Would That Work Here?

Episodes

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01Estonian E-democracy2014040220140405

Claire Bolderson asks what the UK can learn from the Estonian electoral process.

In a new series of thought-provoking debates, Claire Bolderson looks at something another country does well, or differently, and asks whether it could work here.

The last few decades have seen declining participation in the electoral process, particularly among the younger generation. Only 44% of 18-24 year-olds voted in 2010 compared with 76% of over 65s, and the Hansard Society is predicting it could be as low as 12% in the next election. Could adopting an Estonian style e-democracy re-engage the population?

Estonia is credited with being the world's leading e-democracy, having embraced a determined policy of digitalisation, including electronic internet voting, as part of the push to make itself competitive in the 21st Century. The UK political system is positively antiquarian by comparison. What can the UK learn from the Estonian experience?

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, recently suggested the UK might follow suit, but what would be the advantages and disadvantages - and how much would it cost? Is our current system fit for purpose, or is it out of touch with the way we live now, already doing our shopping, banking, betting and much else online? Would digitalisation re-engage the young, or merely serve the established political elite?

The Estonian system relies on an ID card system. Would that be a barrier to our adoption of something similar? Could technology liberate us from a 19th Century political rut, or would we lay ourselves open to 21st Century problems of technology - fraud, insecurity and governmental control?

Produced by Jennie Walmsley and Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

02New Zealand's Faultless Fix2014040920140412

Claire Bolderson asks if there is an alternative to the name, blame and claim culture.

In a new series of thought-provoking debates, Claire Bolderson looks at something another country does well, or differently, and asks whether it could work here.

The trend towards a US-style litigation culture in the UK in recent years has been a growing cause for concern. The costs - both financial and social - of legal claims against public services such as heath and education is escalating year-on-year. But the cases that make it to court are only the tip of the iceberg, with countless others taking up precious resources, time and bureaucracy. Is there an alternative to this name, blame and claim culture?

Is demanding compensation for accidents now seen as a the only way of holding public services to account? What does the threat of litigation do to transparency and accountability? Is the fear of litigation damaging to the professionalism of doctors, nurses and teachers and the delivery of services? Do we need to take a long, hard look at this trend and where it is likely to lead us?

In New Zealand, patients get compensation for all personal injuries and accidents through a no-fault government-funded compensation system. In turn, they relinquish the right to sue for damages arising from personal injury, except in rare cases of misconduct.

Advocates of New Zealand's no-fault system claim that it is cheaper to run and provides more-timely compensation to a greater number of patients, as well as a less stressful process for resolving disputes. Straightforward claims are processed in weeks, with a fixed award structure ensuring that similar injuries receive similar compensation. The system is funded through general taxation and employer levies and is mandatory and universal.

Would a similar system work in the UK? What would be the advantages and disadvantages?

Producers: Ruth Evans and Jennie Walmsley

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

03Norway's Prison Regime2014041620140419

Claire Bolderson asks what the UK can learn from Norway's low prisoner re-offending rates.

In a new series of thought-provoking debates, Claire Bolderson looks at something another country does well, or differently, and asks whether it could work here.

Re-offending, or recidivism rates, are difficult to compare from country to country because of different methodologies and metrics. However, it's clear that rates in the UK are amongst the highest in Western Europe, and worryingly high amongst criminals who have been released from prison. As prisons reach full capacity, the cycle of crime, punishment and re-offending needs to be broken. Norway might provide a solution, since it boasts a re-offending rate of 20%, the lowest in Western Europe.

Prisons appear to play a different role in Norway - less about punishment and more a place of rehabilitation. One in particular - Bastoy, an open prison on an island south of Oslo, where only 16% of released prisoners re-offend - has received widespread international attention. How far is its success attributable to the environment or a more humane philosophy? Guards are trained in criminology and psychology, and inmates enjoy a lifestyle described by critics as being like a "holiday camp" (despite the fact it is cheaper to run than most Norwegian prisons).

What is prison for, and what can we learn from Norway?

Produced by Jennie Walmsley and Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

04 LASTJapan: Cashless Community Care for the Elderly2014042320140426

04 LASTJapan: Cashless Community Care for the Elderly2014042320140426

Japan: cashless community care for the elderly

Claire Bolderson concludes a series of thought-provoking debates which look at something another country does well, or differently, and ask would that work here?

The UK, like many countries, faces the problems of an increasingly ageing society. The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to rise by 23% from 10.3 million in 2010 to 16.9 million by 2035. How can we provide and pay for their care?

Japan is at the forefront of the ageing crisis, with the highest proportion of elderly citizens in the world. By 2030, almost a third of the population will be 65 or older. At the same time the overall population is shrinking, leaving fewer young working people to shoulder the burden of paying for care for the elderly.

One creative response to this challenge at local level has been a cash-less system of time-banking. Under the fureai kippu system, individuals donate time to looking after the elderly, and earn credits which they can - in theory at least - "cash in" later for their own care, or transfer to elderly relatives in other parts of the country.

Could something similar work here, or do we have very different attitudes to community and volunteering? Who would benefit from such a cash-less scheme, and who might lose out? Could it be scaled up to meet the escalating needs of a growing elderly population?

Produced by Ruth Evans and Jennie Walmsley

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

04 LASTJapan: Cashless Community Care For The Elderly20140423

Japan: cashless community care for the elderly

Claire Bolderson concludes a series of thought-provoking debates which look at something another country does well, or differently, and ask would that work here?

The UK, like many countries, faces the problems of an increasingly ageing society. The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to rise by 23% from 10.3 million in 2010 to 16.9 million by 2035. How can we provide and pay for their care?

Japan is at the forefront of the ageing crisis, with the highest proportion of elderly citizens in the world. By 2030, almost a third of the population will be 65 or older. At the same time the overall population is shrinking, leaving fewer young working people to shoulder the burden of paying for care for the elderly.

One creative response to this challenge at local level has been a cash-less system of time-banking. Under the fureai kippu system, individuals donate time to looking after the elderly, and earn credits which they can - in theory at least - "cash in" later for their own care, or transfer to elderly relatives in other parts of the country.

Could something similar work here, or do we have very different attitudes to community and volunteering? Who would benefit from such a cash-less scheme, and who might lose out? Could it be scaled up to meet the escalating needs of a growing elderly population?

Produced by Ruth Evans and Jennie Walmsley

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.