Policy Paper Guidelines

  • 1,000 words – This should be roughly one third ‘setting the scene’, explaining the current situation or problem you will address and any attempts to solve it (why they’ve failed). Two thirds should then be outlining your policy, why it would solve the problem previously outlined, and preferably why it is viable.
  • We want articles to use Harvard referencing (just like the politics department). What that basically means is at the end of the relevant sentence put (author’s name, year of publication, page number if there is one). There should also then be a bibliography at the end.
  • This isn’t academic work, we don’t want you to spend hours and hours reading books, your policy and argument is the most important thing. However you should utilise articles/news reports/ surveys/ consultations available online to back up your argument where possible.
  • Think about an issue that annoys you or you are passionate about, how would YOU solve it. This is a chance for you to show off your ideas. Having said that, if you need some inspiration then policies are discussed at our policy lab events and any of these would be suitable for a policy paper submission. Recent topics have included the E.U., racial discrimination, female representation in politics, capping emissions of countries such as china, campaign finance reform and privatisation.

Below you can read the winning article from last year. Please note that it has Chicago referencing and not Harvard, so ignore the referencing style:

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 Everyone has the right to not be abused as a child, however currently staggering amounts of people in this country are not being sufficiently protected. According to the NSPCC 24.1% of young adults experienced some sort of sexual abuse during childhood,[1] this is an outrageously high figure. A common rebuttal to proposed changes in the level of protection children receive is that due to the prevalence of CRB checks and the sex offenders register, it’s ‘not so much of a problem anymore’. However a study carried out in 2011 found that 9.4% of children aged between 11-17 had experienced sexual abuse within that past year,[2] and 32% of all sexual crimes committed in England and Wales in 2010-2011 were against children under 16 years old.[3]

Why then have the government’s efforts not worked? Well to put it simply to be on the sex offender’s register you have to have been caught. According to the NSPCC 34% of children aged between 11 and 17 who experienced ‘contact’ sexual abuse by an adult didn’t tell anyone about it. [4] A positive result from the reporting of the Jimmy Saville abuse scandal was that The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) saw calls rise from 200-300 a week to 2,500 calls in the three weeks following the breaking of the story,[5] which was an unprecedented number of abuse victims coming forward. It took the subject to be on the front page of every paper and to have top billing on the evening news for it to be deemed an acceptable thing to talk about and for people to feel comfortable coming forward, to put it simply this culture needs to change. The second major reason why the government’s current efforts haven’t fully worked is the surprising amount of abuse that is carried out by other children, (65.9% of contact child abuse experienced by children aged under 17 was by someone aged under 18)[6] this is a topic discussed even less than adult to child abuse, and is not solved at all by CRB checking people in contact with children. The culture of not speaking out is also worryingly higher when it comes to peer abuse, for example 82.7% of children aged between 11 and 17 who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone about it.[7]

Changing the culture of a nation is obviously very hard, but efforts can be made.  Steps the government can make include a nationwide television advertising campaign focussing on the importance of speaking out about abuse. Government funded advertising campaigns have seen success in the past, such as the ‘know your limits campaign’.[8] A key change that needs to be made is victims coming forward in the immediate aftermath of the abuse, so that the perpetrator can be caught and further abuses don’t take place. School education is therefore very important. The topic of abuse needs to be brought into ‘PSHE’ classes in secondary school, and the latter stages of primary education. This will have two aims, firstly to encourage children to come forward if they experience any abuse, and secondly to ensure they understand what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour – as the majority of perpetrators assault children they know, with 80% of offences occurring in either the perpetrator’s or victim’s home,[9] and thus the child’s perception of what is and isn’t normal can be altered. Children need to know what constitutes abuse, and whom they can go to if they experience this. Having grown up with the topic being discussed in lessons, this generation will also be less closed on the subject when older, helping to dispel the current culture of ‘keeping quiet’.

Efforts also need to be made to reduce the number of people attempting child sexual abuse. A distinction needs to be made between those who have the urges and those who act on them. This essay suggests a new government initiative, providing free mental and emotional support for those who come forward. A new register, separate from the sex offenders one, not public at all. You would willingly come forward, agree to have your name added to the private list, and provide regular updates of your employment (which would be checked), in return you would receive support. This should again be accompanied by a national advertising campaign, emphasising the difference between someone who has urges and who seeks help and support, and those who act on these urges and abuse children. A change needs to be made within society as a whole, moving away from the narrow-minded witch-hunt mentality, that lead to violent outbreaks in 2000 culminating in the confused and misguided attack on a paediatricians home.[10] This witch-hunt culture resurfaced again in the aftermath of the recent Saville scandal, with Phillip Schofield handing the Prime Minister a list of suspected paedophiles based on internet rumours on live television.[11] This sort of behaviour is unhelpful to the overall goal of reducing abuse, as it makes very clear the sort of treatment people would receive if they came forward for help, thus discouraging them to do so. It would be more useful when trying to reduce the number of abuses to have a perception that one cannot be blamed for any urges they have, the same as one cannot be blamed for being born with a physical disability. If people knew that by coming forward and seeking help they will not be attacked and vilified then they would be more likely to do it, and as a result there would be less child abuse.

To conclude this essay proposes a two pronged approach, firstly a campaign to encourage people to come forward when they have been abused and secondly an initiative to provide support and help to people before they abuse children. It is proposed that these campaigns would see both an increase in the percentage of child abusers who are caught, and a decrease in the number of abuses that happen, both of which are desperately needed.


[1] From: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC)

[2] From: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC)

[3] From: Chaplin, Rupert, Faltley, John and Smith, Kevin (eds.) (2011) Table 2.04.  In: Crime in England and Wales 2010/11: findings from the British Crime Survey and police recorded crime (PDF). London: National Statistics. p.43.

[4] From: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC)

[6] Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC.

[7] Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC.

[9] From: Grubin, Don (1998) Sex offending against children: understanding the risk (PDF). London: Home Office. pp.v-vi and p.26.

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