NAO: Government failing to lead by example on Global Warming - The majority of government departments & agencies are failing to meet targets to make their new buildings and major refurbishments sustainable, according to a report published by the National Audit Office.

Under the OGC’s Common Minimum Standards for the procurement of built environments in the public sector, a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) assessment or equivalent is required.

In 2005-06 only 35% (37 of 106) of new builds and 18% (61 of 335) of major refurbishment projects had carried out, or planned to carry out, these environmental assessments. The report also found that, of the projects that did carry out an assessment, the majority failed to meet the required target of ‘excellent’ for new builds and ‘very good’ for refurbishments. For all 2005-06 projects, only 9% (41 of 441) achieved the required standards.

In the report, the NAO has identified a number of barriers to progress including a:

  • fragmentation of policy responsibility among government bodies
  • widespread perception of conflict between sustainability & value for money
  • lack of sufficient knowledge & expertise
  • failure to specify expected benefits & undertake rigorous post-occupancy reviews

Press release ~ Building for the future: Sustainable construction and refurbishment on the government estate ~ Execut ive Summary ~OGC Common Minimum Standards for the procurement of built environments in the public sector ~ BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) assessment ~ DCLG - Energy Performance of Buildings ~ EU's Energy Performance of Buildings ~ 'Procuring the Future' - The Sustainable Procurement Task Force National Action Plan ~ Complete list of new operational targets for government estate ~ UK Government Sustainable Development website ~ BSEE: Natural refrigerants back in vogue

DfES: More than just ‘a Place of Safety’ - Alan Johnson has confirmed that a White Paper taking forward the next steps in the Government's plans for children in care will be published later this year.

The DfES has also published responses to the consultation on the government’s plans - Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care - for transforming the lives of children & young people in care, which they claim have been welcomed by care leavers & young people still in the system, as well as the professionals who work with them.

Most young people consulted agreed that:

  • local authorities should be expected to have a "children in care" council to collect children's views
  • their carers should get more training on issues such as health & well-being and supporting children in education
  • they should have one consistent professional throughout their time in care
  • young people should get a £2,000 bursary for higher education
  • carers could be more involved in education by attending events such as parents' evenings
  • young people in care should have the opportunity to go to a boarding school as an alternative placement
  • they should have access to a personal adviser until the age of 25, and
  • the choice as to when to leave care between the ages of 16 and 21

Press release ~ Green Paper and responses to consultation ~ National Children’s BureauDirectgov – Children in Care ~ Looked -after children - Every Child Matters ~ Children leaving care - Every Child Matters ~ Prince's Trust - Care ~ Carelaw : A guide for young people in care ~ Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales ~ Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better ~ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) ~ Outcome Indicators for Looked after Children ~ DfES: Looked-after children – the struggle for stability ~ Every child matters: Change for Children ~ Boarding School Placement ~

Home Office: Government hopes immigrants will get the point(s) - Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, has unveiled the timetable for introducing the UK's new Australian-style points based system for migration. The government hopes that new scheme, which will be phased in from early 2008, will enable it to:

  • manage migration to the UK more effectively
  • tackle abuse and
  • attract the most talented workers into the UK economy
Key elements of the new system include:
  • Migrants will come to the UK under one of five tiers replacing more than 80 existing routes of entry
  • Points to be awarded to reflect aptitude, experience, age & also the level of need in any given sector
  • sponsorship by employers & educational institutions to ensure compliance with the immigration rules
  • financial securities for specific categories to ensure that migrants return home at the end of their stay, and
  • the ending of employment routes to the UK for low-skilled workers from outside the EU except in cases of short-term shortages

Press release ~ UK Border & Immigration Agency ~ A Points-Based System: Making Migration Work for Britain ~ Executive Summary: A Points-Based System ~ Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship ~ Science and Engineering Graduates SchemeFresh Talent: Working Scotland scheme for international students in Scotland ~ 'Securing the UK Border' - Borders and Visa strategy ~ Borders Action Plan ~ e-Borders pilot, Project Semaphore ~ Employing migrant workers ~ Life in the UK test ~ Life in the United Kingdom: A Journey to Citizenship ~ Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Integration (ABNI) ~

ESRC: Parents can monitor interactive homework - A new interactive learning system which helps parents keep in touch with what their children are doing at school is proving to be a great success with children, parents & teachers, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The research, based at the University of Sussex and the London Knowledge Lab, developed the ‘HOMEWORK’ interactive learning system, which enables children between the ages of 5 and 7 to learn & practice Key Stage 1 maths using a range of multimedia technologies - both in the classroom and at home with their family.

The researchers found that using HOMEWORK:

  • improved communication between parents, teachers & learners
  • provided continuity between home & school learning
  • made numeracy learning more engaging for many learners
  • increased participation & enjoyment in homework (by parents as well as pupils)
  • and may have increased the effectiveness of time spent learning

HOMEWORK integrates educational software with broadcast quality video from the Channel Four educational TV series ‘The Number Crew’. Children work in a teacher-led group using an interactive whiteboard, either on their own or in small groups using tablet PCs.
Press release ~ 'HOMEWORK: HOME and School Linked Via Divergent Technology in a Pedagogic Framework' ~ ESRC Society Today ~ London Knowledge Lab ~ People @ the Centre of Communication and Information Technologies (PACCIT) programme ~ Sussex University’s IDEAS laboratory ~ Open Mind Productions ~ The Number Crew’ ~ Channel 4 Learning

DH: Simple surgery becomes more local, backed-up by specialist centres - A new report on the future of planned surgery, recommends that 80% of all surgery should be done locally with the remaining 20% of the more complex cases taking place at specialist centres where patients will have access to the most highly skilled surgeons in their field, using the most up-to-date technology.

In his report 'Saws and Scalpels to Lasers and Robots - Advances in Surgery' Prof. Sir Ara Darzi, the National Advisor on Surgery, sets out the changes that have taken place over the past two decades which have led to a revolution in how surgery is carried out, including:

  • The use of lasers & keyhole surgery leading to quicker recovery for patients & less risk of infection.
  • Procedures that previously required long stays in hospitals, such as hernia operations, being done as day cases in more local settings
  • development of new drugs making some surgery, such as the treatment of stomach ulcers, unnecessary

The Secretary of State also announced the new National Clinical Advisory Team which will provide a pool of clinical experts to support & guide the local NHS on service change proposals to ensure that they are safe & accessible for patients.

Press release ~ 'Saws and Scalpels to Lasers and Robots - Advances in Surgery' ~ Delivery of Surgical Services - The Royal College of Surgeons of England ~ BADS - British Association of Day Surgery ~ DH – Day Surgery ~ Report: Mending hearts and brains - clinical case for change ~ Report: Emergency Access - clinical case for change ~ National Service Frameworks ~ Direction of Travel for Urgent Care: a discussion document ~ DH – Urgent care website

NAO: Careless irregularities still the norm for EU finances - The National Audit Office, has reported to Parliament on the financial management of the European Union. The report summarises the main findings of the European Court of Auditors’ report on the implementation of the European Union budget for 2005 and focuses on recent developments in the financial management of the European Union.

The European Court of Auditors decidednot to provide a positive Statement of Assurance on the legality and regularity of European Community expenditure for the twelfth year in succession.

Taken as a whole, however, the underlying transactions were legal & regular with respect to revenue, administrative expenditure and most pre-accession expenditure. But there were material errors on some elements of the operational programmes.

Also in 2005, Member States notified the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of just over 12,000 cases of irregularity, including suspected fraud, with a value of some €1bn. The value of reported irregularities represents a 5.3% increase from 2004, which is partially due to improved reporting by some member states.

The report noted that it was important to distinguish between irregularities and fraud, and that the lack of a positive Statement of Assurance does not indicate that EU expenditure is subject to an excessive level of fraud.

Press release ~ Financia l Management in the European Union ~ Execut ive Summary ~ European Court of Auditors ~ A nnual Report concerning the financial year 2005 ~ European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) ~ Civitas – European Court of Auditors

Cabinet Office: Back to the days of an Educated Civil Service - Leaders across central government have made a commitment that every eligible employee will be helped to gain basic skills and a level two qualification (broadly equivalent to 5 GCSEs at grades A* - C). This commitment covers over 475,000 people working to deliver public services in nineteen departments.

Permanent Secretaries from fourteen of the departments joined Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service (who made the skills pledge on behalf of the Cabinet Office), at a signing ceremony organised by Government Skills, the sector skills council for central government.

In his report on skills published in December 2006, Lord Leitch warned that unless strong action was taken over the next few years to address skills levels in the workforce, the UK economy was likely to be seriously damaged in its ability to compete in world markets.

He proposed a skills pledge - that every eligible employee be helped by their employer to gain basic skills and a level two qualification. The pledge is currently a voluntary commitment, but Lord Leitch also proposed that unless significant progress was made by 2010, the government should consider legislating to require employers to provide support.
Press release ~ Government Skills ~ Delivery and Reform - Professional Skills for Government ~ UnionSkillsForum.org.uk ~ National School of Government ~ Sector Skills Development Agency - Leitch Review ~ Army basic skills provision: whole organisation approach, lessons learnt ~ The Basic Skills Agency ~ The Train to Gain Scheme ~ DfES: Read Write Plus ~ DfES - Get On

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