Homeless Link: ‘Housing chains’ cause problems for social housing as well - One of the biggest stumbling blocks to tackling homelessness is the lack of suitable ‘move on’ opportunities for the many residents of hostels & temporary accommodation who are more than ready for the next step in their lives.
Last year Homeless Link undertook work on behalf of Communities and Local Government to tackle this challenge. Working with homelessness officials and the voluntary sector in nine areas, they developed & tested a strategic approach to the problem. The result is the Move On Plans Protocol (MOPP).
Implementation of the protocol will provide housing authorities with a better understanding of ‘move on need’ and allow them to overcome a range of barriers through formal partnerships with the voluntary sector.
Last week the CLG and Homeless Link wrote jointly to every housing director in England to promote the MOPP toolkit, which supports the use of the protocol in local areas. Included with the letter to Housing Directors is a copy of the explanatory booklet Unlocking Solutions: Developing move on plans.
DIUS: Science the Saviour? - Drinkable vaccines to replace painful needles, car bodies which biodegrade at the end of their lives, anti-cancer agents drawn from the sea, greener biofuels and pacemakers with batteries powered by walking are just around the corner.
It sounds futuristic; but it's all research being funded by the Government's new Technology Strategy Board (TSB), which last week became an independent executive Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), with a key goal of ensuring the UK is a global leader in the development of new technologies to drive economic growth.
The TSB, sponsored by the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), will target funding of £190 million this year to support technology & innovation on projects. Part of the funding includes £7 million for the Intelligent Transport Systems & Services Innovation Platform to develop new solutions for road congestion.
The latest projects funded include work to develop new bacteria-based vaccines which can be taken by mouth; to enable diesel engines to run efficiently on high concentrations of renewable fuels; and to develop medical scanners which use wavelengths to more effectively diagnose & treat cancer.
The Technology Strategy Board will be responsible for Innovation Platforms which bring business & Government closer together to generate innovative solutions to major societal challenges and 22 sector-specific Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) - business-driven collaborations which encourage new technologies and the sharing of information.
NAO: A growing problem that is not ‘sexy’ enough to get the priority & funding it needs - Despite a steeply rising trend in cases of dementia, the condition is being given too low a priority by health & social services, according to a report by the National Audit Office. Too few people are being diagnosed, or being diagnosed early enough and early interventions known to be cost-effective are not being made widely available.
Dementia presents a significant & urgent challenge to health and social care in terms of both numbers of people affected and the costs. At least 560,000 people in England have dementia and, because of an ageing population, the number of cases is predicted to rise by over 30% over the next 15 years.
Dementia care services suffered historically from poor awareness & understanding and there is a widely held perception that little can be done and a lack of urgency attached to diagnosing & treating the condition.
Early diagnosis & intervention in cases of dementia is known to be cost-effective. Yet only a third to a half of people with dementia ever receive a formal diagnosis. Dementia costs the economy £14.3 billion a year, including direct costs to the NHS and social care of £3.3 billion a year.
Failure to diagnose or treat patients with dementia can extend hospital stay, but effective identification of dementia and more proactive, co-ordinated management of their care & discharge could produce savings of between £64 million and £102m nationally.
HC: Sexual Statistics are none to healthy – The Healthcare Commission has released the findings of a review of data on sexual health that also highlights initiatives currently in place to improve sexual health in England and outlines the Commission's approach to assessing sexual health service delivery.
The review has found that tracking progress and recognising where improvements are needed in sexual health are difficult, because of gaps in the data currently available. As a result, services are limited in their ability to:
- target groups at high risk
- use data to plan & allocate resources where they are needed, or
- monitor effectively people's access to services and levels of sexual health
The findings of the review show data is derived from different geographic levels such as local authorities, primary care trusts and GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics, meaning there is not a clear indication of where improvements are needed. Furthermore, data is often missing vital information for tracking progress, such as age, gender, ethnicity of patients, or the information itself is out of date.
Ofsted: Perhaps they should be teaching the parents as well - A new Ofsted report has found that the Secondary National Strategy’s pilot programme for developing social, emotional and behavioural skills (SEBS) was introduced successfully when senior school leaders understood its underlying philosophy. Where this was not the case, it remained a ‘bolt on’ to personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons or form tutor time, and was largely ineffective.
Inspectors found the pilot programme was most effective when teachers adapted their teaching methods to take account of pupils’ needs. As a result pupils displayed more respect for each other, worked better in teams and were better able to articulate and recognise their feelings.
Also last week the Secretary of State has announced an additional £13.7m over four years to improve behaviour in schools through the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme. This very successful programme had a major impact on discipline and well being in pilot schools and was also linked with increases in attainment.
It helps young people to; be more confident and resilient, resolve conflict peaceably and empathise with others by developing behaviour skills across the curriculum
Scottish Executive: A rare event; financial assistance for carers - Foster & kinship carers in Scotland can claim up to £1,000 towards training, it was announced last week. The cash will allow these carers to access places on approved childcare-related training courses, including SVQs, and will cover associated costs, like childcare.
The training allowances are part of a £4m package for foster & kinship carers which will also:
- Launch a one-stop information & advice service for kinship carers, run by Citizens Advice Scotland
- Develop child-friendly advice & information for foster children and the children of foster carers
- Train LAs in the use of permanence orders which give kids the right to settle with their carers permanently
- Establish national guidelines for dealing with abuse allegations & support The Fostering Network's helpline
- Fund a review of national guidelines for councils on the recruitment & training of foster and kinship carers
The National Fostering and Kinship Care Strategy, to be published this autumn, will examine a range of issues around support for foster & kinship carers, including remuneration and support for carers.
Defra: The NHS may have less, but LAs now have 200 more - Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has launched the new Defra - Local Government Joint Environmental Prospectus, which provides an overview of the local and national governments' top environmental priorities. It sets out 10 key questions which local leaders and chief executives can use to challenge their Councils to ensure that the environment is integrated throughout its concerns.
The backbone of the new framework will be around 200 indicators covering all the Government's priorities for local delivery. Local Government will be required to report their performance against these indicators from April 2008.
For each of Defra's proposed indicators a rationale is set out along with information about collection arrangements. In each case responses are sought to questions and replies are invited via the web-site.
Mr Benn has also announced the publication for comment of Defra's proposed indicators for the new Local Government Performance Framework. Several of the 13 indicators are new and reflect the Government's priorities for local government, including climate change. Defra is keen to listen to ‘on the ground experience’ to help ensure their proposals are the right ones. Only selected stakeholders are able to contribute and they will have to do so by 16 August 2007.
Industry News: Preserving the UK´s digital heritage – Most people working in the IT industry know that one major perennial problem with providing long-term support to a system is keeping track of thedifferent versions of software / operating systems used by that application and then finding the relevant disks.
Imagine then the size of the problem confronting the National Archives who are faced with the task of ensuring preservation of the Nation’s digital records from the past, present and into the future.
In some instances, applications that support older file formats are no longer commercially available. For The National Archives, this information represents 580 terabytes of data, the equivalent of 580 thousand encyclopaedias.
Fortunately the National Archives and Microsoft have recently announced a Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U) under which Microsoft will make available a system, which combines previous versions of Windows and Office, to help solve problems of managing historical records based on legacy Microsoft Office formats.
Having addressed some of the key format sustainability issues through the implementation of the Ecma Open XML format in its latest products, the announcement represents a further step in Microsoft’s commitment to digital preservation.
The National Archives, with access to previous versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating systems and Office applications powered by Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, will be able to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer.
This allows them to configure any combination of Windows and Office from one PC, thereby allowing access to practically any document based on legacy Microsoft file formats. It will also be able to improve the accessibility of these documents by converting this information to new, open file formats.
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