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26 May 2018

DPE Students Shine in Policy Idol

Three students from the Department of Political Economy (School of Politics & Economics, King's College London) made it to the finale in this year's Policy Idol Competition, where they impressed the audience with their knowledge and creativity.

Student Daniela Villacreces
Student Daniela Villacreces

Three students from the Department of Political Economy (School of Politics & Economics, King’s College London) impressed the audience with their knowledge and creativity in the finale of this year’s Policy Idol competition. The students were Daniela Villacreces, Second Year Political Economy; Salome Gongadze, Second Year Politics; and Alice Stretch, Third Year Political Economy.

Policy Idol is an annual competition organised by the Policy Institute at King’s where staff and students have the opportunity to pitch their policy ideas to a panel of elite political experts. Each pitch is limited to three minutes. We have summarised the unique policy pitches of each of these students below.

Daniela Villacreces

The corrosive problem of corruption hinders the development of Latin America misallocating resources devoted to social services and development projects (Blake and Morris, 2010). It also discourages investment and jeopardises the public trust in political institutions (Little and Posada-Carbó, 1996). All Latin American countries, except three, exhibit from medium to high levels of corruption (Transparency International, 2018) and despite major structural and constitutional costly anti-corruption reforms in every country since the early 1990s, little or no change has been visible over the last 17 years (ibid; Transparency International, 2018). Corruption in Latin America is an endemic issue; the missing piece towards a solution is to also target society.

Compulsory education in good citizenship and values is the necessary policy to finally tackle corruption. Moreover, its realization could be facilitated and its cost of implementation could be reduced by following the guidelines of "Preventing through Education" in Latin America, which already implemented sexual education into schools curriculums (Hunt, et al., 2014). It is also possible to analyse the cost-effectiveness of this policy. For instance, “Preventing through education” from 2015 to 2017 cost to the Ecuadorian government approximately 7% of the estimated cost of anti-corruption projects launched from 2012 to 2013 (Presidency of Ecuador, 2015; FTCS, 2013). Results of this policy will be visible in the short, medium and long run. In the short run, the policy will start by adjusting students’ behaviour due to their new perceptions of what is “right” and “wrong”. This automatic adjustment has already been visible in other value-based programs. In the medium run, students will contribute to the social change by addressing their families, the nucleus of society. Hence, citizens will become less willing to participate in police or bureaucratic bribery due to its increasing social disapproval. New social norms will be established and demands for more transparent public institutions will increase. All of this without necessarily changing institutions. In most countries within the region, the law and institutions to penalize corruption are already in place; what is needed is a society that supports these institutions (Blake and Morris, 2010). In the long run, these new social norms will be culturally reinforced and Latin American countries will have clean systems.

Salome Gongadze

My pitch, titled ‘Housing within Reach: Reforms for Tackling the British Housing Crisis’ aims to create a solution for one of Britain’s most pressing problems: the housing crisis. The housing crisis is characterized by an undersupply of both private and social housing and an extremely rapid growth in house prices in the past few decades. It has exacerbated Britain’s high intergenerational inequality and led to increases in homelessness. My policy recommendations include closing the ‘viability’ loophole by amending National Planning Policy to place strict limits on developers’ ability to negotiate affordability requirements, supporting alternative models of housebuilding that are rooted in the public interest to offset the current speculative model, reforming Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) system, and raising council borrowing allowances to allow local authorities to build more low cost social housing. These reforms should help decrease prices and increase supply by attacking these problems at the roots. 

Alice Stretch


Putting policy to paper and pitching to experts is pretty daunting and most would be apprehensive about public speaking in a policy competition. But what if getting out of bed, making a cup of coffee and going to the toilet were as daunting? What if you knew you needed help with each of these tasks every day? That is the reality for 1 in 3 people in their lifetime and for a majority of people in the future. For decent care in 2080, university students should start thinking now. But universities may also hold the answer to the current care shortage. My policy proposal is ‘Caring Students’; linking students in care-related subjects to local care homes, to assist with the care shortage, receiving income, experience and flexibility, whilst adding value. 

The split of provision in the current care system is staggering, almost 40% only receive help from family and friends (only 12.5% receive council care and 21% pay for their own, 30% receiving no help at all). The number of adults aged 85+ will double in the next twenty years, and there are 90,000 vacancies in the care sector at any one time, representing a 6.6% vacancy rate (triple the average for the UK economy). The pressure to meet demand has led to a fragmented system of care provision worth £40 billion to the economy, but there is a huge differential of what agency carers cost and what they are paid. Caring Students seeks to link universities to local care homes where you can pay two student carers the NMW for the price of hiring one agency carer. There are economies of scale, intergenerational matching opportunities, data-led progression of schemes, and longevity of organisational relationships. 

Caring Students is not just about meeting care need, it is about providing opportunity. For the farmer who spent his life working in the fields and due to a spinal injury he is now wheelchair-bound, he can be taken outside by the two carers required. For the Saxophinist whose Parkinson's has left them housebound, they can be taken to a jazz concert by two Caring Students. And for me, and other King's students, in sixty years' time we will probably say "I don't want to be a burden", but care shouldn't be a burden, we should value it as a society by introducing Caring Students.