Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfE: Michael Gove has called on more people to adopt children.  The call comes as it has emerged that more than 4,200 children are ready for adoption but have not yet been able to move in with a family – a figure that has grown by 650 in each of the last two years.

The Secretary of State, who was adopted when he was 4 months old, said he wants other children to have the same early settled experience of a secure & loving home.  The Government is introducing a new shorter 2-stage process for prospective adopters; and has introduced changes aimed at ensuring swifter use of the adoption register by councils, and scorecards that show the difference in delay for children in different councils.
 
The Government has also announced that First4Adoption, a consortium of Coram, Coram Children’s Legal Centre and Adoption UK, has won the contract for the National Gateway for Adoption.  From next year this will for the first time provide a first point of contact for anyone who is interested in adoption, through a telephone helpline and a website.
Press release ~ National Gateway for Adoption
 
CO: A deal enabling the Department for International Development (DFID) to vacate offices on Palace Street, next to Buckingham Palace, and move to a freehold block owned by the government will save tax payers £62.5m. The Government Property Unit – part of the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group – worked with DFID to secure an early exit from a lease on the 160,000 sq. ft. office at 1 Palace Street.  
 
Since May 2010 the government has reduced the running cost of its estate by over £350m, exiting over 1,070 buildings across the country.  Just last month the iconic Admiralty Arch was leased raising £60m and saving the running costs for what was a vacant building.
Press release & links
 
DH: Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter has called for veterans to come forward and get services to help improve their physical & mental health.  The Department of Health has £5m available to spend on new prosthetics centres for veterans in 2013.  The money is part of a £22m package to support veterans’ physical & mental health from 2010 to 2015.To get the funding, veterans should contact their local GP or NHS disablement service.
 
So far this year, 32 veterans applied to get high specification prosthetic equipment, such as computer controlled knee units & specialist feet. The DH has committed to funding clinically appropriate prosthetics for any veteran in England who has lost a limb in the service of their country. There are currently an estimated 1,335 veteran amputees in UK and the majority live in England.
Press release & links
 
WAG: A new mortgage guarantee scheme to help people take the first step onto or to move up the property ladder will be rolled out in the Spring of 2013 the Welsh Government has announced.
 
Rather than funding being made directly available to buyers, the Welsh Government and house builders will act as guarantors so that buyers can secure high loan to value mortgages that would not otherwise be available to them.  Buyers will contribute a 5% deposit.
Press release & links
 
No.10: As part of the Government’s determination to keep up momentum on education reform and drive up standards, the Prime Minister has announced that Government will turn around 400 more of the weakest primary schools.
 
Speaking ahead of a special Cabinet meeting at one of England’s leading academies, the Prime Minister said that, by the end of next year,‘400 more struggling primary schools would be paired up with sponsors to convert them into Academies’.
Press release & links
 
DECC: A transformation in the way energy is used across the UK economy could help boost growth & jobs, and investing in energy efficiency could save up to 22 power stations-worth of energy by 2020, according to the Government’s Energy Efficiency Strategy published last week.
 
The new Strategy is aimed at changing the way energy is used in sectors such as housing, transport & manufacturing over the coming decades.  It also includes immediate action to kick start a revolution in UK energy efficiency, including:
* £39m to fund 5 centres examining business & household energy demand
* An energy efficiency labelling trial with John Lewis
* A drive on financing energy efficiency for business & the public sector
Press release & links
 
BISReforms that will allow both parents to share up to a year’s leave to look after their new-born children, were announced by Deputy PM, Nick Clegg last week.  Under the new system of flexible parental leave, parents will be able to choose how they share care of their child in the first year after birth.  Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave.  However, working parents will be able to opt to share the leave.
Press release & links
 
ScotGovChildren with complex additional support needs will have access to high quality services delivered where possible in their community. This is one of the main recommendations in the Doran review, published last week, to provide the best opportunities for children in Scotland with complex additional support needs.
Press release & links
 
PC&PE: The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has published a report on the Justice and Security Bill, following its earlier Report on the Green Paper in April 2012.   The Committee welcomes some of the significant changes which have been made to the Green Paper proposals.  

However, it considers that the proposals in the Bill extending closed material procedures into civil proceedings still constitute a radical departure from the UK's constitutional tradition of open justice & fairness; and concludes that the Government has not yet supplied evidence justifying the need for such a serious departure from the fundamental principles of open justice and fairness. 
Press release & links
 
PC&PESerious questions remain unanswered about the Agreement reached between the UK and Scottish Governments on the holding of a referendum on Scottish independence says the House of Lords Constitution Committee in a report published last week.  

The Agreement provides for power to hold a referendum on Scottish independence to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.  It proposes that this be done through a ministerial order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998; such a process would not require an Act of Parliament, and so limits the ability of MPs & peers to control the terms of the referendum.
 
The Committee finds that neither the UK nor the Scottish Parliaments were given the opportunity to contribute directly to the Agreement negotiations.   It questions whether a section 30 order would be robust enough to protect the decision to hold a referendum from legal challenge.  Although such a challenge would be unlikely to succeed, it would delay the process and cause confusion.
Press release & links
 
ScotGov: A review is underway to assess the current systems for making new medicines available across NHS Scotland to ensure consistency of approach to their introduction, Health Secretary Alex Neil announced last week.
Press release & links
 
WAG: The first 12 Clusters of the Welsh Government’s new Communities First Programme have been announced by the Minister for Local Government & Communities, Carl Sargeant. They represent nearly a quarter of the programme and would receive just over £19m up to March 2015.
 
The aim of the new programme is to create a community focussed Tackling Poverty Programme that aims to support the most vulnerable people in our most deprived areas. Overall there will be 52 areas that are eligible for inclusion in the new programme.  Further announcements about other Clusters will follow over the coming weeks with the expectation that the new programme will be substantially in place early in 2013.
Press release & links
 
ScotGov:  With just over 1 month to go till the Year of Natural Scotland officially gets underway in 2013, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing has been urging Scotland’s visitor attractions to get involved.
 
The Year of Natural Scotland is the next of the Scottish Government’s Focus Years showcasing some of its best known tourism assets as we progress towards our second Year of Homecoming Scotland in 2014.   The Year of Natural Scotland follows the Year of Food & Drink, the Year of Active Scotland and the Year of Creative Scotland.
Press release & links
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