Headlines: January 6th, 2011

The Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office has published ways in which it believes local authorities, charities, government and private sector organisations can develop responses that encourage healthier behaviours. The team draws on insights from behavioural science and behavioural economics which encourage behavioural change without resorting to legislation or costly programmes. It is better known as the nudge, nudge approach.

A smoking cessation pilot will start shortly and it will encourage participants to make commitments to quit smoking, for example, by signing a contract. Those who pass regular smoking tests will be rewarded. The pilot will be run by Boots, with the support of the Behavioural Insights Team and the Department of Health,

A system of ‘prompted choice’ on organ donor registration will also be launched in collaboration with the DVLA. Online application forms for driving licenses will require applicants to state whether or not they wish to become an organ donor. Where this has been introduced in other countries, it has significantly increased the number of organ donors. If the DVLA scheme proves successful, it will be rolled out to other areas.

Minister for Government Policy in the Cabinet Office Oliver Letwin said: “In the UK today, behavioural and lifestyle factors are thought to be major contributors in around half of all deaths. They include smoking, unhealthy diet, excess alcohol consumption and inactive lifestyles. The Government cannot address these issues successfully using heavy-handed legislation to rebalance our diets, change our desire to drink too much alcohol on a Friday night, or make our lives more active.”

The Team is also working with HMRC to encourage people to pay their tax bills on time, helping to save the tax payer money and preventing the need to take tougher action. The trials will test the effects of people’s general preference for keeping in step with their peers, most of whom will have paid their tax. It will also highlight the cost of leaving tax bills unpaid. The trials will start in February.