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In the News

DfES: Complaints are a necessary part of the learning process - The Department of Health has launched a consultation paper (closes 17 October 2007) on a new approach to dealing with complaints in health and social care which is supposed to make it easier for people to complain when things go wrong.
It is intended to; make the whole experience of making a complaint easier, more user-friendly, co-operative and much more responsive to people's needs, involving an independent element where required. It also emphasises that health & social care services should routinely learn from complaints, feeding into service improvement.
Currently there are separate complaints procedures for health and adult social care which make it particularly difficult for people who use a combination of services to make a complaint, or for those services to respond. There are also different arrangements for children's complaints.
The different systems are not easy for people to understand and are seen as lengthy & bureaucratic, so some people feel too intimidated, or worried about the potential impact a complaint may have on their relationship with their social worker or GP. As a result people may choose not to complain, problems are not dealt with and an opportunity for learning is lost.
Home Office: Migration is, like global warming, a global problem needing a global approach - The Government has vowed to use its international relations to strengthen the UK's border controls, crack down on migration abuse and tackle trafficking. Home Secretary John Reid has announced that the UK and US should routinely share information about travellers of interest, people using false documents and other immigration offenders.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne and Lord Triesman, the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Returns, also met with their new French counterpart to begin discussions on new measures to strengthen both countries' borders.
The ministers signed a treaty which will pave the way for successful juxtaposed controls to continue when Eurostar relocates its London operations to St Pancras and Ebbsfleet. The agreements mark the recent launch of the Borders and Immigration Agency (BIA) international strategy: Managing Global Migration, which sets out the UK's global plans in the fight to halt illegal immigration.
The strategy describes how the Government will:
  • put migration at the heart of many of our bilateral and multilateral relationships
  • make greater use of biometric data and share data legally with our international partners
  • intensify our efforts to work with our partners to tackle human smuggling & trafficking, and
  • work with EU partners to reduce 'asylum shopping' across Europe
Defra: A walk along the Seaside - Plans to open up the whole of England's coastline to the public have been set out by Environment Secretary David Miliband in a consultation paper (closes 11 September 2007). At present parts of the English coastline are out of bounds to walkers who find their routes blocked and are forced to make detours inland.
Ministers favour a strip allowing access along the full length of the coast as well as access to headland, coves & beaches, so that a continuous route will always be available as close to the coast as possible. The consultation seeks views on four options:
  • Use existing rights of way legislation to create a footpath all round the coast
  • Extend open access using the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000
  • Voluntary agreements with landowners using existing mechanisms
  • New legislation to allow Natural England to designate a coastal corridor
DfES: Hopefully joined-up services will result in better chances to achieve full potential - The Department for Education and Skills, Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health have joined forces to demonstrate their collective resolve to improve the outcomes for all learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and show their commitment to ensuring learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are given the best chance to achieve their full potential.
'Progression through Partnership' is the Governments' joint response to 'Through Inclusion to Excellence'. Known as the 'Little Report', it sets out plans for:
  • Increased joint policy development
  • Improvements in provision and services
  • Workforce performance
  • The development of joint evaluation and monitoring systems
  • Specific activities with delivery partners around issues requiring immediate attention
Press release ~ 'Progression through Partnership' ~ 'Through Inclusion to Excellence' ~ CLG: A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain - A Consultation Paper ~ Good Practice guides and related documents ~ DH - Learning disabilities ~ Disability Rights Commission’s Formal Investigation into Health Inequalities for people with learning disabilities and mental health problems ~ Connects: the Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Portal ~ Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability ~ Learning disabilities white paper ~ CSIP: Our initiatives: Learning disabilities ~ Valuing People Support team ~ Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities ~ Survey of adults with learning difficulties in England 2003/4: Final and summary reports ~ British Institute of Learning Disabilities ~ NLH - Learning Disabilities ~ LDUK

CLG: Better service or just a way of cutting Public Sector staff? - Local Government Minister, Phil Woolas has unveiled a new strategy for delivering housing related support services to vulnerable people with a key role for the third sector at its heart. The Supporting People Strategy builds on the current programme which the government claims helps more than a million people a year maintain their independence, through housing related support services.
Currently £1.7bn is allocated through the Supporting People programme to provide the life skills, such as cooking & budgeting which vulnerable people need to maintain their independence in a settled home. The Supporting People strategy outlines the vital role of the third sector and asks them to help in shaping how the programme will be delivered in the future.
The strategy also suggests exploring new approaches that would give service users greater say about the services they receive through the Individual Budget pilots and new 'Charters for Independent Living'. The charters would provide a clearly set out statement of service outlining what services people can expect to access locally.
Press release ~ Supporting People Strategy ~ Supporting Peoples Strategy Toolkit ~ Independent Living Funds ~ NAO: The implementation of full cost recovery ~ Office of the Third Sector ~ National Councils for Voluntary Action (NAVCA) ~ National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NVCO) ~ Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Associations (ACEVO)Full Cost Recovery ~ Mind the Gap: A funders’ guide to full cost recovery ~ Charities and Public Service Delivery (CC37) ~ Policy statement ‘Charities and public service delivery'NAO: Working with the Third Sector ~ Financial relationships with third sector organisations - NAO ~ Third Sector Network ~ National Centre for Independent Living ~

NAO: Still mainly just ‘Talking the talk’ , rather than ‘Walking the walk’ - Local authorities should work more collaboratively with voluntary & community organisations to help them improve the delivery of public services, according to a report by the National Audit Office, which looked at whether Local Area Agreements (LAAs) are helping to promote better value for money in the way government works with third sector organisations (TSOs) to deliver public services and examined the impact LAAs have had on the role of TSOs in the delivery of public services.

The NAO found that government has put in place a range of initiatives to support TSOs and to encourage public bodies to work with them, but LAAs include only limited references to the third sector and there are as yet no visible changes in local patterns of service provision or in local public bodies’ funding practices towards the third sector. Where changes have occurred, they are due to other initiatives rather than to LAAs.

Among the NAO’s recommendations are that the DCLG and the Government Offices should encourage local bodies to consider third sector organisations as potential partners in the delivery of public services, alongside other private & public partners. The Office of the Third Sector and the Treasury should promote awareness of guidance on the third sector and should find ways of spreading good practices more widely.

This report is the second of three reviews of the third sector’s relationship with government, which NAO is publishing in summer 2007. The first examined ‘full cost recovery’, while the third will look at the public funding of large national charities.
Press release ~ Local Area Agreements and the Third Sector: Public Service Delivery ~ Local Area Agreements (LAAs) ~ Office of the Third Sector (in the Cabinet Office) ~ Government Offices for the Regions (GOs) ~ National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA) ~ NAO: The implementation of full cost recovery (1st of 3 reports) – See also item above: CLG: Better service or just a way of cutting Public Sector staff?

DfES: Caring about long-term outcomes for those ‘in care’ - Big business will offer children in care private tutors, apprenticeships and management training as part of the Government's package of measures to give them a better start in life, Education Secretary Alan Johnson announced when launching the Care Matters White Paper last week.

Measures in the White Paper include a £500 annual education budget for each child in care at risk of falling behind in their education to spend on books & after school activities and a £2,000 university bursary.

Children in care will also have their education overseen by a 'virtual school head', who will take responsibility for all the children in care in their area. In addition, children in care have also been given the highest priority in school admissions, with an expectation that they will get places in the best schools, even if they are full.

The Care Matters White Paper will also give children the right to stay in care up to the age of 18, or even to remain with foster carers up to the age of 21. They will also have the support of a personal advisor up to the age of 25 to help provide a smooth the transition to adulthood and support the young person until they are ready to cope on their own.

The Government is also publishing a consultation on its revised version of Volume One of the Children's Act 1989 guidance and regulations ‘Court Orders’ (closes 28 September 2007).
Press release
~ White Paper: Care Matters: Time for Change ~ Making Good Progress project ~ HSBC Global Education Trust ~ HSBC Management Academy Programme ~ Looked-after children - Every Child Matters ~ Educational achievement of looked-after children - ECM ~ Court Orders consultation ~ DfES: Looked-after children – the struggle for stability ~ Green Paper and responses to consultation ~ Prince's Trust - Care ~ Carelaw : A guide for young people in care ~ Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales ~ Looked After Children and Young People: We Can and Must Do Better ~ Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) ~ Outcome Indicators for Looked after Children ~ Children’s Commissioner ~ Your Voice, Your Choice ~ Education Protects - Collecting & Using Data to Improve Education Outcomes for Children in Public Care ~ Childline information sheet ~ Useful Links ~ JRF: Barriers to change in the social care of children

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General News

National Archives: An innovative project from The National Archives has won a prestigious Jodi Award for excellence in accessible museum, library and archive technology. The award was for the National Archives´ online resource exhibition Prisoner 4099, which was the culmination of a 3-year collaborative project between The National Archives, a group of blind & visually impaired students from different parts of Britain and other national organisations keen to promote & develop accessibility on the Internet.
Prisoner 4099 deals with Victorian crime and focuses on the life of a 12 year-old boy, William Towers, who was arrested and sent to prison for stealing.
OSEast Riding of Yorkshire Council expects to save at least £160,000 of taxpayer’s money a year by improving school bus services, using data from national mapping agency Ordnance Survey.
The council found that certain bus routes were not running at full capacity while others were over full.  Armed with this understanding, the council was able to overlay data about bus stop and pupil locations in OS MasterMap ITN Layer to produce a new set of optimised routes, which would make better use of resources and the available capacity.
DH: Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has unveiled a much trailed website - NHS Choices - which aims to personalise healthcare and provide information that will allow patients to make meaningful choices about when and where to receive their treatment.
The site is meant to provide important benefits for patients, providers and healthcare commissioners.  For example, those patients for whom waiting time is a critical factor will be able to identify the most appropriate hospital, while others who may wish to base their decision on travelling times, or incidence of MRSA, will also have their preferences met.
SPCB:  A full scale review of parliamentary allowances has been announced by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). Taking a 'first principles' approach, the review will examine all areas of allowances, to establish what resources are required in order to enable MSPs to perform their parliamentary duties and their duties to their constituents effectively.
The review will cover all three main allowance categories:
* the Members' Allowances Scheme
* the Party Leaders' Allowance Scheme, and
* the Equipment & Furniture Scheme
DfT: New research has found vehicles equipped with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) are 25% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it.  If every vehicle on the road were fitted with ESC, this would equate to approximately 380 fewer fatal accidents each year.
The research concluded that ESC was especially effective in helping to prevent crashes that involved a vehicle skidding or overturning, with the potential to reduce serious accidents like this by up to 59%.  As well as this, it concluded that ESC could offer additional benefits in adverse road conditions such as wet or snowy weather.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

Defra: Defra has published responses to its consultation on a draft strategy for improving animal welfare in England by building new relationships between Government and its key partners.  The Strategy proposes five key goals:
  • Improving the quality & range of training and education for animal keepers
  • Developing a robust & thorough system for measuring welfare standards
  • Providing detailed & standardised information to consumers on the welfare history of animal products
  • Enforcing welfare rules efficiently to protect animals while minimizing the burden on their keepers
  • Working towards internationally-agreed standards for animal welfare
Cabinet Office: A government strategy to reduce bureaucracy for front line workers so that ‘public services can work more efficiently without compromising on standards’ has been published by Cabinet Office. The strategy sets out how the Government is going to reduce bureaucracy by:
  • Getting Whitehall departments to identify the bureaucracy burden on public services
  • Identifying the top 10 irritants in each field & publishing them in late 2007
  • Reducing duplicate / unnecessary information requests by Depts. which tie up people on the front line
  • Giving public sector workers a clear mechanism to challenge bureaucracy which doesn't work
Frontline staff are urged to log on to the Cabinet Office better regulation portal to lodge their ideas.  
DWP: DWP Minister Lord McKenzie has announced a new vocational rehabilitation task group to help ill or injured people stay in or return to work and called on employers to do more to support their employees. 175m working days are lost to sickness absence each year, costing businesses & the economy around £13bn.
The task group - made up of government, customers, business and insurers - will identify what services are currently available, why businesses do not provide more support, and what needs to be done to increase understanding & ensure wider provision of support services.
Defra: A vision of how England's trees, woods and forests can yield environmental, social and economic benefits for future generations has been set out by Barry Gardiner, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs.
From helping to combat climate change to boosting business opportunities, the new Strategy for England Trees, Woods and Forests highlights the potential of these important natural resources to improve life for people & wildlife. It also shows how long-term sustainable management of trees, woods and forests can help people and wildlife adapt to a changing climate and how people can make the most of their local woodlands.
DfES: Employers, adults and young people in post-16, Government-funded training will soon be able to judge more easily for themselves how colleges and other learning providers are performing. Details of a new system for assessing performance on the basis of effectiveness, responsiveness and finance have been published recently.  One hundred providers will be testing 'Framework for Excellence' from his September 2007.
Findings from the trial will help shape a full version of the Framework from summer 2008.  The independent & quantitative nature of the Framework will enable the sector to move towards self regulation.
Defra: The Environment Agency is to oversee management of all flood & erosion risk on the English coast, Defra has announced. The government claims that that the new role will increase accountability & clarity for the public and help ensure that work is properly prioritised & managed so that investment is used to best effect.
With its new strategic overview role, the Environment Agency will:
  • take the lead in managing all sea flooding risk in England and fund & oversee coastal erosion works undertaken by local authorities
  • ensure that proper & sustainable long-term Shoreline Management Plans are in place
  • work with local authorities to ensure that the resulting flood & coastal erosion works are properly planned, prioritised, procured, delivered and maintained to get maximum value for taxpayers' money
  • ensure that third party defences are sustainable
The announcement relates to the Environment Agency's strategic overview role for sea flooding and coastal erosion; development of the Agency's role in relation to inland flooding is being pursued separately.  Sea flooding roles on the coast are currently mixed between the Environment Agency and 92 coastal local authorities.


OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has issued for consultation (closes 10 August 2007) revised guidance on the so-called 'markets of insufficient importance' or 'de minimis' exception in merger cases with the intention reducing the system's cost to business and the taxpayer.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the OFT has a duty to refer certain mergers to the Competition Commission, unless the markets involved are not of sufficient importance to justify a reference.
Existing guidance suggests that the OFT may consider a merger in a market worth as little as £400,000 per year to be of sufficient importance to justify a reference to the Competition Commission.  The revised guidance raises the market size threshold to £10m.
DTI: The Government has launched a review of its three-year old arms export control legislation with a consultation (closes 30 September 2007) that will look at a wide range of proposals, including whether more needs to be done to control the trading in a wider range of arms or equipment and whether a pre-licensing registration system for UK based arms traders should be introduced.
This Review is intended to enable the government to revisit the controls in the light of experience to establish whether they are having the intended effect, without imposing unnecessary or disproportionate business burdens, and to consider the case for further change.
DTI: Plans to improve payment practices throughout the construction industry have been unveiled for consultation (17 September 2007). Developed with broad industry support & involvement, they seek to:
  • Introduce greater clarity & transparency into the statutory payment framework to enable construction companies to better manage cash flow
  • Encourage parties to resolve disputes by adjudication, and
  • Identify how the costs & benefits of the package can be evaluated
These proposals are intended to be proportionate amendments to the existing framework to address specific issues that have arisen during the nine years the Construction Act has been in operation. 
DTI: Small Business Minister Margaret Hodge has claimed that a simplification of the number of business support schemes from 3,000-plus to under 100 is at the centre of new proposals to help small business (consultation closes 14 September 2007).
Under the proposals, the Government's small business information & advice service Business Link would be the first port of call for all of Government's business support. Last year Business Link handled over 800,000 face-to-face enquiries and its website received more than seven million online visitors.
HM Treasury: Economic Secretary, Ed Balls has published a consultation document (12 September 2007) that aims to ensure the mutual sector has the best toolset to operate in the modern economy. It will take a 2-stage approach and it will impact on over 8,000 industrial & provident societies and over 500 credit unions.
This first stage, seeks views on the issues raised by stakeholders about the current legal framework, addressing issues identified by co-operative & credit union sectors as impeding development and in need of review.
The second stage will involve consulting on firm proposals for legislative reform should a case for reform emerge.  It will identify the alternatives for implementation, possible advantages & limitations and provide clear options based on results of the first stage of the consultation.
DfT: Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has launched a consultation (closes 13 September) on an environmental reporting system for Biofuels and a package of measures to complement the reporting requirement. The consultation is a key part of work on the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which means that by 2010, 5% of all the fuel sold on UK forecourts should come from biofuels.
In addition to the consultation, the Secretary of State made several other announcements including that from:
  • April 2010 the Government aims to reward biofuels under the RTFO according to the amount of carbon they save
  • April 2011 the Government aims to reward biofuels under the RTFO only if they meet appropriate sustainability standards.
Press release ~ Carbon and sustainability reporting within the renewable transport fuel obligation ~ Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) ~ Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership ~ Linking Environment and Farming ~ Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ~ Rainforest Alliance ~ Basel Criteria for Soy ~ Forest Stewardship Council ~ Social Accountability 8000 ~ Biofuelwatch
DfES: The Government is consulting (closes 14 September 2007) on the processes for barring people who should not work with children & vulnerable adults as part of the next stage to introduce the toughest ever vetting & barring scheme.  The system was legislated for in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and will be introduced from autumn of 2008.
In the consultation respondents are asked to consider points including:
  • whether they agree with the list of offences which would result in being automatically barred from working with children & vulnerable people
  • how long adults & young people who are barred should have to wait before they can ask for their bar to be reviewed - the "minimum no-review period"
  • whether this "minimum no-review period" should be the same length for both adults & young people and whether the age boundary for a younger person - which determines how long they have to wait before they can apply for a review - should be 18 or 25
DfES: The Department of Health has launched a consultation paper (close 17 October 2007) on a new approach to dealing with complaints in health & social care which will make it easier for people to complain when things go wrong - See ‘In the News’ above for more details.
Defra: Plans to open up the whole of England's coastline to the public have been set out in a consultation paper (closes 11 September 2007). At present parts of the English coastline are out of bounds to walkers who find their routes blocked and are forced to make detours inland - See ‘In the News’ above for more details.
MoJ: Plans to promote a culture of openness in family courts, while protecting the best interests of children, have been unveiled for consultation (closes 1 October 2007) – See ‘Legislation / Legal Section’ below.
MoJ: Introducing greater choice on how young people give evidence in court is among government proposals published for consultation (closes 19 October 2007) that are intended to place victims & witnesses at the heart of the Criminal Justice System – See ‘Legislation / Legal Section’ below.
DfES: The Government is publishing a consultation on its revised version of Volume One of the Children's Act 1989 guidance and regulations ‘Court Orders’ (closes 28 September 2007) – See ‘In the News’ above.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

NSG: The National School of Government has launched a new 360 degree feedback tool for Civil Service leaders designed around the Cabinet Secretary’s new framework of leadership expectations and the requirements of Professional Skills for Government (PSG).
Designed specifically for the Senior Civil Service and its aspirants, SCHOR360 is an online development tool that provides a full analysis of a participant’s performance in five key areas: Strives, Communicates, Helps, Observes and Results.
In addition to a detailed numerical and graphical report, participants typically receive an insight into how others perceive their leadership style, a ‘survey’ of work areas considered most crucial by their manager and colleagues, and written comments about their leadership impact.
Defra: An online calculator that enables people to work out their carbon footprint using government-recognised data & calculations has been launched by Environment Secretary David Miliband. 
Using the calculator, people are supposed to be able to calculate their carbon footprint from home energy, appliances & transport and choose to calculate either their own personal footprint or their household's.  The calculator then develops a personalised action plan for users, with steps they can take to cut their emissions.
Recent research commissioned by Defra has shown that 94% of people in Britain now believe that the world's climate is changing and 57% believe that we are already feeling the impacts of climate change.  66% of people surveyed said they were already trying to take personal action to try to limit climate change.
TDA: A revised set of professional standards for teachers has been published by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).  The revised standards, a key element of the "new professionalism" for teachers, will replace existing classroom teacher standards from September 2007.
This framework of standards is intended to help teachers plan their careers and identify their future development with their line managers. The standards set out the professional attributes, knowledge & understanding and skills expected at each stage of a teacher's career.

Annual Reports

HC: For the second year running, every NHS trust in England has issued a public declaration on performance in meeting the government’s core standards.  They have made the information available as part of the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check of English NHS trusts which replaced the system of star ratings.

Patients and the public can see what local trusts say about whether they measure up against 24 standards (with 44 parts) in areas like safety, clinical effectiveness and patient focus.
The declarations included:
  • 60% of trusts acknowledge they need to do more to achieve full compliance
  • there are three standards that relate to the Hygiene Code and in all three casesmore trusts are declaring non-compliancecompared to last year
  • there was a slight decline in the number of trusts saying they met two standards that deal with treating patients with dignity and respect
  • other standards trusts struggled cover issues such as patient records, mandatory training and decontamination of equipment
MoJ: The Legal Services Ombudsman for England and Wales has said in her Annual Report that the Government's aims in the Legal Services Bill are laudable. However she has voiced concerns about the detail & implementation of the Bill, which is currently going through Parliament. Ms Manzoor says the reforms must deliver what was intended for the consumer and the profession. 
Ms Manzoor reports that this year she was not satisfied with 32% of the cases reviewed by her, where consumers had complained about the service received from the Law Society. Overall the Ombudsman found that the Law Society's performance to be well shortof where a modern, customer focussed organisation should be.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published its Annual Report for the year 2006/07. The FSA's enforcement division closed 219 investigations during the year.  Of these, 110 concluded with the use of powers (such as prohibition, financial penalties and variations of permissions) and 109 without the use of powers. Private warnings were issued in 10 of these 109 cases.
CEL: By 31 March 2007, less than four years after its launch, the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) had recruited nearly 26,000 individual participants and worked with 91% of the organisations in the further education sector.
CEL’s annual review also shows that 12,000 participants were recruited during the financial year to 31 March 2007, exceeding the target by 46% and that customer satisfaction had improved again, with 96% of participants rating CEL’s programmes, courses or events as good or very good.

General Reports and Other Publications

Ofsted: Religious education (RE) has improved overall in the past few years but there are still wide variations in the quality of provision and achievement by pupils remains very inconsistent, according to a new report published by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

The report - Making sense of religion: a report on religious education in schools and the impact of locally agreed syllabuses - calls for a review of the current statutory position of RE,as it questions whether the subject in non-faith maintained schools is best served by the current arrangements.  
The publication by the government in 2004 of a non-statutory National Framework for RE was designed to promote greater consistency of provision and raise standards in RE.  However, inspectors found that its impact is diminished by the current statutory arrangements.
Defra: The Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB (ISG) has published its final report - Bovine TB: The Scientific EvidenceNatural England welcomes the Group’s report and will now examine it in depth before providing a comprehensive response to the recommendations.  Natural England looks forward to Defra's announcement of its policy decision, at which point they will consider the implications for wildlife management.
Badgers and their setts are protected under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which makes it illegal to kill, injure or take badgers or to interfere with a badger sett.  Interference with a sett includes blocking tunnels or damaging the sett in any way.  The Hunting Act 2004 amended the above legislation.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published its report on Internet shopping which concludes that the rapid growth of internet shopping is a success story that benefits both consumers & businesses across a range of markets, but that both could do more to make the most of the opportunities it provides.
But the report also found that:
  • some shoppers could find better deals by searching more effectively
  • many could do more to protect themselves online, and
  • most do not know that they have cancellation rights when shopping on the internet
ESRC: Whilst young people in Britain increasingly value education and stay on at school, the proportion gaining qualifications and going to college & university over the past 20 years has been 'consistently & substantially' greater in Scotland, according to a unique study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Using carefully constructed sets of data drawn from ongoing surveys of thousands of young people aged 16-19, researchers were able for the first time to analyse the effects of social change on their experiences through & beyond the education system, and to map trends across Britain.

The report says that more than half of Britain’s 16-year olds in the mid-1980s felt that school had done little to prepare them for life, compared with just a third by 1999. Those feeling it had helped give them confidence to make decisions rose from 52 to 70%.
Scottish ExecutiveAudit Scotlandhas published a review of the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link and Trams projects. In response, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said: 
"The report raises a number of serious concerns about governance and development issues which we would have expected to be in better shape than the Auditor General finds them, particularly in relation to EARL……
We are assessing the full range of transport projects we have inherited and I want to consider the findings of this report in the context of value for money and affordability. I have already committed to come back to parliament to present the outcome of our assessment of the projects and I will do that next Wednesday."
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to the CLG’s proposals for unitary authorities in shire England and it argues the case for:
  • powerful new unitary local authorities serving the communities of shire England, working closely with,
  • a renewed structure of empowered & influential town and parish councils,
  • as well as other strengthened neighbourhood level structures
Last year's discussion paper – Shire local government – time for a change? also outlined some of their views on the future shape & structure of shire local government.

Legislation / Legal

DCMS: The Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill - which allows social security information to be disclosed to the BBC to help target those who will benefit from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme – recently received Royal Assent.
The help scheme, which the BBC will establish & fund, is intended to provide practical help with the transition for people 75+ or with a significant disability. An estimated 7m UK households will qualify for assistance from the scheme between 2008 and 2012.
Once the Act comes into effect, social security information can be disclosed to Capita subject to final discussions on DWP's security requirements. The initial responses will be cross-checked with DWP data to confirm that people are eligible and they will receive assistance in due course.
MoJ:  Plans to promote a culture of openness in family courts, while protecting the best interests of children, have been unveiled for consultation (closes 1 October 2007) by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Lord Falconer.  Working closely with the judiciary and court staff, a pilot scheme will be devised to gauge the full impact, implications and benefits to people involved in family proceedings.
The package follows a consultation last year on improving both transparency and privacy in family courts.  The aim was to make the culture of family courts more open, while maintaining the privacy of those involved in proceedings - especially children. The paper also seeks views on the following further proposals:
  • Whether to widen disclosure rules on information by parties
  • How best to protect the identity of children beyond the end of proceedings
MoJ: Introducing greater choice on how young people give evidence in court is among government proposals published for consultation (closes 19 October 2007) that are intended to place victims & witnesses at the heart of the Criminal Justice System.
Giving evidence in court can be a daunting task for children and young people, particularly when it is against people they know, including family members.  Measures being considered include the use of video recorded pre-trial cross-examination for a small number of the most vulnerable young witnesses; enhanced use of technology such as remote live links and concealing the visual image of some children to protect them whilst they give evidence.
MoJ: In his response to the Constitutional Affairs Committee Report, Implementation of the Carter Review of Legal Aid, Lord Falconer said the overall reform programme, including the extension of fixed & graduated fees to pay for legal aid work, was necessary to ensure spending remained under control and was focused on helping those most in need.
Lord Falconer accepted the Committee's recommendations that the processes needed to implement best value tendering for legal aid work would require careful design.
The Legal Services Commission (LSC) announced final fee schemes for family private help and for help & representation by solicitors in child care cases last week.  The LSC and MoJ also published a consultation document Creating a Quality Assurance Scheme for Publicly Funded Criminal Defence Advocates, for advocates working in the Crown courts and above (closes 17 September 2007).

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: The range of powers available for controlling the export of waste from the UK has been widened by the laying in Parliament of the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 which set out offences & penalties and designate the responsible enforcement authorities. They replace the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 1994 and help to fully transpose the requirements of the European Community Regulation on shipments of waste - the Waste Shipments Regulation (EC/1013/2006). The regulations are UK wide, and will come into force on 12 July 2007.
A revised UK Plan on Shipments of Waste will be published shortly, setting out policies on the import & export of waste from the UK for disposal.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

ESRC: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Office of the Third Sector (OTS), The Carnegie UK Trust and the Scottish Executive have announced the call for proposals to establish the UK’s first independent, multidisciplinary and academically based Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy.

 The Centre, which sees a total joint investment of £2.2million over 5 years, will support high quality independent research aimed at influencing policy and practice decisions in the UK as well as developing the necessary evidence base to better understand charitable giving and philanthropy issues.
The closing date for full proposals is 14 August 2007.  The Office of the Third Sector are investing £750,000 to set up the centre,

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: Two consultation documents aimed at enhancing the way HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) deals with transfer pricing enquiries and rulings and clearances, have been published.
Consultation document ‘HMRC approach to transfer pricing for large business’ (closes 15 September 2007) looks at:
ways in which HMRC can better target its transfer pricing enquiries and focus on the right issues
resolving transfer pricing enquiries faster, with an 18 month completion timetable as the norm
devoting more resources to transfer pricing with more specialist input
The other document, ‘Giving Certainty to Business through Rulings and Clearances’ (closes 12 September 2007) considers:
giving businesses who seek HMRC's view on significant issues both pre and post transaction, a binding view within 28 days, and
providing binding rulings across all relevant taxes for businesses that provide clear plans for investment.
HM Treasury: Paymaster General, Dawn Primarolo MP, has announced the publication of a joint HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs discussion document on reforming the taxation of foreign profits of companies. 
The Government is proposing a package of structural reform, intended to modernise & create a more straightforward regime for taxing foreign profits.  The aim is to achieve a balanced, broadly revenue-neutral package that meets the needs of both business and Government.
Discussions will be held over the summer, closing on 14 September.  Contributions are invited from business and other stakeholders.
DTI: Small Business Minister Margaret Hodge has claimed that a simplification of the number of business support schemes from 3,000-plus to under 100 is at the centre of new proposals to help small business (consultation closes 14 September 2007) – See ‘Consultations’ section above.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has issued for consultation (closes 10 August 2007) revised guidance on the so-called 'markets of insufficient importance' or 'de minimis' exception in merger cases with the intention reducing the system's cost to business and the taxpayer.

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