Comments (14)
Continue reading

The bingo Budget

Rob Macpherson: will it be the Sun that wins it for the Conservatives in 2015?

The bunny budget quickly became the bingo budget. When Grant Shapps tweeted CCHQ’s latest viral poster saying beer and bingo was what hardworking people enjoy it was quickly pounced upon by opponents and derided on Twitter as patronising and out of touch. But maybe George Osborne knows what he is doing. The Sun was unequivocal in its support for the Chancellor on this morning’s front page. ‘Win-go’ they splashed – declaring it a ‘budget for Sun readers&rsq...

Posted by Rob Macpherson on 20 Mar 2014
Comments (0)
Continue reading

Budget 2014: taxing debates

The Chancellor should focus on rewarding work by taxing wealth, argues Jonathan Todd.

Conservative MP Nick de Bois is half right. He's right that the ‘squeezed middle’ is further squeezed by income tax thresholds that have not kept pace with changes in wages and prices. He's wrong – like most politicians – to think that any update should not also apply to council tax. As much as perverse outcomes follow from the threshold for the 40p income tax rate remaining at the same level as when it was first introduced in 1988, it's also curious and d...

Posted by Jonathan Todd on 17 Mar 2014
Comments (5)
Continue reading

Recent Comments