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Public Policy|Southampton

Policy briefs


FloraGuard: Tackling the illegal trade in endangered plants

Illegal commerce in exotic and wild plants and their derivatives threatens and destroys numerous species and important natural resources, and may cause phytosanitary and health problems. Plants are harvested and traded all over the world to use their parts and derivatives for a variety of purposes, including as ornamental plants, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, construction materials and food.

The policing of illegal plant markets remains limited and poorly resourced, with law enforcement agencies often lacking the technical capacity required to detect, investigate and prosecute these crimes. Within this context, our research brought together criminology, computer science, conservation science and law enforcement expertise to analyse the criminal market in endangered plants by using mixed methods and cross-disciplinary approaches, and to explore strategies to develop digital resources to assist law enforcement.

This policy brief is based on the project “FloraGuard: Tackling the illegal trade in endangered plants”, led by the University of Southampton (Department of Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology and Department of Electronics and Computer Science). The project has been supported by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and UK Border Force as Project Partners. The study employed a mixed method design including online quantitative, qualitative and visual analyses, and semi-structured interviews with law enforcement officers and CITES experts.

FloraGuard: Tackling the illegal trade in endangered plants | Policy Brief
living wage

Advocating the Real Living Wage

The UK’s initiative on advocating the real living wage (RLW) among employers via the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) accreditation programme that
advocates paying employees a wage sufficient to live a decent life has become a successful national move with the potential to generate impact across
the globe going forward, particularly in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While it is perceived as ‘the right thing to do’, paying employees
the RLW also provides a variety of benefits to the investors and their clients, employers, employees and society in general.
At present, paying the RLW instead of the national minimum wage or the national living wage is a voluntary commitment promoted by nongovernmental organisations and investment management firms. In the UK, the LWF has taken a lead in promoting the living wage among the UK employers through the living wage accreditation programmes. These run in collaboration with the investment community and living wage campaigners from NGOs. As of March 2019, following a decade of successful work, the LWF has accredited more than 5000 employers. This accounts for more than 30% of the FTSE 100 firms and 15% of the FTSE 350 firms listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

This project is a joint initiative between the University of Southampton Business School, the Global Responsible Investment team of Aviva Investors and the Living Wage Foundation.


Advocating the Real Living Wage | Policy Brief
Youth Justice

Embedding children's rights and research evidence in youth justice practice
The fundamental role of every Youth Offending Team in England and Wales is the same; to reduce offending by children and young people, and oversee the coordinated delivery of services to young people, particularly those who are in trouble with the law. Each Team therefore has a statutory constitution that necessitates collaboration with other services. These services include social work, probation, police, education, healthcare and other services. In Wales specifically, Youth Offending Teams have to work collaboratively with  devolved services (such as education and healthcare services) which are subject to the Welsh Government’s stated commitment to a rights-based approach that complements relevant Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Consequently, Youth Offending Teams have to uphold several rights-based principles enshrined in the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and Welsh Government (WG)’s Children and Young People First, Offenders Second (CFOS) policy. This child-centred policy also underpins the stated values and aspirations of the wider YJB for England and Wales and it is embedded in the ‘child-centred’ strategic plan for youth Justice. The new strategic document for Wales also emphasises the children first principle and the aligned delivery of services by devolved and non-devolved services (Ministry of Justice 2019)3. In Wales, the CFOS policy places responsibilities on practitioners to safeguard the rights of children and young people who are supervised by Youth Offending Teams. To achieve this, Youth offending Teams are
expected to work towards several outcomes.

In their evaluation of the Pembrokeshire Youth Justice Team in Wales (which involved piloting a Youth Justice Evaluation Inventory that was designed in collaboration with YJB Cymru who also funded the evaluation), researchers from the University of Southampton and Swansea University found evidence of best practice in most of the following areas, and the researchers recommend that other Teams should adopt these practices.

Youth justice practice | Policy Brief
Kenya Policy Brief

The Kenyan Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme: Understanding the impact and experiences

The Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme (OPCTP), part of the Kenya National Safety Net Programme, is a central element of Kenya’s response to a growing population of older people, many of whom are entering later life without a secure source of income.

The aim of the targeted OPCTP has been to guarantee a basic income for the most vulnerable and poorest Kenyans aged 65 years or older. Our research, using nationally representative household survey data and a detailed case study of two informal settlements in Nairobi, examines the impact of the OPCTP on a number of dimensions of poverty and well-being among older beneficiaries and their families, including intergenerational solidarity within their kin networks and broader relations within their communities.

Kenyan Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme | Policy Brief
Preconception Health

Preconception Health

A new series of papers ‘ Preconception Health’ published by our team in The Lancet on April 16 makes the case for both women and men to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle before trying for a baby.

Mothers’ obesity or under-nutrition and similar factors in fathers can adversely affect the eggs, sperm and embryos with enduring consequences, increasing long-term cardio-metabolic and non-communicable disease risk in offspring. Pre-conception care and preparation for pregnancy is the right strategy for health of the nation across generations.

Improving nutritional preparation for pregnancy

Many men and women of reproductive age, in both high income (HIC) and low-and-middle income countries (LMIC) are not well-prepared for pregnancy in terms of nutrition. Lifecourse research pin-points investment in the pre-conception period as critical for long-term health across generations. Though we now know that pregnancy planning is more common that was thought, opportunities to invest in health before conception - a key time-point – have been overlooked. Collectively, the Lancet series points to a new emphasis on preparing for conception as a way of preventing disease and improving public health.


Preconception Health | Policy Brief
Diverse banking system

Preserving a Diverse Banking System

Regulations intended to reduce the risk of bank bailouts following the financial crisis of 2007-09 are leading to a consolidation in the global banking sector, which is becoming less diverse. This consolidation process is also driven by the need to achieve cost containment, deleveraging, and restructuring. This lack of diversity is a serious risk – a homogeneous banking sector is more vulnerable to a systemic risk of collapse than a healthy diversified one.

These new regulations may reduce the risk of bank bankruptcies, and can lead to more capital and liquidity-efficient business models and products. However, they are likely to harm smaller banks, and some jurisdictions are advocating the aggregation of small banks, particularly cooperative banks, to reduce the associated risks. However, small banks play a major role in lending to SMEs, which larger banks are less likely to do. Reducing or removing small and local banks may harm this key element of the economy as well as reducing diversity in the banking sector as a whole.

Preserving a Diverse Banking System | Policy Brief
Social media platforms

Contemporary Forms of Racism and Bigotry on Social Media Platforms

The United Nations Human Rights Council in its latest report on contemporary forms of racism and related intolerance has classified racism on the internet and social media as a growing international concern. In Brazil, 58.3% of the population are active users of Facebook, spending an average of 3:43 hours per day on the social media platform. There has been a growing number of reported cases of racism on Facebook in Brazil (11,090 in 2014), raising concerns amongst civil society at large and, especially, within the Black community. Such racist discourses on Facebook can affect not only the person subject to the derogatory content but also his/her immediate family members, and the Black community as a whole.

Racism and Bigotry on Social Media | Policy Brief
Social media platforms

Contemporary Forms of Racism and Bigotry on Social Media Platforms

The United Nations Human Rights Council in its latest report on contemporary forms of racism and related intolerance has classified racism on the internet and social media as a growing international concern. Different nations (such as the UK, Germany, Italy, and France) have been demanding the corporations behind the major social media platforms do more to tackle this phenomenon. Such
racism, bigotry and hate speech on Facebook can bring a heavy psychological burden to those targeted and to their families. They can affect people’s level of self-esteem; undermine their level of self-confidence; and challenging their sense of belonging and national identity. Moreover, in certain circumstances, it can even lead towards physical violence. As large social media platforms such as Facebook
have become an increasingly ubiquitous presence in people’s lives across the globe, this study examines how racist views are being created and disseminated across such platforms, and how to tackle the problem.



Racism and Bigotry on Social Media | Policy Brief

Evaluation of Pact's Supporting Young Parents in Prison Project

The Supporting Young Fathers in Prison (SYFP) project is delivered by Pact Cymru in prisons across Wales. The project advocates on behalf of young fathers in prison and their families. It brokers relevant services, provides therapeutic support, facilitates parenting efficacy, supports efforts to build relationships, and strengthens family ties.

PACT| Policy Brief
GPS with care

Improving provision of GPS 'location' technologies and technical support for people with dementia and their family carers

The Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia 2020 Implementation Plan aims to make England, by 2020, the best country in the world for dementia care, support, research and awareness. A key objective is to enhance the quality of life for citizens with dementia living at home, which involves the police, as well as care services. Research at the University of Southampton shows that the use of GPS ‘location’ technologies enables a person with a dementia to get and out about independently and increases social contact. GPS ‘location’ technologies also provide potentially valuable data on a person’s walking activities and whereabouts, which family carers and the police can use in an emergency.


GPS with Care | Policy Brief
EU Equality Law Policy Brief

Rethinking EU Equality Law: Towards a More Coherent and Sustainable Regime

This pair of seminars convened to stimulate a dialogue on the future of EU equality law. Designed as a platform for sharing and discussing our research findings with EU policymakers, law enforcers, civil-society organizations, as well as other academics, the seminars will help us together develop practical and realizable proposals for improving EU equality law framework, including its articulation with related policy fields, especially in the context of employment. By engaging with advocacy groups representing workers and end-users of EU equality law, we hope to also create a wider ‘critical mass’ and encourage broader support campaigns that can build momentum to persuade policymakers to implement the proposed policy changes.

The research that will be the basis for our discussions stems from our collaboration within the context of a British Academy-funded group project 'Future Directions of EU Labour Law'.

EU Equality Law | Policy BriefEU Equality Law | Project page
Changing Arctic cover image

The rapidly changing Arctic environment

The Arctic environment is facing rapid changes as temperatures there are rising twice as fast as the global average. Trees and shrubs are spreading northward, the ice-free season is lengthening, and sea ice is rapidly diminishing in extent. These changes have strong effects on biodiversity and local communities, but also wide-ranging effects via feedbacks to climate change, sea-level rise, and therefore the future of societies globally.

Understanding and predicting climate change in the Arctic, both from a local and global perspective, was the focus of the NERC Arctic Research Programme (ARP) which ran from 2011 to 2016. Key topics included the degree to which current effects of climate change reinforce or mitigate future change, and the identification of critical processes contributing to such changes, now and in the future. Researchers covered many Arctic habitats, including oceans, lakes, wetlands, tundra and forest.


The rapidly changing Arctic environment | Policy Report
Genomics recontacting

Recontacting patients when new genomic findings come to light

Advances in genetic and genomic medicine, their reduced cost, and greater integration into medical practice – i.e. the mainstreaming of genomics – are generating new information about predispositions, diagnosis and treatment of some health conditions. As more evidence is accrued, an increasingly important question arises about if and when patients seen in the past should be recontacted to update them on these changes in technology and interpretation. Where new genetic/genomic information could have significant implications for the health of patients and their relatives, their reproductive and lifestyle choices, employment, and psychosocial wellbeing, there is a clear benefit to recontacting them. However, how strong does new evidence have to be, how likely a diagnosis will be achieved, or how well a predisposition can be treated are important factors in any recontact policy.

Recontacting patients when new genomic findings come to light | Policy Brief
Flexible working

Employers, the right to request flexible working and older workers

There is growing demand from older workers to work flexibly. It offers clear business benefits, including retention, reputation, workforce loyalty, and increasing productivity. However, at present half the workforce is retiring before reaching state pension age, often because circumstances prevent them from working as long as, or in the ways, they desire. A multi-pronged approach will be key to the success of the 2014 universal right to request flexible work: providing support to pioneering employers around the design issues of managing a flexible workforce; and working to persuade resistant employers of the measurable benefits of flexible working.

Flexible working and older workers | Policy BriefFlexible working and older workers | Research Brief
Effective Psychological Support for Homelessness

Improving housing options through effective psychological support for homeless people

The number of homeless people continues to rise, with over 4000 sleeping on the streets of England in 2016. Untreated mental health problems are significantly implicated in the causes and maintenance of rough sleeping. People who are homeless do not access health and mental health services in the way they are currently provided, and current government policy does not make provision for this, focusing in the main on housing. Research at the University of Southampton indicates that specialist psychological services can effectively treat the problems that underlie the behaviours that lead to repeated tenancy breakdown. These may be in the form of therapeutic interventions and approaches provided in the context of “psychologically-informed environments”. It is essential that practitioners trained in psychological therapies provide ongoing support for these endeavours.

Effective Psychological Support for Homelessness | Policy Brief
Child-centred policy brief

Making Child Protection 'Child-Centred' - Lessons from Childline

The children’s helpline Childline was 30 years old in 2016. A project examining the history of the organisation, funded by the Wellcome Trust, identified how social workers, clinicians, voluntary organisations, and national and local governments have – and have not – worked together to protect children over time.

Politicians and campaigners reiterate the importance of forming policy from ‘the child’s perspective’. This is a modern approach: the focus on consulting with children, and thinking about children’s responses to policy, has developed over the last seventy years. ‘Child-centred’ is, however, a vague term, which has been interpreted in many ways.

This policy brief has been prepared by Dr Eve Colpus, University of Southampton, and Dr Jennifer Crane, University of Warwick. It includes findings from their research, and from a workshop entitled ‘30 Years of Childline: A Witness Seminar’, held at the BT Tower on 1 June 2016.

Making Child Protection 'Child-Centred' | Policy Brief
Mekong Delta Rice Policy Brief

Sustainable rice cultivation in the deep flooding zones of the Vietnamese Mekong Delta | January 2017

The world's largest rivers transport ~19 billion tonnes of sediment each year, with a significant fraction being sequestered in the large deltas that are home to 14% of the world's population. Most (>70%) of these large deltas are under threat from rising sea levels, ground surface subsidence and declining riverine sediment supply required for delta construction.

However, while measurements and projections of sea level rise and subsidence exist for many deltas, data quantifying historic changes in fluvial sediment supply are sparse, limiting our understanding of how delta building is related to climatic fluctuations. This situation reflects the complexity of controls on river sediment loads, which include the influence of climate and land use change in upland areas, dam construction, and flood driven storage and remobilisation of sediment within the extensive floodplains that characterise the lowland reaches ("sediment transfer zones") of the world's major rivers.

This project will provide the first comprehensive quantification of these controls on riverine sediment fluxes for one of the world's largest rivers (the Mekong), leading to new generic understanding of the relationships between climatic variability, fluvial processes and sediment flux to deltaic zones and the ocean.



Sustainable rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta | Policy BriefSustainable rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta | Project Website
Beyond 'Breast is best'  policy brief

Beyond 'Breast is Best' | August 2016

New research shows that changes should be made to the wording of information given to pregnant women and new mothers, and to the training of health professionals working with these women.

This policy brief has been prepared by Professor Fiona Woollard and Professor Elselijn Kingma at the University of Southampton. It includes findings from their own research, and from "The Breastfeeding Dilemma" workshop, held at London Southbank University, 23rd March 2016, which brought together academics, health professionals and parental support workers.


Beyond 'Breast is Best' | Policy Brief
Citizens Assembly Policy Brief

Citizens Assembly | August 2016

With Greater London adopting new powers, residents in and around Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight (the Solent) are wondering if similar changes could revitalise their region. Some residents believe that shifting more power to the local level will deliver public services more effectively and use public funds more efficiently. Others are concerned about adding extra layers of administration.

The Solent has been amongst the national leaders in the pursuit of new deals between local authorities and Westminster. However, shifting new political power to the region must be in a form that is supported by the people who live here.

“Our citizens’ assemblies will put the voice of local people at the forefront of debates about how we are governed. This represents is an important opportunity for people to shape the debates about the future of the Sheffield and Solent regions” - Professor Will Jennings


Citizens Assembly South | Policy BriefCitizens Assembly | Project ReportCitizens Assembly | Project Website

Quick reference guide to recent Policy Briefs


Theme Project Title Princicple Investigator Project Completetion Policy Brief Project website
Employment Rethinking EU equality law

Dr Benedi Lahuerta (PI University of Southampton)

DR Ania Zbyszewska (CO University of Warwick)

October 2017 Click here Click here
Environment The rapidly changing Arctic environment

Dr Emma Wiik (PI Bangor University)

Prof Sheldon Bacon (CI University of Southampton)

August 2017 Click here N/A
Health Recontacting patients when new genomic findings come to light

Prof Susan Kelly (PI University of Exeter)

Dr Sandi Dheensa (PI University of Southampton)

July 2017 Click here N/A
Employment Employers, the right to request flexible working and older workers Dr Jane Parry March 2017 Click here Click here
Homelessness Improving housing options through effective psychological support for homeless people Dr Nick Maguire February 2017 Click here N/A
Children & Young People Making Child Protection 'Child-Centred' - Lessons from Childline Dr Eve Colpus January 2017 Click here Click here
Environment Sustainable rice cultivation in the Mekong Delta Professor Steve Darby January 2017 Click here Click here
Health Beyond 'Breast is best' Professor Elselijn Kingma August 2016 Click here N/A
Politics Citizen's Assembly Professor Will Jennings July 2016 Click here Click here
Health Employee Led Innovation in Healthcare Professor Susan Halford July 2016 Click here Click here
Health Together at the End of Life Dr Aliki Karapligkou July 2016 Click here N/A
Health Preventing Mental Illness Professor David Kingdon June 2016 Click here N/A
Politics The rise of Anti-Politics Professor Will Jennings April 2016 Click here Click here
Justice Penal Policymaking: A collaborative symposium Dr Harry Annison April 2016 1, 2, 3 Click here
Migration How (not) to predict migration Dr Jakub Bijak December 2015 Click here Click here
Environment Managing Water Demand Dr Mirco Tonin & Dr Carmine Ornaghi September 2015 Click here Click here
Gender Equality Gender Equality at Work Professor Susan Halford June 2014 Click here Click here
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