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ScotParl: Treating them as patients and not just criminals - Scotland's Futures Forum has published a report that sets out to establish how Scotland can halve the damage caused to its population through alcohol and drugs by 2025. It is the culmination of a year-long investigation of evidence gathered from some of the world's leading experts in tackling drug and alcohol misuse.

The report conclusions include:
* The current heavy bias of resources allocated to enforcement is questionable and a counterbalancing of resources towards prevention treatment is necessary
* There should be a new approach to regulation in Scotland whereby the regulation of all psychoactive substances - including alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and other legal drugs - should be governed by a single framework that takes into account the harm they can cause
* Alcohol and drug misuse should be seen predominantly as a health, lifestyle & social issue, rather than a criminal justice issue
* All parties should seek to end irresponsible alcohol promotions in all licensed premises
* A greater proportion of resources should be allocated to research, monitoring and evaluation
* The narrowing of inequality in Scotland should be a major plank of alcohol & drug damage prevention policy
* Greater investment in early years' education is required
* Programmes that support recovery within community settings must be supported & expanded
* Young people must be given more credible & truthful information about alcohol & drugs to enable them to make better choices
CSPL: Is it any wonder public trust is at such a low ebb? - The Committee on Standards in Public Life has published its annual report for 2007 - 2008. Launching the report, Sir Christopher Kelly, Committee Chairman said:
"It is very clear that there are major areas of unfinished business which continue to give us concern. The first is MPs' expenses and allowances……………………. If the opportunity is missed to undertake a truly fundamental review of the systems for reimbursing Members of Parliament, the outcome may simply give rise to greater distrust of the political class…………….

Secondly, party political funding. Few things have been more corrosive in recent years to public trust in politicians and the political process than the perception that financial support to a political party can buy influence or personal advancement. It is deeply disappointing that independent attempts to bring about all-party agreement on much needed reform of party funding have clearly broken down……………….. If the current stalemate persists, my Committee may wish to take its own look at the issues, which fall directly within its terms of reference.

The third area which continues to give us concern is electoral registration. Our 11th report highlighted problems with the vulnerability to fraud of our electoral system because of the combination of household registration and the introduction of postal voting on demand…………. . And the Council of Europe has come close to triggering its special monitoring processes for United Kingdom elections - a process more usually employed for parts of the former Soviet Union or African states. We put forward a strong case and a sensible timetable for the introduction of individual voter registration, but no progress has been made”.
PHSO: Mistakes will (unfortunately) happen, but it’s how you correct them that is important - Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has urged the NHS to improve the way it handles complaints. In a new report - Remedy in the NHS - Ms Abraham summarises 12 NHS cases previously investigated by her Office, highlighting examples of both good and bad practice in dealing with complaints.

She concludes that "the cases speak powerfully for themselves about the individual and public benefit of effectively resolved complaints." Some of them identify failings in the service provision - from poor record keeping & poor communication with patients, relatives & carers to more serious clinical failings and, in one case, an avoidable death. Others involve failings in complaint handling.

When putting things right NHS organisations should keep in mind the following basic principles:
* If possible, returning the complainant and, where appropriate, others who have suffered similar injustice or hardship to the position they would have been in if the maladministration or poor service had not occurred
* If that is not possible, compensating the complainant and such others appropriately
* Considering fully & seriously all forms of remedy (such as an apology, an explanation, remedial action to prevent a recurrence, or financial compensation)
* Providing the appropriate remedy in each case
DIUS: Benefits should not be a long term necessity - Benefit claimants who need to improve their skills in order to get a job will have to attend compulsory training. Under the plans, published in a Government welfare & skills paper - Work Skills - people claiming Jobseekers Allowance, who have gaps in their skills, will have to attend training to help them find a job.

The Government has also announced that it intends to consult on making it compulsory for lone parents and people on Employment and Support Allowance to attend skills training. The government says that the paper is published in recognition that increasingly it will not be the lack of jobs that will be the biggest barrier to full employment, but the shortage of skills and that they are backing it with ‘ambitious plans’ to overhaul the training system.

From this Autumn:
* all 19-25 years who do not have at least level 3 (A level) qualifications will be entitled to free training worth typically £7,000 to fund training to level 3, and
* the current limited offer for college based students studying in their own time will be extended to all 19-25 year olds including those being trained at work.
* they will also be entitled to an Apprenticeship Credit - a voucher for training that they can use to approach employers who may offer them an apprenticeship.
From 2010 the new scheme will form part of personal skills accounts that will be available to all adults and will guarantee free training for older people up to at least level 2 (GCSE equivalent).
Press release ~ Work Skills – Podcast and link to document ~ Jobseekers Allowance ~ World Class Skills: Implementing the Leitch Review ~ UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) ~ Train to Gain ~ Lifelong Learning UK ~ Raising Expectations: enabling the system to deliver (Joint DCSF/DIUS consultation) (closing date 10 June 2008) ~ DIUS – Further education ~ Learning and Skills Council (LSC) ~ National Diplomas ~ Activity Agreements ~ White paper - Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances ~ DfES 14 – 19 Gateway ~ Get set for life website ~ Apprenticeships review report ~ Command paper 'Ready to Work, Skilled for Work: Unlocking Britain's Talent' ~ Unlocking Talent leaflet ~ Leitch Review ~ LSC: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives, Our statement of Priorities ~ Skills Investing in the first steps ~ Connexions services ~ Entry to Employment programmes ~ Care to Learn scheme ~ SQA – Skills for Work

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