Archive for the 'Social and Public Policy' Category

Celebrating the 10-year collaboration between Voluntary Sector Review, the Third Sector Research Centre and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network

John-Mohan-resized

John Mohan

By John Mohan, Director of the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham, celebrates the 10 year collaboration between Voluntary Sector Review, the Third Sector Research Centre, University of Birmingham and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network.

To mark the anniversary, John has curated a free article collection featuring key articles from the last ten years. 

Despite the considerable efforts of many individuals and organisations to establish academic research centres in the voluntary sector field in the UK, it was only in 2007-8 that significant investments were made by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and other funding partners in the research and evidence infrastructure for this field.

Ten years ago, in the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) at the University of Birmingham we were in the first phase of hiring staff, setting our course for a decade of highly-productive research and knowledge exchange. In parallel, Policy Press and the Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN) were in discussions about creating a journal to provide an outlet for the growing body of research in the field. As Peter Halfpenny, Voluntary Sector Review’s (VSR) first editor, acknowledged in the first volume of the journal, the voluntary sector research and practitioner community owe a great deal to Policy Press for taking the risk of launching the journal in the midst of a recession. In TSRC we were pleased to be able to support this initiative, providing some resources from our core funding to assist with the start-up costs of the journal and, until 2013, the cost of administrative assistance. Since then VSR and TSRC have worked closely together and numerous TSRC staff, in an individual capacity, have contributed to the journal’s editorial board.

TSRC staff and students have also, of course, made a number of contributions to the journal and we are very grateful to Policy Press for drawing these together and making them available in this free-to-access collection of our work, to mark our tenth anniversary. The articles cover some of the core themes of TSRC’s work. Our substantive focus is primarily on the roles, resources and relationships of third sector organisations, broadly defined to include charities, social enterprises, and grassroots or below-radar organisations. This collection firstly includes over a dozen research papers on topics including:

♦ the nature of the third sector, including contributions on its definition, its character as a “distinctive” area of social life, the extent or otherwise of “hybridity” in third sector organisations, and understandings of the “Big Society” policies of the Coalition government;

♦ the measurement and classification of third sector activities, including micro-mapping methods for identifying “below-radar” organisations, delimitation of distinctive subsets of the sector such as environmental third sector organisations, or reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of local listings of voluntary organisations as research sources;

♦ discussions of how organisations perceive and experience change, including examples of organisational failure, responses to emerging changes in public service markets, or perceptions of their operating environment;

♦ contributions to debate about the impacts of the third sector, such as controversies about Social Return on Investment (SROI) methods, or uncertainties about the impacts of volunteering on individuals.

The journal of course provides an outlet not only for conventional research articles; it has a particular mission, which TSRC shares, to engage with policy and practitioner communities. In a fast-moving policy environment, the emphasis on shorter contributions, providing accessible summaries of the implications of research for policy and practice, is very important. TSRC has provided a number of such contributions which reflect on, for example:

♦ the nature of capacity-building, which has evolved considerably since the era of the Labour governments;

♦ the ways in which organisations might respond to challenges of measuring impact, or the practical implications for the sector of relatively abstract findings (e.g. relating to volunteering and employability);

♦ the character of public service reforms, such as personalisation in social care markets, commissioning and market stewardship in particular fields of activity, the “right to request” policies whereby organisations are “spun out” of core public services into new organisational forms, or social investment policies.

This free-to-access collection includes papers by the core academic staff of TSRC but it also reflects contributions from early-career staff and students. Many of these – over 15 at the last count – have moved into more established academic and practice positions in the field. It is to be hoped that they, and their successors, will take the work of TSRC forward and contribute towards the further development of VSR as a key academic outlet in this field.

A message from Julia Mortimer, Journals Director, Bristol University Press and Policy Press

Julia MortimerOn behalf of everyone at Policy Press I’d like to thank the TSRC for their support for Voluntary Sector Review and their continuing dedication to research and knowledge exchange in third sector studies. 2019 is the joint 10th anniversary of the TSRC and VSR, and a great opportunity to celebrate some of the contributions which helped shape the journal from its earliest days and develop its mission from supporting research and knowledge exchange in third sector studies in the UK, to helping to build links between researchers, policymakers and practitioners internationally.

 

 

A message from Jane Cullingworth, Co-Chair Voluntary Sector Studies Network (VSSN)

Jane Cullingworth Dec 17On behalf of VSSN, I would like to wish TSRC a happy 10th anniversary! Ten years is an impressive milestone, particularly in the current climate. TSRC has been and continues to be an important part of the voluntary sector research community. Through its research and knowledge exchange activities, it has facilitated a deeper understanding of the UK sector. We would like to acknowledge the key role that TSRC played, with VSSN, in supporting the establishment of VSR – particularly through the funding of early administrative support and ongoing contributions to the editorial team, pool of reviewers and article submissions. Thank you and Happy Anniversary.

 

Voluntary Sector Review article collection – Free to access until 30 April 2019

Research articles:

2018
Mohan, J; Yoon, Y; Kendall, J; Brookes, N (2018) The financial position of English voluntary organisations: relationships between subjective perceptions and financial realities. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 9, Number 3, pp. 233-253

2015
Harflett, N. (2015) “Bringing with them personal interests”: the role of cultural capital in explaining who volunteers, Voluntary Sector Review, 6, 3-19.
Mullins, D, Jones, T (2015) From ‘contractors to the state’ to ‘protectors of public value’? Relations between non-profit housing hybrids and the state in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 261-283
Phillimore, J, McCabe, Angus (2015) Small-scale civil society and social policy: the importance of experiential learning, insider knowledge and diverse motivations in shaping community action. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 135-151

2014
Damm, C (2014) A mid-term review of third sector involvement in the Work Programme. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 5, Number 1, pp. 97-116(20)

2013
Arvidson, M, Lyon, F, McKay, S, Moro, D (2013) Valuing the social? The nature and controversies of measuring social return on investment (SROI). Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 1, pp. 3-18
Clifford, D, Geyne-Rajme, F, Smith, G, Edwards, R, Büchs, M,  Saunders, C (2013) Mapping the environmental third sector in England: a distinctive field of activity? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 241-264
Ellis Paine, A, McKay, S, Moro, D (2013) Does volunteering improve employability? Insights from the British Household Panel Survey and beyond. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 355-376
Macmillan, R (2013) ‘Distinction’ in the third sector. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 1, pp. 39-54
Macmillan, R (2013) Decoupling the state and the third sector? The ‘Big Society’ as a spontaneous.Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 2, pp. 185-203

2012
Alcock, P, Kendall, J, Parry, Jane (2012) From the third sector to the Big Society: consensus or contention in the 2010 UK General Election? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 3, pp. 347-363
Mohan, J (2012) Entering the lists: what can we learn about the voluntary sector in England from listings produced by local infrastructure bodies? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 197-215
Scott, D, Teasdale, S (2012) Whose failure? Learning from the financial collapse of a social enterprise in ‘Steeltown’. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, pp. 139-155
Soteri-Proctor, A, Alcock, P (2012) Micro-mapping: what lies beneath the third sector radar? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 3, pp. 379-398

2011
Buckingham, H (2011) Hybridity, diversity and the division of labour in the third sector: what can we learn from homelessness organisations in the UK? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 157-175(19)
Mills, A, Meek, R, Gojkovic, Dina (2011) Exploring the relationship between the voluntary sector and the state in criminal justice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 2, pp. 193-211
Teasdale  S, McKay  S, Phillimore J, Teasdale N (2011) Exploring gender and social entrepreneurship: women’s leadership, employment and participation in the third sector and social enterprises.  Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 1, pp. 57-76

2010
Alcock, P (2010) A strategic unity: defining the third sector in the UK. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 5-24
Teasdale, S (2010) Explaining the multifaceted nature of social enterprise: impression management as (social) entrepreneurial behaviour. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 271-292

Policy and practice contributions

2017
Dayson, C, Ellis Paine, A, Macmillan, R, Sanderson, E (2017) Third sector capacity building: the institutional embeddedness of supply. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 8, Number 2, pp. 149-168

2016
Harlock, J, Metcalf, L (2016) Measuring impact: prospects and challenges for third sector organisations. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 7, Number 1, pp. 101-108

2015
Livingstone, I, Macmillan, R (2015) More than a provider: the voluntary sector, commissioning and stewardship for a diverse market in criminal justice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 221-230
Walton, C, Macmillan, R (2015) What’s the problem? The role of diagnosis in building the capacity of voluntary and community organisations. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 325-332
Buckingham, H, Jolley, A (2015) Feeding the debate: a local food bank explains itself. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 6, Number 3, pp. 311-323

2014
Kamerāde, D, Ellis Paine, A (2014) Volunteering and employability: implications for policy and practice. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 259-273

2013
Macmillan, R (2013) Demand-led capacity building, the Big Lottery Fund and market-making in third sector support services. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 4, Number 3, pp. 385-394

2012
Miller, R, Hall, K, Millar, R (2012) Right to Request social enterprises: a welcome addition to third sector delivery of English healthcare? Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 3, Number 2, July 2012, pp. 275-285

2011
Dickinson, H and Miller, R. (2011) GP commissioning: implications for the third sector, Voluntary Sector Review, 2(2), 265-273.
Macmillan, R (2011) ‘Supporting’ the voluntary sector in an age of austerity: the UK coalition government’s consultation on improving support for frontline civil society organisations in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 2, Number 1, March 2011, pp. 115-124

2010
Westall, A (2010) UK government policy and ‘social investment. Voluntary Sector Review. Volume 1, Number 1, pp. 119-124
Harlock, J (2010) Personalisation: emerging implications for the voluntary and community sector. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, pp. 371-378
Alcock, P (2010) Building the Big Society: a new policy environment for the third sector in England. Voluntary Sector Review, Volume 1, Number 3, November 2010, pp. 379-389

 

A long view on Brexit and social policy

experts_hantrais

by Linda Hantrais

If the UK were no longer in a position to promote or hamper EU social policy from the inside, would the EU be more likely to become a fully-fledged social union? And if the UK were no longer subjected to EU law, what might the implications be for UK social policy?

With Brexit shrouded in uncertainty and likely to remain so for an indeterminate length of time What Brexit means for EU and UK social policy, a new Policy Press Short by Linda Hantrais, out this month, adopts a long view to help readers understand how we got to where we are and how social policy might be reconfigured in the wake of the withdrawal negotiations.

By drawing on a range of disciplinary, conceptual and theoretical approaches, the book explores the complex interconnections between social policy formation, implementation and governance in the EU before, during and after the UK’s membership. The chapters examine the issues, debates and policy challenges facing the EU at different stages in its development, as national interests evolved and polarised under pressures from public and parliamentary opinion, fanned by a persistently hostile British press, and shaped by the personalities, beliefs, judgements and prejudices of politicians and their electorates across the EU.

By documenting how UK governments,  officials and social scientists – often simultaneously – promoted and hampered European social and employment policy, the book seeks to explain why Brexit is unlikely to facilitate close social integration within EU27, and why the impact of Brexit on UK social policy is unlikely to result in a reversal or the unravelling of many decades of social and employment legislation implemented by UK governments after being subjected to rigorous parliamentary scrutiny.

“from the outset, UK governments of whatever political persuasion were never wholly committed to European political and social union.”

The book argues that the seeds of euroscepticism were sown in the 1950s in the social domain before the French voted in a referendum on enlargement in 1972 to accept the candidacies of the UK, Denmark, Ireland and Norway for membership of the European Communities (EC). For the six founding member states, with their corporatist employment-related insurance-based regimes, the social dimension was already controversial and divisive. A recurring theme throughout the book is that, from the outset, UK governments of whatever political persuasion were never wholly committed to European political and social union. The UK was only ever half in and never completely relinquished control over its national social protection system. One of the reasons why successive UK governments supported widening (to 28 members states by 2016) rather than deepening of the EU was that they expected the greater diversity of social, economic and political systems to dilute the federalising ambitions of EU institutions, and to make the chances of the EU becoming a social superstate ever more unrealistic.

The UK’s confrontational approach to European social law-making became most salient during the Thatcher years. The price to pay for the completion of the Single European Act 1986, which the UK government had strongly promoted, and which was designed, drafted and implemented by Arthur Cockfield, the UK’s appointee to the Commission, was the extension of qualified majority voting for health and safety measures. While supporting the overall aim of raising regulatory standards in industry to prevent unfair competition, the UK government opposed further encroachment by European institutions in the social domain, and it fell to John Major to prevent the Social Chapter from becoming the social arm of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, considered by many observers as marking an irrevocable step along the path to Brexit.

By using its blocking powers and opt-outs to protect national sovereignty, the UK forfeited the opportunity to be present at the negotiating table, giving the European Commission a chance to test the widely held belief that the UK was a major force preventing social integration. The evidence was far from conclusive. Other national governments, most notably Denmark and Ireland, also had recourse to opt outs, and they voted in referendums against treaty reforms that they saw as a threat to national sovereignty.

The Labour government under Tony Blair opted into the Social Chapter in 1997, allowing it to become legally binding, and the UK came close to  losing the remnants of its sovereignty in the social domain, when (with Ireland  and Sweden) the government opened its borders to uncontrolled intra-European migration from Central and Eastern Europe in 2004. At the same time, heads of state and government agreed on regulation 883/2004 (implemented in 2010) on the regulatory coordination of social security rights, which laid down the principle of the exportability of benefits. This was one of the issues on which David Cameron was to seek, and obtain, concessions in 2016, but without being able to convince the eurosceptic UK electorate that the EU could be reformed from the inside.

“Due to its half-in half-out position, the UK was, however, less directly affected by the 2010 eurozone and 2015 refugee crises.”

By declining to join Economic and Monetary Union (with Denmark) and to sign up to Schengen (with Ireland), the UK had restrained its ability to influence EU social policy. Due to its half-in half-out position, the UK was, however, less directly affected by the 2010 eurozone and 2015 refugee crises. While UK governments were resisting EU-driven social legislation, officials and advisers to the European Commission were closely involved in formulating soft law alternatives in the social domain, most notably through the open method of coordination. They thereby helped to extend the reach of social policy beyond employment rights by assisting with the introduction of targets, benchmarking, the exchange of good practice and policy learning. In addition, Tony Blair’s government is credited with having ‘uploaded’ Labour’s flexibility and welfare-to-work policies to EU level.

So what does all this mean for EU and UK social policy post-Brexit?

Even as the UK was triggering article 50 in 2017, the European Commission was launching the European Pillar of Social Rights. As at other critical moments in the past, in the context of widespread austerity in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, eurozone and refugee crises and the rise of populist parties, EU institutions were seeking to demonstrate that they were concerned to promote social progress for their increasingly eurosceptic and disillusioned peoples. Brexit had provided a wake-up call for EU27. The Pillar’s provisions applied primarily to the eurozone countries. Recognising the importance of national preferences in the social domain, the Pillar left individual member states to advance at their own pace, an approach long advocated by the UK.

Whether the UK leaves or remains, and deal or no deal, from the undertakings provided in the Prime Minister’s speeches, the withdrawal bill, and statements by the CBI, TUC and European Parliament, it seems unlikely that social legislation on workers’ rights will be diluted for so long as the UK is trading with EU27. The settled status afforded to EU migrants and their families residing in the UK could allay fears, at least in the immediate future, regarding freedom of movement.

Given that the UK needed ten years to join a common market of only six member states, and that Greenland needed three years to negotiate its withdrawal, it could well be a decade or more before we can understand the full meaning of Brexit for EU and UK social policy.

 

Linda Hantrais is author of three editions of Social Policy in the European Union (3rd edn Palgrave, 2007); Family Policy Matters: European responses to family change (Policy Press, 2004); and International Comparative Research: theory, policy and practice (Palgrave 2009).

 

What Brexit means for EU and UK social policy [FC]What Brexit Means for EU and UK Social Policy by Linda Hantrais is available on the Policy Press website. Order here for £11.99.

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Social policy first hand

Beresford, Peter

Peter Beresford

Peter Beresford, author of Social policy first hand, discusses developing inclusive action and conversation, globally, about participatory public policy.

Two of the great linked ideological and global problems of our age are the threat to the sustainability of our planet and the rising international tensions and conflicts linked with populist expansionist politics.

We have seen this in the UK with the divisive vote to leave the EU, and in the US with the election of President Trump and its associated deregulation, protectionism, xenophobia and international sabre-rattling. At the heart of both lie misinformation; the disempowerment and impoverishment of populations and the capacity of elites to manipulate them. Traditional paternalistic appeals to both self-interest and collectivism seem to cut little ice in these circumstances. Instead we have seen increasingly unconstrained neoliberalism let loose, with all media, including the new social media and networking once hoped for as a liberating force, put to its service.

The only thing that looks likely to break this perilous logjam is to move beyond the old paternalistic forms of opposition, take more seriously and treat more coherently the new bottom up approaches to self organizing and policymaking which have been emerging especially since the 1970s. That is both the message of this book and the practical role it offers as a route map to new grassroots approaches to involvement, organizing, resistance and renewal.

Social policy first hand explores how a transformed participatory approach to social policy can engage some of the most oppressed and marginalized people and groups in the world and how they are becoming the vanguard for progressive political ideological and social change. Supported by mainstream academics prepared to work in more equal ways with grassroots activists and their self-organisations, the book shows how such user led approaches to public policy are both possible and developing globally in the Global South, no less than the Global North.

We learn about new accessible and inclusive ways of organizing; the strengths and weaknesses of using social media and networks; the costs and gains of being a whistleblower, of fighting for the rights of a family member wrongly killed in the ‘caring’ system. We find out more about the links between participatory and sustainable social policy and how each is essential for the other. We learn from service users and practitioners how practice can become more user led. We are reminded that experiential knowledge, that is to say knowledge grounded in first hand experience, so long devalued in public policy while so-called ‘expert’ knowledge has been privileged, can and must have a key part to play in co-producing the policies and support that people need.

Such a participatory approach to public policy and provision challenges the marginalization of diversity, with contributions here including some of the most excluded groups; people with learning difficulties, indigenous peoples, those who have been homeless, forcibly restrained or institutionalized. It offers the possibility of getting beyond the rhetoric to see from experience how to make co-production, user involvement and listening to devalued voices real rather than just rhetorical.

Social policy first hand challenges the historic paternalistic role of social policy as a reformist device, while offering practical lessons about involvement at every level, from grassroots organizing against oppressive policy change, to playing an active part in shaping the protocols of supra national organisations. Here established social policy academics and thinkers join forces with service user thinkers and activists to explore different understandings, tactics and goals. This is a book for activists, educators and learners who want to make change by building on the diverse knowledge we already have about what can make working for such change a feasible and inclusive process. It aims to encourage a new generation of social policy that can both rescue us from the seemingly unstoppable rise of neoliberalism and ideological extremism, while offering a convincing practical, democratic and sustainable alternative.

Beresford_Social policy first handSocial policy first hand by Peter Beresford and Sarah Carr is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for £19.99.

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Repealed! Now we look to Northern Ireland

Judith-head-shot-Oct-17-cropped

Judith Orr

Originally published by the Abortion Rights blog on May 26th 2018.

An uprising of activists in every city, town and village across Ireland made history yesterday and sealed the end of an era that saw women denied basic human rights. The victory of the Repeal the Eighth campaign will ring out across the world to everyone who is fighting to win the right to safe and legal abortions, whether in Poland, Bolivia or even on the doorstep, in my own birthplace, Northern Ireland.

The grassroots campaign saw great teams of people knocking on doors night after night and taking stalls to local high streets all over the country. It was inspiring to witness thousands of people going out to talk to people face to face about why they should vote Yes.

Thousands came #HometoVote from all over the world, and numerous Twitter streams and new hashtags showed the reach and creativity of the movement. Dentists for Yes campaigned in tribute to Savita Halappanavar who died in 2012 after she was denied an abortion when she suffered a septic miscarriage. She was herself a dentist, and her parents spoke out from India in support of a yes vote. Farmers for Yes tweeted photos of themselves holding Yes signs alongside their livestock and tractors while Grandfathers for Yes defied the clichés that this was simply a generational divide.

“…while Grandfathers for Yes defied the clichés that this was simply a generational divide.”

But most of all the courage of all those who told their own personal stories, many for the first time, stands as a testament to the cruelty of a state ban of what is an essential part of women’s health care. Moving accounts, for example on In her Shoes Twitter account, recorded the anguish inflicted on women who had to travel to end an unwanted pregnancy, or who needed to end a wanted pregnancy for health reasons. Women spoke out about the past so no one would have to go through what they endured in the future.

The No side showed no humility in the face of this outpouring of moving experiences. In fact the anti abortion lobby rehearsed its well worn propaganda about being ‘pro-women’ and ‘pro-life’. These claims were exposed as being lies as the Yes campaign highlighted the impact that denying access to abortion services in Ireland had on every area of women’s health care.

Women described being denied cancer treatment, or medication for epilepsy, when they became pregnant. One doctor told of woman brought by ambulance to a maternity hospital rather than an A&E after being injured in a car accident because she was pregnant. Her own physical injuries were dealt with only after doctors successfully picked up the foetal heartbeat. In the most tragic cases surviving relatives bore witness to the consequences of the constitution treating a foetus and a pregnant women as equal under the law

So this is a momentous change that has been a long time coming. Many compare yesterday’s referendum to one that led Ireland to be the first country to legalise equal marriage after a poplar vote in a referendum. But although both show how attitudes to the Catholic Church’s orthodoxies are changing, today’s result is even more significant. Women’s lives, their bodies, their fertility and sexuality have always faced the greatest scrutiny by the church and the establishment.

“Abortion cannot be seen in isolation, rather as part of a regime of oppression that imposed severe restrictions on women’s lives, and on their sex lives in particular.”

Abortion cannot be seen in isolation, rather as part of a regime of oppression that imposed severe restrictions on women’s lives, and on their sex lives in particular. This is a system that saw women who did give birth, but who happened to be unmarried, forced into institutions, such as Mother and Baby homes and Magdalene laundries. Here their babies were forcibly taken from them to be adopted. Many babies were even sold, often to rich American couples, leaving a trail of personal devastation over generations.

The discovery, in 2017, of a mass grave of babies and children in the grounds of a former Bon Secours Mother and Baby home in Tuam, County Galway show that the full truth of these institutions has yet to come out.

This policing of women’s bodies meant that some women were shamed if they did give birth, but others were also shamed if they decided they did not want to continue a pregnancy. Yet, as so many Yes campaigners pointed out, keeping abortion illegal did not stop Irish women having abortions, it just stopped them having abortions in Ireland.

Yet the shame associated with abortion is not unique to Ireland. Abortion still carries a stigma in countries with access to legal abortion, such as Britain. Abortion is portrayed as the ultimate betrayal of what it is to be a woman, we are encouraged to see it as an aberration and a rejection of our natural biological selves. When anti abortion campaigners can’t win a bar on abortion they concentrate on maintaining these taboos.

Such stigma will not disappear overnight, but the impact of what has happened in Ireland cannot be overstated. It is a sea change that will not only affect the legal status of abortion. The result is both an expression of, and spur for, a transformation of social attitudes to abortion as well. This will be the backdrop for the debates still to come over what new abortion legislation will say, and then about how that is interpreted and implemented.

“But there is also other unfinished business that is thrust into the spotlight by the referendum result, and that is the ban on abortion rights in Northern Ireland. “

But there is also other unfinished business that is thrust into the spotlight by the referendum result, and that is the ban on abortion rights in Northern Ireland. The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, last year least 700 women traveled to England for health care they should be able to access at home. Others risk prison sentences by buying abortion pills online. One woman, 19 years old when she bought online pills when she couldn’t afford to travel to England, received a three month suspended sentence in 2016.

Theresa May was forced to concede that women from Northern Ireland should have access to NHS funded abortions in England in 2017. Until then women from Northern Ireland, paying the same National Insurance and taxes as women in the rest of the UK, not only had to travel for abortion care, they also had to pay for it privately. The issue threatened May’s ability to form a government after a snap election in June left her without a Tory majority. Her subsequent deal with the DUP, a Northern Ireland party trenchantly opposed to abortion rights, led Labour MP Stella Creasy to put a widely-supported amendment that could have defeated May’s critical Queens Speech.

In a single afternoon 50 years of discriminatory practice was overturned. This was not a sudden change of heart by the Tory government wanting to put right half a century of injustice. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had only two weeks earlier fought a case in the Supreme Court to defend the right to deny NHS funded abortions to women from Northern Ireland.

This was a reform pushed through by a government to ensure its own survival, but it showed what was possible. It has made a real difference for hundreds of women. But they still have to travel, and many cannot take the trip even if it is funded, for many different reasons from ill health to child care or the fact they are living in an abusive relationship.

That’s why today while we are celebrating this tremendous referendum victory, the Abortion Rights campaign in the UK is saying let’s take this opportunity to demand reproductive rights for women in Northern Ireland too. It’s about time.

final FC_Lyn 4 webAbortion wars by Judith Orr is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £10.39.

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Brexit: 10 myths about the ‘Norway model’ examined

BSI_Squaring_no-logo

On 8 May the UK’s House of Lords passed an amendment to require the House of Commons to vote on remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA), the possibility of Britain adopting the so-called ‘Norway model’ is back on the agenda of British politics.  

Here the authors of Squaring the Circle on Brexit: Could the Norway Model Work?, John Erik Fossum and Hans Petter Graver, give some background to Norway’s relationship with the European Union and reveal the truth behind some common myths about the Norway model.

“While Norway has rejected membership of the European Union twice in referendums in 1972 and 1994, it has consistently sought as close a relationship with the European Union as is possible for a non-member.  The core element of that relationship is the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, which came into effect in January 1994, almost a year before the second referendum.  This seamlessly ties Norway to the EU’s internal market without it being part of the supranational political union.

However, Norway’s experience shows how non-members of the EU must make difficult trade-offs between relative autonomy in decision- and rule-making and access to the EU’s internal market and other EU policies.  Norway is frequently portrayed as a ‘rule-taker’ and there is no doubt that Norway’s inability to affect EU rule and decision making is – democratically speaking – very problematic.

A closer look at Norway’s experience reveals that, in spite of this, members of the EEA can still shape their socio-economic model and mode of functioning.  In other words, how a country handles its relationship with the European Union matters.  Norway has retained a well-functioning welfare state and high levels of trust in public institutions, helping to offset potential negative influences. This trust is crucial. Norway’s experience underlines that the issue is not simply one mode of EU affiliation but the important left-right issue of choice of socio-economic model, which has significant bearings on the question of social justice.

“Norway has retained a well-functioning welfare state and high levels of trust in public institutions, helping to offset potential negative influences.”

Given these pros and cons, and the reemergence of the EEA as an essential aspect of the Brexit agenda, now is the time to unravel some of the myths around Norway’s relationship with the EU:

 

1. The ‘Norway model’ is an arrangement that just involves Norway

A core aspect of the Norway Model is, in fact, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)-based EEA agreement which was signed by Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway and where all decisions are based on unanimity.

 

2. The Norway model is the EEA

The Norway Model is made up of 120 different arrangements and covers a far greater realm of issue-areas than just those regulated under the EEA agreement. Norway is an affiliated member of Schengen and asylum and police cooperation (Dublin I, II and III. Norway is therefore within the EU’s external border with responsibility for border controls. It has also signed agreements on foreign and security policy and participates in the EU’s battle groups).

 

3. The Norway model is more constraining than the Swiss model

Unlike Norway, the Swiss have opted to unilaterally adapt their legislation to be EU-compatible. The EU is unhappy with the Swiss arrangements. They will likely not be extended elsewhere.

 

4. The EU’s off-the-shelf arrangements for non-members are straitjackets that do not allow for the flexibility of a bespoke deal

The sheer range of affiliations under the Norway Model testifies to some flexibility and ingenuity, but there are limits, especially within the EEA agreement which is about common rules and equal conditions for competition. There is political will on both the EU side and the Norwegian side to maintain close relations, and that allows for a certain measure of flexibility.

 

5. The Norway Model does not allow for an independent trade policy

The EFTA states retained their freedom to decide their own trade policies towards third countries because they are not part of the EU’s customs union. Norway had negotiated 27 free trade agreements with the EFTA countries in 2016, and has undertaken negotiations with ten countries (including China) and regional trade blocks (MERCOSUR).

 

6. No deal is better than a bad deal

Theresa May has said on Brexit that no deal is better than a bad deal. The Norway Model, with all its challenges, has shown to Norwegians that having common rules and equal conditions of competition, and the equivalent means of enforcement, offers the certainty that is necessary for an open economy to function in today’s tightly interwoven Europe.

 

7. The Norway Model is deeply contested in Norway and is unlikely to receive majority support elsewhere

In fact, there always been a clear majority in Norway in support for the model it has adopted: there is little support for EU membership, and very little support for abolishing the EEA. There is a very strong sense across most economic sectors that assured EU access is vital for prosperity. 65% of Norway’s exports (excluding oil, gas and ships) go to the EU. Norway needed a Schengen association agreement (to be within EU’s borders) in order to preserve the Nordic passport union which ensures free movement in the Nordic region.

 

8. The Norway Model is about rule-taking 

There is no denying the arrangement is democratically problematic, but there is scope for local adaptation and flexibility. The Norway model reflects the complex nature of the EU, which combines a supranational core (the internal market) and a set of intergovernmental arrangements for handling matters of border controls, and security. There is more scope for bargaining in the intergovernmental realm, which the UK has experienced through its numerous opt-outs and opt-ins. In the supranational realm the EU is also constrained by the Court of Justice, which has the final say on what arrangements are compatible with the EU aquis (the body of common rights and obligations that are binding on all EU member states) The implication is that the EU is more likely to accept bespoke arrangements in the intergovernmental than in the supranational institutional realm.

 

9. The key question about the Norway Model is the type of affiliation that it represents

That is only part of the picture. Equally important is how Norway handles this affiliation domestically. What Norway’s experience shows is that it is important to consider the state’s ability to handle its EU relationship. The Norwegian state is a well-functioning state with a high level of competence and a broad range of comprehensive welfare arrangements that enable it to compensate actors for the negative effects of Europeanisation. Norway also has a tradition of consensus-based politics that contribute to keeping EEA issues outside the realm of party politics.

 

10. Norway will be included in the European Union’s post-Brexit arrangements

Norwegians will not automatically get the same arrangements with Britain that members of the European Union will. Norway is not part of the Brexit negotiations and for many issues Norway will have to sort out its relations with the UK on its own, for example, on the rights of Norwegian citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Norway. In this case, the UK government has assured Norway that citizens will receive the same treatment. Nevertheless, Norway is a decision-taker on the sidelines during the negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU and is concerned with when its arrangements with the UK will be settled.

 

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Could the Norway model work for Britain? Find out more in Squaring the circle on Brexit – Could the Norway model work? by John Erik Fossum and Hans Petter Graver, a comprehensive first-hand account of Norway’s relationship with the EU.

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