MoDMake it a happy AND less dangerous Christmas - Generous members of the public who show their support for Armed Forces personnel by sending welfare parcels to Afghanistan are being urged to stop & think – and consider alternative & better ways they can back the troops and support practical efforts to make their free time more enjoyable & comfortable.

Whilst the kindness & generosity of people who send boxes of treats out to operational theatre are greatly appreciated, the sheer volume of mail now being received - and the unintentional inclusion of inappropriate items - is causing serious difficulties for those charged with running the distribution service of supplies (including post) in theatre.

The message comes direct from military personnel at the sharp end and it is simple: 'Troops on the ground in Helmand Province really appreciate support from back home, but the mountains of well-intentioned mail cause genuine difficulties which outweigh the benefits'.

For example, the onward delivery of goodwill parcels to forward operating bases necessitates additional re-supply flights & convoys, which places Service personnel at additional risk in what is already a difficult & dangerous operating environment.

Supporters are requested to channel their ‘goodwill’ through charities which send welfare parcels to Afghanistan – but they do so, in consultation & partnership with the Armed Forces, in a co-ordinated way which does not put undue pressure on resources
Press release ~ Charities that support Service Personnel in the field ~ SSAFA Operational welfare fund

Ofwat/CCWaterShouldn’t shareholders pay for their own capital investment? - Ofwat has published its final decisions on the prices water & sewerage companies can charge their customers between 2010 - 15.  Its decision will see more than £22bn invested in maintaining & improving services to consumers, while household bills remain broadly flat until 2015.  The average bill across England & Wales will decrease by £3 to £340 by 2015 (This is before inflation is considered).

Compared to what companies asked for, Ofwat's challenge sees average bills about £34 (10%) lower by 2015. Ofwat's decision will see more than £935 invested for every property across England & Wales by 2015.  Ofwat’s final decision on price limits is due to come into effect in April 2010, with the delivery of bills for April 2010 – March 2011.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) responded to the announcement by giving Ofwat a ‘mark of seven out of 10’, but is concerned about impact for some customers.  Customers of some companies will all see rises in average bills – such as Essex & Suffolk Water (13%), Bristol Water (7%), Southern Water (5%) and Thames Water (3%).  South West Water customers without a meter could see a 29% rise in bills.

Water companies can appeal to the Competition Commission if they are not happy with Ofwat’s final decision and, if they do so, the CCWater will continue to strongly represent water consumers throughout this process.
Ofwat press release ~ CCWater press release ~ Consumer Council for Water ~ Ofwat – Final Determinations

DHVote winner or just reallocation of scarce resources? - The Bill that is intended to help individuals with the highest care needs remain independent for longer has been introduced in Parliament by Health Secretary Andy Burnham. 

The Personal Care at Home Bill will help around 400,000 people with the highest care needs.  It is claimed to guarantee free personal care for 280,000 people – including those with serious dementia or Parkinson's disease – and will also help 130,000 people who need home care to regain their independence.

The new proposals, which will cost £670m, are the Government's first step towards setting up a new National Care Service – a simple, fair & affordable care system for everyone.  Also published was a consultation document and an Impact Assessment on proposals for the regulations & guidance to be made under the legislation (comments by 23 February 2010).
Press release ~ Personal Care at Home Bill ~ Personal care at home: a consultation on proposals for regulations & guidance ~ This Exocet Bill is self-destructive and could sink the Government ~ NHS funding for long term care - Health Service Ombudsman for England ~ Retrospective continuing care funding and redress ~  End of Life Care Strategy: Promoting high quality care for all adults at the end of life ~ Independent Review of Older People’s Engagement with Government ~ Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods: A national strategy for housing in an ageing society ~ Living Well With Dementia: A national dementia strategy ~ Putting People First: A shared vision and commitment to the transformation of adult social care ~ Dignity in Care Campaign ~ Intergenerational Demonstrator Programme: Generations together ~ LinkAge Plus ~ Partnerships for Older People Projects ~ Lord Sutherland's independent review of Free Personal and Nursing Care policy ~ ScotGov – free personal care and nursing ~ JRF: Free personal care in Scotland ~ JRF: Older people’s vision for long-term care (VLF 4Mb) ~ JRF: Rethinking social care and support: What can England learn from other countries? ~ JRF: Lessons from the funding of long-term care in Scotland ~ Cash shortfall for Scotland's free care - Guardian

Newswire – SC RHCRestoring democracy to Parliament - The Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons, set up to consider & make recommendations to the House  on several specified matters, has agreed its First Report.  The Select Committee was appointed to consider & report on 4 specified matters:
* the appointment of members & chairmen of select committees
* the appointment of the Chairman & Deputy Chairmen of Ways & Means
* scheduling business in the House
* enabling the public to initiate debates & proceedings in the House
Press release ~ Report: Rebuilding the House

SSRBAt least the Hereditary Peers were a lot cheaper - The Government has published the report of the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) on financial support for Members of the House of Lords.  Key features & recommendations include:
* A reduced overnight subsistence allowance of up to £140 per night
* Replacement of the existing daily allowances of up to £180 per day by a fee of £200 for each day
* Salaries & financial support to Lords Ministers to be reviewed by the SSRB when the salaries of MPs are reviewed in the next Parliament.
Press release ~ Review of the financial assistance available to Members of the House of Lords

DH:  Consequences of inaction - Health should be at the centre of our fight against climate change, Health Secretary, Andy Burnham said at the launch of a new report on Health & Climate Change.  The report calls on health ministers & professionals across the world to recognise the danger that climate change poses to health, in the run up to the UN conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The report models the effects of different policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in high & low-income countries.  Case studies focus on power generation, transport, household energy, food and agriculture.
Press release ~ UCL Lancet Commission report, Managing the health effects of climate change (2009) (includes video) ~ Health impacts of climate change ~ Policy reports from other organisations ~ Saving Carbon, Improving Health: A Carbon Reduction Strategy for the NHS in England ~  NHS Sustainable Development Unit ~ NHS England Carbon Emissions: Carbon Footprinting Report ~ Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 ~ Good Corporate Citizenship Assessment Model ~ Methods report to support the PAS for the calculations for the calculation of the embodied greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services ~ The Right Climate for Change - Using the Carbon Footprint to reduce CO2 emissions - a guide for local authorities

ESRCMore Costly Spin than Sound Educational Practice – The Government’s £5bn Skills for Life initiative has not significantly improved literacy or the economic performance of participating companies, despite what policymakers believe.  These are the findings of the UK’s first study of basic skills learning in the workplace, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
According to Professor Alison Wolf, of King’s College London (who led the study), workplace basic skills courses are having little impact, in their current form. She believes that one of the main reasons for the failure of the initiative is that courses were simply not long enough.  However, the study also found that one of the broader benefits of the course was that it boosted workers’ confidence.  A significant number of participants went on to do further courses.
Press release ~ ‘Enhancing ‘Skills for Life’: Adult Basic Skills and Workplace Learning’ ~ Skills for Life - Literacy

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