MoDSome good news for the armed forces - The MOD has launched a new Defence Discount Service, as part of the Armed Forces Covenant, in recognition of service in the Armed Forces.

Other recent announcements include:
* The Government is changing the rules so that fines from banks & other financial services firms no longer go to the industry.  It has recently announced that £35m of fines imposed for attempted LIBOR manipulation and other unacceptable behaviour will be used to support Britain’s Armed Forces community

* The MOD has announced that the Government is extending the scheme which provides financial support for the children of Armed Forces personnel

* The Government is showing its commitment to Armed Forces personnel by giving extra financial support to Reserves and injured Service personnel

* The Defence Secretary has announced that, from December 2012, civil servants in central government departments who volunteer as reservists will receive a minimum of 10 days' special paid leave per year to conduct their military training

* Partnering for Talent (PfT) is a joint initiative between the MOD, the Department for Work and Pensions, and private enterprise.  The pilot scheme started in September 2012 and aims to identify business benefits for employers who support reservists

* Outstanding photography from Afghanistan & Army life has been celebrated at the annual Army Photographic Competition
Press release & links ~ Bank fines to be used to support Britain’s Armed Forces community ~ MOD increases support for children of Armed Forces personnel ~ Financial boost to Reserves and injured Service personnel ~ Civil servants to receive 10 days' paid leave for Reserves training ~ Army Reserves unit trials new initiative to get people into work ~ Army Photographic Competition

Ofsted:  Do we care enough to ensure they get a ‘good’ education as well? - The gap between the educational achievement of children in care and their peers continues to widen.  An Ofsted report published last week ‘explores the impact virtual schools have on tackling the educational progress of these children’.

Virtual schools are established by many local authorities and work with looked after children across their catchment as if they were in one school, liaising with the schools they attend, tracking the progress they make and supporting them to achieve as well as possible.
Press release & links ~ LGA response ~ The impact of virtual schools on the educational progress of looked after children ~ Raising the achievement of children in public care ~ DfE: Promoting the Educational Achievement of Looked After Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities ~ DfE: Education of looked after children and care leavers ~ Who Cares Trust?: Worrying stats on educational achievement ~ Government policies on access to further and higher education abandon care leavers to the whims of localism

OFTBefore you started shopping on-line for Christmas - The Office of Fair Trading has written to 62 of the top online retailers ahead of the busy Christmas period after a sweep of 156 websites found signs that many may not be fully complying with consumer protection law.

The sweep looked for potential breaches of the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) and other consumer protection laws and is part of the OFT's ongoing work to ensure that consumers can shop confidently online. 

Key areas of concern that the OFT has raised with retailers include:
* 33% of sites that provided information on cancellation appeared to impose unreasonable restrictions on customers' rights to a refund
* 60% provided a web contact form rather than an email contact address, as required by the E-Commerce Regulations.  2% provided no electronic contact details at all.

To support compliance with the regulations the OFT has created a web-based guidance tool for businesses, the Distance Selling Hub, which includes tips to resolve the key issues identified in the sweep.  Top tips include being clear & open about cancellation rights and providing a full refund plus a refund of delivery charges when things go wrong.

The OFT has also produced a short video to help consumers understand their rights (Buying online: know your consumer rights) when they are shopping online.
Press release ~ Online shopping website compliance with the DSRs. Websweep Findings 2012 ~ Distance Selling Hub ~ OFT: E - Protection Strategy ~ 'Buying online: know your consumer rights' ~ Directgov: Consumer rights when buying goods and services ~ Shop online safely ~ Which?: Online shopping

EU NewsIf all the EU countries ‘invested’ the same % of their GDP annually as the UK they might have a case, but most don’t & won’t - EU defence ministers should give higher priority to pooling & sharing member states' military resources in times of tighter national budgets, said Security and Defence subcommittee MEPs on last week.  They also called for better coordination with NATO and more flexible use of EU battle groups.

Andrew Duff (ALDE, UK) pointed out that despite good technical cooperation between NATO and the EU, "the political collaboration scarcely exists."  He wondered whether a merger between EADS and British Aerospace could not do "more in an afternoon to bring about the integration of military industries than years of work by the EDA."
Press release ~ Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) ~ EU: External action ~ Integrating the EU defence market: an easy way to soften the impact of military spending cuts? ~ European Institute of Security Studies ~ MoD: CSDP ~ Civitas: EU facts - EU Common Security and Defence Policy ~ CSDP map ~ EU Focus: The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy ~ European Security and Defence College ~ Europedia: CSDP ~ Chatham House: Britain's coalition government and EU defence cooperation: undermining British interests ~ CH: other articles ~ RUSI: Restructuring Europe's Armed Forces in Times of Austerity ~ European Network Security Agency (ENISA)Digital Agenda: cyber-security experts test defences in first pan-European simulation ~ Digital Agenda: Commission reviews Member States' protection against cyber attacks ~ PC&PE:  We no longer wield such a big stick

UKOCLearning to use a computer can be fun - With Get online week on the horizon there’s now a whole new way to try out some keyboard skills and have some fun at the same time!  
Just your type is an easy way for learners to get some practice at the keyboard, looking at some of the more unusual keys as well as taking in the more obvious ones.  It's a great way to do something a bit different during the campaign week
Press release & links
Case StudyIsle of Man Government Online Services Driving Down Cost Whilst Improving Efficiency and Customer Focus - The Isle of Man Government’s Online Payments Service processed £15 million in its first full year of operation. Current figures show that take up of the Government Online Payment services continues to be strong, as of the end of September 2011 almost 150,000 payment transactions were handled securely with the total payment figures since launch approaching £200 million.
Online Payments is an integral part of the Isle of Man Government’s Online Services programme, which, in just two years, has delivered a ‘shared’ set of services that provides the full spectrum of infrastructure and business services to support Government interaction with citizens and businesses. These shared services are used by many diverse Government agencies, driving down the cost and driving up efficiency and customer focus.
Click here to find out more and receive a range of case studies reflecting pioneering innovation and transformation in public services.

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