Our new website helps expectant mothers decide what type of birth they would like and explore local options.
The new free-to-use Which? Birth Choice site - created in partnership with BirthChoiceUK and supported by the Royal College of Midwives - gives expectant mothers all the information they need to know in one place so they can plan the birth they want. It brings together all the facts about local maternity services and provides women with personalised results based on their preferences.
Parents-to-be can also visit our baby and parenting hub for advice on a huge range of baby products and services, from choosing the safest child car seat to saving for your family.
We emphasise the importance of consumer power in driving improvements in public services. Whilst we welcome the choice agenda, we also recognise the limitations of choice by itself to drive up standards in public services. In this context responsiveness to the consumer voice is essential, and we make some specific recommendations to promote this. Other levers such as regulation, commissioning and professional networks are also crucial for ensuring quality in public services.
With an increasing demand for care services, a Which? investigation finds that over the last five years some local authorities have been restricting home care and increasing costs above inflation, leading to a widening postcode lottery in care costs.
Using Freedom of Information requests over the last five years, we asked councils in England and Wales what level of home care they provided each year from 2009 to 2013.
Our latest results show that more than 80% of councils now restrict care to those whose needs are ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’, up from just over 70% in 2009. Of the 26 councils who told us they offered care to people with ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ needs in 2009, only 12 continue to do so.
At the same time, of the 100 councils that responded about their care charges in both 2009 and 2013, around a third (36) have increased charges above the rate of inflation. Barnsley Metropolitan Council has increased its hourly rates the most, by 160%, whereas Tower Hamlets London Borough Council has maintained a zero charge policy and remains the least expensive council for care costs.
We called for the creation of a single public services ombudsman in England. The remit of the current Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) should be extended to cover private providers of public services and private healthcare.
Our new website helps students make more informed decisions about their higher education choices.
At Which? University you can search more than 30,000 full-time and part-time degree courses listed on UCAS and the profiles of almost 300 different UK universities and colleges.
Our advice articles are written by careers advisers, university experts and current students covering popular topics that will help you find, apply and get the place you want – from what admissions tutors are really looking for from your personal statements, to straightforward advice on student fees and finance, open days and maximising your graduate prospects.