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In the documentary film Brexit, Health and Me,1 the drill rapper Drillminister reflects on accountability for political decisions affecting the health of the UK population and the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Drillminister interview is replete with references to legal forms of accountability: criminal processes, including imprisonment, for stealing, fraud and ‘joint enterprise’, as well as investigatory processes designed to promote transparency, such as Royal Commissions. Interviewer: Your song ‘NI Backstop’ for me was a song about educating, but also that encapsulated the arguments so well. What made you want to do that? Drillminister: Because my main ops is government, my main ops is the people that’s putting us down. What I’m saying, in certain lines like, um, ‘Before the referendum, did the average Joe know what Brexit was?’ – before the referendum, not after, where everybody’s saying, ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’, saying the buzzword – did they know what Brexit was? No, they didn’t. They had no clue, otherwise they wouldn’t have been driving around with big buses saying, ‘Yeah, 150 million … [corrects self] 350 million … is going back to the NHS’, which is a lie. Which, right now, why is no one in jail for that? Because if I’m a fraud man, and if some Uncle is coming and saying, ‘Yo, I’m putting blah, blah, blah into your account’ … you’d be like, ‘Yo, Uncle, you’re putting that money in my account, yeah’.

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Author: Rosie Harding

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK residential social care sector has been immense and tragic. Elderly, vulnerable and frail individuals living in residential care settings who should have been ‘shielded’ from the virus have died in disproportionate numbers. There are multiple and overlapping reasons for the very high rates of COVID-19 infection and death in residential adult social care settings. Some are immediate policy decisions relating to the management of the pandemic including to discharge older people from NHS hospitals into residential and nursing homes without a negative COVID-19 test result, and to prioritize the supply of (scarce) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to NHS providers. Others are endemic to the regulation of residential and nursing care, including the financial models that allow private equity firms to make significant profits while local authority funded placements pay at below cost, family members are required to pay care ‘top-up’ fees, and self-funded residents are expected to cross-subsidize those funded by the state. Low pay and low status for care workers in this impossible financial context then translates into high staff turnover and a reliance on agency care staff (who work for multiple providers). Brexit has compounded this issue, with estimates suggesting there were over 120,000 vacancies in adult social care in late 2019. In this chapter, I will argue that a new model for adult social care, which focuses on fairness rather than profit is the only way to create a stable, safe and sustainable social care sector for the future.

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One of the notorious failings of the UK government in its reaction to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was its inability to ensure that the health and social care frontline had proper and undisrupted access to essential personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, gowns and gloves. The story of the failings leading to the PPE fiasco runs largely in parallel to the also failed attempt at boosting the availability of ventilators through the ‘Ventilator Challenge’, and the not more successful subsequent ‘Test and Trace’ programme, including its doubling down in ‘Operation Moonshot’ – which, at the time of writing, has been assessed to be having a marginal impact on the prevention and management of the second wave.

These stories offer a cautionary tale for the future management of extremely urgent public procurement, which will become ever more important given the serious risks of social and ecological breakdown derived from climate change. These stories show the very significant problems that result from having a public sector with insufficient procurement capability, an inadequate procurement strategy and (perhaps more importantly) a very weak procurement governance system largely incapable of ensuring the accountability for outsourced tasks in the public interest (Boeger and Sanchez-Graells, 2019). Perhaps even worse, these stories are not news at all, and the underlying problems not only concern extremely urgent procurement, but also complex procurement projects, as the second phase of the Grenfell Tower Disaster Inquiry is further evidencing.

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As mentioned in the introduction to this book, COVID-19 has been described as a great leveller; a virus that cares not about the colour, creed or bank balance of its hosts. While there has been recognition at government level that COVID-19 is more likely to affect certain groups – Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, older people, and those with underlying health conditions in particular – there nevertheless remains something of a whimsical notion that we are all in this together. The great leveller rhetoric has perhaps been utilized in an attempt to create something of a sense of community and unity at a time of national crisis, but the reality remains that COVID-19 is far from a great leveller. It is instead an amplifier of existing inequalities underlying not only the sectors discussed in the various chapters in this book, but across almost every facet of society. With schools closing early in the pandemic and re-opening for the vast majority of pupils only after a variety of other businesses and services such as non-essential shops, pubs and hair salons, the already widening attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthy peers in England has expanded further, and the effects of this are likely to be both profound and enduring.

This chapter will discuss the stratified effects of COVID-19, and the responses to it, within the formal education sector in England based principally on socio-economic factors, with other social categorizations, including ethnic origin and disability, being discussed where relevant. It begins by considering the impact of the 2008 economic crash upon the education sector.

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As 2020 drew to a close, the possibility of a significant expansion of capital gains taxation seemed imminent. The clues were there. In July, after the impact of the pandemic had fundamentally changed daily life, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, requested a review of the tax from the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS, 2020), which is an independent governmental advisory body that has the purpose of advising the Chancellor on ways of simplifying taxation. The report was released in early-mid November, and contained recommendations to increase rates of taxation, and to reconsider certain reliefs. A week later, the Chancellor released a Spending Review, which was, he assured, focused on increasing (and not decreasing) spending (Sunak, 2020). Thus, he enhanced investment in the NHS, and protected it (for the moment) from further cuts. Considering these moments in history together, it is fair to deduce that the Chancellor will need to find the money to pay for a significant increase in spending. Capital gains taxation, given the attention it had received since July 2020, seemed the obvious target.

It is also a moving target, and it is challenging to pin down the exact moment in time that could be designated as safe to pause, and to reflect on the way ahead for taxation in the aftermath of the pandemic. One lesson from recent, trying times is that nothing should be taken for granted. Even more unanticipated events might occur which would prompt the Chancellor to consider trying something else. The risk of waiting for activity to pause, before reflecting, is that assumptions of what should be taken for granted remain unchallenged.

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When the UK government plans its COVID-19 economic recovery, children and their rights must be at the heart of decision-making. All children have been deeply affected by the pandemic. The closure of schools and leisure facilities, the contraction of essential children’s and youth services, and increased exposure to stress, poverty, hunger, abuse and domestic violence during lockdown will have significant and enduring consequences and entrench existing disadvantage and discrimination along socio-economic, racial and ethnic lines (see Struthers, Chapter 11). This is especially true for children in conflict with the law. The response to the pandemic has heightened the conditions that draw children into contact with the criminal justice system (CJS) and had a detrimental impact on those currently within it, again perpetuating existing disparities especially for care-experienced and BAME heritage children. These are not, however, new problems brought about by the pandemic or the impending economic crisis. Rather, they are the very predictable consequences of a long-standing failure to address both the causes and responses to childhood offending in a way that is holistic, caring and rights-respecting, and in ways that are good for children, society and the economy.

Drawing on lessons from the decade of austerity, this chapter argues that the COVID-19 recovery period should be founded on principles of genera-relational justice. 1 A genera-relational approach to childhood offending recognizes both the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on children and our unique obligations to them. The chapter concludes, optimistically, that recent policy shifts in youth justice – including the intersecting ‘child-first’, trauma-informed and public health approaches – offer more fertile ground for a just response to the impending economic crisis than existed in the post-2008 period.

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This chapter examines what COVID-19 and the response to it has revealed, in the context of housing and homelessness. Our argument is that responses have been limited by what is deemed possible by current housing politics. It goes on to consider the possibilities for a different housing politics, post-pandemic, suggesting that we need to find something new, something between the promotion of the entrepreneurial individual and a collective response characterized by uniformity, exclusion and authoritarianism. Perhaps the description of classical music’s response to COVID-19 restrictions may provide a useful metaphor. Socially distanced performances and reduced numbers of instrumentalists produce what has been described as an ‘orchestra of soloists’. Applied to housing, this suggests a possibility of combining the individual expression of identity through home and housing simultaneously with a collective effort to achieve a minimum standard of provision. The method may be as important as the goal. We should not be afraid to explore alternatives, to trial messy and slow interventions as long as they reflect an inclusive, democratic and accountable politics as we search for an alternative to the current failed model of marketized housing provision and a discredited albeit collective past.

COVID-19 ratchets up the cruel consequences of the poor-quality housing and homelessness provision that have been a long-standing feature of England’s housing settlement. Mortality statistics suggest a correlation between likelihood of death from the virus and overcrowded, shared or temporary housing, a correlation with particularly devastating implications for BAME people who are disproportionately poorly housed. Housing conditions make it difficult to self-isolate, shared facilities enable the spread of the virus, and a lack of access to outside space exacerbates poor mental and physical health.

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Authors: Dave Cowan and Ann Mumford

During troubled times, events that captivate for a minute may quickly be replaced by other, even more troubling developments, and perhaps forgotten. Nonetheless, the quote at the start of this chapter, coupled with Emily Maitlis’ now famous Newsnight speech about how COVID-19 is “not a great leveller”1 offer a metaphor for what the contributors to this book are arguing – the different effects of, and responses to, COVID-19; the fragmentation of the global, and anxieties about the local scale. At heart, we are concerned with the idea of the public, and the presentation of the public as a homogenous community equally affected by COVID-19. Just like the supposed equal effects of the rule of law, we know that the idea and constitution of the public as well as the rule of law are riven with inequalities. We know that class, gender, race and wealth are cleavages in the supposed homogeneity of the public. And we know that the effects of COVID-19 are visited disproportionately on the already disadvantaged.

Despite – and, perhaps, because of – the economic packages in place to support businesses and others during the pandemic, there are anxieties over how the coming economic crisis caused by the resultant swollen sovereign debt will affect the public. After the last great economic crisis following the bank and market meltdown in 2007–08, austerity measures were put in place. What might be termed ‘austerity law’ emerged as the need to repay sovereign debt dominated discussions of the economy.

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Author: Katie Bales

In interrupting the supply and demand necessary for global capitalism to function, COVID-19 has significantly impacted upon our working lives. It has exposed the existing inequalities present within our labour framework and drawn attention to the working conditions of ‘front-line workers’ who have been consistently undervalued and underpaid by UK governments and businesses. The government’s response, such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (‘CJRS’), further exemplifies the problematic and hierarchical nature of employment status which privileges certain groups over others. Coupled with a reduction in union representation and cuts to regulatory ‘red-tape’ for employers, the balance between workers’ rights and business interests has been tilted in favour of the latter for decades.

This chapter begins by exploring the ways in which lockdown impacted on the workforce and the position of front-line workers. It then interrogates the existing labour framework on employment status which continues to create precarious classes of workers in the name of ‘flexibility’. Finally, the chapter addresses the situation of undocumented workers who, absent the criminal law, remain abandoned by the state. Undoubtedly, the insecure immigration status of those who are undocumented creates a form of hyper-precarity which distinguishes them from our traditional understanding of the precariat. What we see then, is that a hierarchy of rights and entitlements remains prevalent under the COVID-19 labour packages which privileges those with greater security (and often income) over those who are perhaps most in need.

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