JRF:  How can childcare help to end child poverty?The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has published a paper, by Christine Skinner, that examines the contribution that childcare might make to ending child poverty.  The paper focuses on childcare policy specifically in England as, despite sharing key aspects with the English model, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have separate strategies.


Part of the JRF’s  End child poverty programme, the paper:

·         Reviews progress in childcare policy since the introduction of the first National Childcare Strategy in 1998

·         Looks at the likely impact of the Government’s ten-year strategy setting out a ‘vision’ for childcare until 2010 and beyond

·         Concludes that the extent to which current policy will increase parental employment rates and improve net earnings for parents entering jobs remains unclear, making it difficult to assess the direct impact childcare provision will have on tackling child poverty.

Press release ~ How can childcare help to end child poverty? ~ JRF links & other resources ~ Every Child Matters ~ ECPC website ~ Green Paper – National Childcare Strategy ~ DRC: Ending child poverty – a future without disability? ~ JRF: The persistence of poverty across generations ~ Surestart: Looking for Childcare?


London Assembly:  Report on July 7 Bombings - London’s emergency plans must be changed to take into account the needs of survivors in the aftermath of a major incident, a report by the London Assembly has revealed.  The account by the 7 July Review Committee highlights that, in the immediate aftermath of London’s bombings, hundreds of people were left to wander away from the scenes with little or no effort made to collect their details.


The information gathered on 7 July & afterwards was not managed properly, the system was fragmented & uncoordinated and consequently, people did not receive the support and advice they needed.  An estimated 1,000 adults and 2,000 of their children are likely to have suffered from post-traumatic stress as a result of their experiences – 3,000 others are also believed to have been directly affected by the explosions.


The report also reveals communications problems within & between the emergency services.  Radios used by most blue light services still do not work underground, despite recommendations made 18 years ago after the Kings Cross Fire.


The report also states ‘there can be no excuse now for failing to deliver facilities to enable underground communications by the end of 2007, which was the target date given to us by the emergency & transport services in November 2005.’ 

LA press release ~ DCLG press release ~ ‘The report of the 7 July Review Committee’ (scroll down to ‘June 2006’) ~ NHS Trauma Response (London bombings) Screening Team  ~ July Assistance Centre  ~ London Resilience Forum


AC:  At last, a government IT project that does what it says on the label - An Audit Commission report published this week - National Fraud Initiative 2004/05 - shows a 33% increase over the previous NFI exercise, detecting frauds & overpayments of £111 million.  This brings the total amount of fraud detected to over £300 million since the scheme began eight years ago.


NFI 2004/05 has helped public sector bodies identify 2,497 overpayments to deceased pensioners and more than 3,000 fraudulent claims for housing benefit.  The biennial report looks at fraud & overpayments in:

·         housing benefit

·         occupational pensions

·         payroll

·         parking concessions

·         social housing and

·         residential care


The introduction in 2004/05 of new forms of data means that NFI now includes matches relating to 100% of local government expenditure for more than 1,000 public sector bodies

Press release ~ National Fraud initiative 2004 / 05 ~ NFI web pages ~ Revised Code of Data Matching Practise ~ Benefit Fraud Strategy ~ National Fraud Powers for Locals ~ DWP Strategy paper - Reducing fraud in the benefit system) (VLF 1.2Mb) ~ CA Benefits website ~ NAO - Tackling Benefit Fraud ~ Public Accounts Committee report ~ Review of the DWP Benefit Fraud Sanctions Regime - Social Research Report No 149


DH:  How far to travel for choice? - The government has officially launched the extended choice network - a new extended list of hospitals and clinics that NHS patients can choose from when referred for treatment by their GP. 


Since 1 January this year, NHS patients have had the right to choose from a list of at least four providers when they need hospital treatment, though how you get to a provider is your own responsibility.  That choice has now been extended nationally to include NHS Foundation Trusts and, over the next few months, independent sector treatment centres.


The Department of Health has also published an update report on patient choice, highlighting patient and clinician experience since the introduction of choice at referral on 1st January.


To ‘assist’ the DH with the future development of choice policy, Dr. Mayur Lakhani, Chairman of Council, Royal College of GPs, along with David Pink, Chief Executive of the Long-term Medical Conditions Alliance, will co-chair independent reference group for patient choice drawn from a variety of stakeholder organisations.

Press release ~ Choose and Book ~ Implementation guidance ~ Choice matters: Increasing choice improves patients' experiences ~ ‘Hear’ the latest reality of C&B from the BBC’s File on Four ~ NHS Connecting for Health – Choose & Book ~ Long-term Medical Conditions Alliance ~ DH – C&B Policy Framework ~ NAO Report: Patient Choice at point of GP referral ~ Summary ~ GP Survey ~ Knowledge of the Choose and Book Programme Amongst GPs in England - An update September 2005


Burnley BC: Getting & living together - A major report into Burnley's progress since the 2001 disturbances reveals that 48% of residents now believe Burnley is a place where people from different backgrounds can get on together - a significant 13% increase on the figure for just two years ago.

The report, Burnley - the Real Story, is produced by Burnley Action Partnership (BAP) and charts the town's progress across health, education, community and safety and other key aspects of life in the borough.

The report highlights the positive work of local groups such as:

·         Building Bridges in Burnley, the multi-faith group, and

·         Breaking Barriers in Burnley - a pioneering youth organisation dedicated to promoting unity among young people

Press release ~ Burnley 06 - The Real Story ~ Burnley Council ~ Burnley Action Partnership (BAP) ~ Breaking Barriers in Burnley ~ Burnley Project ~ Building Bridges in Burnley


Acas:  Acas to Referee World Cup Clashes - The World Cup has inspired Acas, ordinarily an impartial adviser, to take the ‘unprecedented step’ of coming off the sidelines to referee perhaps the greatest contest of the Cup - that of employer versus employee - on how best to watch the matches that count!


Acas have now published on its website a FAQ sheet and other general information about the issue of absences, including top tips to avoid a red card:

·         Be flexible wherever possible to avoid discriminatory practices

·         If possible, provide a 'rest area' with a television screen so that individuals can use their breaks to watch the match

·         Be aware that we live in a diverse and multinational society with a range of national games that people want to watch and

·         Ensure that staff are aware of any restrictive policies already in place, such as absence, web/internet and drugs and alcohol

Press release ~ Acas World cup FAQs ~ FIFA WC website ~ Managing Sickness Absence ~ Personnel Today article


Highways Agency:  Time’ costs more than materials - A new lightweight 'plastic' bridge has been installed over the M6 motorway in Lancashire, allowing rapid construction & reduced disruption to road users.  The innovative fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) bridge is two-thirds the weight of the old bridge, but is claimed to be stronger and will generate cost savings through reduced maintenance in the future.


FRP is the first major new construction material since the introduction of reinforced concrete 100 years ago and this is the first time the Highways Agency has used FRP for road bridge construction on the motorway network, but the technique has been used on footbridges.


Initial cost of materials may be greater but the reduced requirement for maintenance and the quicker construction / maintenance time are anticipated to produce significant savings over the complete lifecycle. 

Press release ~ Highways Agency ~ M6 Jct 32 to Jct 33 Mount Pleasant Occupation Bridge Replacement ~ BRE:  Polymer Composites as Construction Materials ~ BRE Polymer composites in construction website ~ Fibre-reinforced-polymers versus steel in concrete bridges: Structural design and economic viability ~ Plastic Highway Bridges


Industry News:  BlackBerry approved for use with UK Government Restricted Data - Ultra mobile working has taken a leap forward with Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry device gaining approval from the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) to access restricted & confidential personal data.


Following the first phase of the evaluation, CESG guidance now permits staff use of the device for email, attachment viewing and access to application data through the BlackBerry Mobile Data System™.


The BlackBerry Enterprise Solution allows users to access their information wirelessly, while seamlessly protecting data against attack using widely trusted encryption technologies that are considered computationally infeasible to break.


The approval is well-timed as tens of thousands of local authority and NHS health workers are increasingly seeking to access back office systems from field locations (such as ‘Choose & Book’ & the electronic prescription service)


The prospect of being able to use a truly portable device rather than a cumbersome & heavy portable computer could make all the difference in gaining user support for the new systems.

Full press release ~ CESG ~ BlackBerry Enterprise Solution ~ ‘Choose & Book’ ~ electronic prescription service).


For further WGPlus Industry News items please click HERE

For information forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar


General News

HMRC:  Only 75% of the earliest Child Trust Fund (CTF) vouchers have been used to open an account according to quarterly statistics published by HM Revenue & Customs.  All children born on or after 1 September 2002, who live in the UK and have Child Benefit claimed for them, are eligible for a £250 voucher to open a Child Trust Fund account.  Children in lower-income families receive an additional payment into their Child Trust Fund account of £250.


The Government will make further payments into all Child Trust Fund accounts at age seven - eligible children will receive £250 with children in lower-income families again receiving an extra £250.  The Government is also considering a further payment at secondary school age.


The Child Trust Fund is a long-term savings and investment account.  Family, friends and the child themselves can contribute up to £1,200 a year in total into the account.  The funds are held in trust until the child reaches the age of 18.  Neither the parents nor the child will be taxed on any interest or gains made in the account.

Press release ~ Child Trust Fund Website ~ HMRC CTF web pages


Defra:  Scientists at the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have been investigating a possible outbreak of a notifiable fish disease and the presence of Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS) has been confirmed at a trout farm in North Yorkshire.


VHS affects mainly farmed rainbow trout causing significant fish mortality and, due to the serious nature of VHS, it is standard policy to place controls on entire river catchments on confirmation of the disease.  Defra has issued an Order under the Diseases of Fish Act 1937, prohibiting movements of fish to and from the catchment of the River Ouse, which came into force on 1 June 2006.


The UK’s EU designation as an 'Approved Zone' free of VHS is suspended until it can be redefined to exclude the affected Ouse catchment area.  VHS has no implications for human health.

Press release ~ Fish Health Inspectorate - Disease monitoring and investigation ~ Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) ~ Viral Haemorrhagic Septicaemia (VHS) ~ OIE compilation of data by disease ~ Defra Disease Surveillance & control ~ eFish Business website


Defra:  Government funding of £20m for the National Fallen Stock Scheme has been extended by a year to November 2008, following the publication of an independent review of the National Fallen Stock Scheme and Company.


The current three year funding period was due to end in November 2007 and this extension will allow Government and industry to use existing funding over a longer period to ensure there is a smooth transition to a post-subsidy scheme.

Press release ~ Defra - National Fallen Stock Scheme ~ Independent Review (VLF 2.2Mb) ~ National Fallen Stock Company ~ EU Animal By-Products Regulation


OGC BS:  OGCbuying.solutions has announced the award of framework agreements that is intended to provide a comprehensive range of value-for-money business travel services for the public sector.  The services include the provision of Hotel Accommodation, Air, Ferry and Rail Travel, Vehicle Hire and Conference Booking services and have been developed in partnership with a number of government departments.


It is estimated that public sector spend through the frameworks during the first year will approach £200 million, delivering cost savings for the public purse of around £20 million.  After a full EU compliant competitive process the successful suppliers are as shown below:

Press release ~ Travel frameworks

Policy Statements and Initiatives

Defra:  A Ministerial statement was issued following last week’s meeting between representatives from across the water industry and Environment Secretary David Miliband & Environment Minister Ian Pearson, which said:

There was widespread support for the Environment Agency's current assessment that drought prospects are worse than for 30 years in the South East……………. The Agency, in cooperation with the Consumer Council for Water and Ofwat, will work with the water companies on their contingency planning against the prospect of a third dry winter……...


Drought order powers should be used sensitively and progressively……………The water companies confirmed that the powers they have are appropriate for delivering any drought plan measures which might prove necessary…………...Water metering currently stands at 28% of households and we will look at the scope for increasing that in areas of water stress…………………..


We also debated the idea of a national 'water grid', along the lines of other utilities.  The proposal was rejected by all representatives, including the Consumer Council for Water and the Environment Agency, on the grounds of its disproportionate and unjustifiable cost, both for the environment and for water bills, compared with the benefits such a grid could deliver.

Press release ~ Defra Water Conservation website ~ Water UK ~ Briefing paper - Should the UK have a national water grid? ~ Ofwat - Water Resources ~ Environment Agency – Situation Update ~ Consumer Council for Water ~ Water Saving Group ~ Hydrological Summary for the United Kingdom ~ Beat the Drought website


DH:  Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has welcomed a further wave of NHS Foundation Trusts, following the announcement of the latest authorisations by Monitor, the independent regulator of foundation trusts.  A further group of trusts is being considered by Monitor for authorisation by 1 August, which will complete the second wave of foundation trust applications.


The successful trusts - which will enjoy foundation status from now - are:

·         Salisbury Healthcare NHS Trust

·         Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trusts

·         Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Trust

·         Southend Hospitals NHS Trust and

·         East Somerset NHS Trust

Press release ~ Monitor ~ Current list of Foundation Trusts ~ Future applicants ~ Foundation Trust Network ~ A short guide to NHS FTs ~ DH FT website ~ Healthcare Commission review of FTs (VLF 1.6Mb)


Defra:  UK and Irish government Ministers have met, under the auspices of the British-Irish Council (BIC), to discuss the critical issues of climate change and how the two nations can best adapt to its unavoidable impacts.


The discussion follows the publication, in 2003, of a set of climate scenarios including:

·         annual temperatures averaged across the UK may rising by between 2 and 3.5C by the 2080s

·         the south and east of Britain seeing summer rainfall declining by up to 50% by the 2080s

·         Ireland, by 2050, seeing summer & early autumn rainfall falling by 25% nationally & by 40% in parts of the east

·         heavy winter rainfall will become more frequent, but snowfall could fall by up to 90% by the 2080s

Press release ~ Summit Communiqué ~ Scenarios of climate change for islands within the BIC region ~ BIC environment web page ~ Defra Climate Change ~ MARCLIM project ~ Marine Biological Association ~ Plymouth Marine Laboratory ~ Scottish Association for Marine Science ~ National Adaptation Policy Framework ~ UK Climate Impacts Programme ~ Changing Our Ways: Scotland's Climate Change Programme ~ Environment Strategy for Wales ~ Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) ~ United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ~ EU Climate change


Pensions Regulator:  The Pensions Regulator has published a discussion document: Review of the form and content of pension scheme report and accounts.  The Regulator welcomes comments (by 25 August 2006) from the industry on the proposals, which include:

·         Inclusion of a governance statement in the annual report & accounts

·         Removal of miscellaneous compliance disclosures

·         Defined benefit schemes: Inclusion of a statement on the employer covenant and the funding position

·         Inclusion of the recovery plan in the report and accounts

·         Defined contribution schemes: Enhanced investment disclosure


Comments should be sent to: repacct@thepensionsregulator.gov.uk .

Press release ~ Pensions Regulator ~ Discussion paper ~ Pensions Research Accountants Group (PRAG) ~ Accounting Standards Board (ASB)


OFT:  The OFT has published draft guidance on advertising own price discounts for consultation (closes 24 August 2006), which explains the legal obligations of retailers using non-broadcast advertising to publicise reductions from their own previous prices. 


The draft guidance highlights the wider implications of a test case brought by the OFT against the Officers Club Ltd, heard in the High Court in May 2005, in which the OFT successfully challenged under the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 a permanent '70% off' advertising strategy operated by the men's clothing outlet.


The key principle established by landmark judgement test case brought by the OFT against the Officers Club Ltd, is that, if retailers advertise discounts from their own previous prices, the previous prices must be genuine prices.  One of the features of a genuine price is that the retailer must honestly believe that the goods can be sold in significant numbers at that price.

Press release ~ Consultation ~ Review of Code of Practice on Price Indications ~ Current code ~ Research into misleading price comparisons

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH:  The NHS End of Life Care Programme, working in partnership with the National Council for Palliative Care, has produced a new Care Homes guide that will help care homes to care for residents' physical, psychological, social & spiritual needs so as to achieve the best quality of life for patients and their families, even when this is likely to be short.


The Introductory guide to ‘end of life care’ in care homes is aimed at care home managers & staff interested in improving care for residents in the final stages of life.  It is the first of a number of planned publications aimed to support the improvement of end of life care and it provides advice on the services available to help support the choice of residents as they approach the end of life.

Press release ~ Introductory guide to end of life care in care homes ~ NHS End of Life Care Programme ~ National Council for Palliative Care) ~ Liverpool Care Pathway for the Dying Patient ~ Gold Standards Framework in Care Homes programme ~ English Community Care Association ~ National Care Forum ~ Registered Nursing Home Association ~ Good practice tools (PPP, GSF and LCP) ~ Choosing the right social care service for you booklet ~ Choose & find care

Annual Reports

OFT:  The Payment Systems Task Force has published its second annual progress report, which provides an update on:

·         'Faster Payments', the new internet, phone & SO service which is due to come into effect in late 2007

·         the Task Force's current work on cheque clearing

·         ongoing work by the payments industry on a new governance model to replace the existing arrangements

Press release ~ 2nd Annual Progress report ~ Payment Systems Task Force ~ APACS ~ OFT report - 'UK payment systems' ~ APACS - Cheques & Cheque Clearing The Facts


DCLG:  Two reports published recently are claimed to reveal high customer satisfaction for the services provided by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).


The PINS customer satisfaction survey 2005 has found that 67% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the performance of PINS, and over 80% were satisfied with Inspectors and staff.


Meanwhile the twelfth annual report by the Advisory Panel on Standards for PINS (APOS) has found that over 99% of casework was free from justified complaint in 2004/05.


The APOS report also found that despite a 38% rise in appeals from 2001/02, since January 2005 PINS has issued more decisions than incoming appeals in order to tackle its backlog.  Whilst recognising action taken so far, APOS recommends an increase in the scheduling of hearings and inquiries to improve quality of service.

Press release ~ PINS customer satisfaction survey 2005 ~ Planning Inspectorate (PINS) ~ APOS 12th Annual Report 2004/05

General Reports and other publications

ESRC:  With the World Cup close at hand, research funded by the Economic and Social Research council has found that the key to overcoming ‘hooliganism’ at major international football tournaments is ‘low impact’ policing.


Led by Dr Clifford Stott and Dr Otto Adang of the University of Liverpool School of Psychology the research found that while preventing known troublemakers from travelling is important, the way to foster incident-free events is a ‘low profile’, friendly-but-firm police presence and dealing with fans on the basis of their behaviour not their reputation.


The study analysed the impact of police tactics on levels of hooliganism at Euro 2004 - the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) championships held in Portugal.


Preventing known troublemakers from travelling to Portugal was another important factor, says the report, along with initiatives developed by visiting police forces, fan organisations and British Embassy staff.

Press release ~ ‘Crowd dynamics, policing and ‘hooliganism’ at Euro2004’ ~ Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) ~ University of Liverpool School of Psychology ~ Football and Football Hooliganism ~ Dr. Clifford Stott ~ NCIS

Legislation / Legal

Defra:  Certain wild birds are now afforded increased protection under the law as new provisions of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 have just come into force.  Section 47 creates a new offence of taking, damaging or destroying the nests of certain wild birds listed in a new Schedule (Schedule ZA1) to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the "1981 Act") at any time during the year.


Mr Gardiner also said that the Act contains further provisions introducing enhanced powers for wildlife inspectors and the Police under wildlife and conservation legislation to allow them to operate more effectively in protecting wildlife.  Two provisions relating to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) have also just come into force.

Press release ~ Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 ~ English Nature ~ Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) ~ Natural England ~ Countryside Council for Wales ~ Golden eagle ~ White-tailed eagle ~ Osprey

EU legislation, initiatives, etc.

DTI:  The UK Government has welcomed the political agreement reached on the EU Services Directive, which they claim is a landmark achievement in the realisation of the internal market, covering around 45% of the UK's economy, with small businesses benefiting the most from the dismantling of barriers to trade and reduced red tape.


Based on a study by Copenhagen Economics, the revised directive is estimated to be worth approximately £5bn a year to the UK economy - boosting services such as construction companies, retailing, management consultancies, advertising companies, estate agents, architects, plumbers, bakers, electricians and leisure services.  Small & medium sized enterprises represent more than 90% of service providers.

Press release ~ EU SD website ~ DTI SD website ~ Economic Studies


DCA:  British tourists who purchase faulty goods whilst on holiday in other European Union countries may soon (but probably not this summer) be able to get quicker, simpler solutions under a procedure agreed by EU Ministers.


Under the text agreed, claims valued at less than €2,000 and involving cross border issues will be subject to the procedure.  Claim & defence forms will be the same in all the European languages and courts will be encouraged to decide claims on paper where possible, with use made of telephone and video conference communications if oral hearings are felt necessary.


Parties need not be legally represented if they do not wish to be and the process for enforcing judgements in other EU states will be made easier.  The document now goes to the European Parliament for consideration, where those involved in the negotiations are evidently ‘optimistic’ that the measures will receive further support.

Press release ~ Previous DCA consultation ~ 2005 proposal

Charity and Voluntary Sector

JRF:  A Government scheme meant to help those most in need is increasing levels of poverty for some, according to a new report - The Social Fund: Current role and future direction – (funded & published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), which calls for immediate reforms to the scheme and concludes that a radical review is needed.


The Social Fund is meant to help people on a low income, predominately those on means-tested benefits, with necessary or emergency expenses that could not otherwise be met, but the overwhelming experience of participants was that the Social Fund was not helping them meet their needs as applications were refused or only a partial award was granted.


There was confusion about how grants & loans were awarded, with a successful outcome often attributed simply to luck and many felt decisions took too long.  Even though the Social Fund was an option for many, some used other more expensive forms of credit because there was a guarantee of an immediate response when needed.


The main issue for Social Fund applicants is not the principle of having to repay a loan but the rate of the repayment, which is felt to be too high.

Press release ~ The Social Fund: Current role and future ~ Findings ~ Social Fund Crisis Loans ~ Do it online ~ Community Care Grants ~ Budgeting Loans ~ JRF - Affordable credit: The way forward  ~ DWP - 'Experiences and Consequences of being refused a Community Care Grant' ~ NAO - Helping Those in Financial Hardship: The Running of the Social Fund

Business and other briefings

Industry News

Forthcoming Event

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