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In the News

Newswire: We need to ‘join the mission and boldly go’ - The UK should have involvement in both human and robotic elements of space exploration if it wants to play a full & active role in the unique opportunities that will define space exploration during this century.

This is one of several recommendations made in a report published recently by the UK Space Exploration Working Group (SEWG), an advisory committee established by the UK Government’s British National Space Centre (BNSC).

The SEWG was tasked in January this year to review current worldwide plans for space exploration as defined by the Global Exploration Strategy – an international initiative that involves 14 national space agencies including the UK - which outlines the ambitions of the world’s space-faring nations including China, Russia, India and Japan.

The Global Exploration Strategy heralds a new era of exploration that will see humans and robots working in partnership on the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, while fleets of unmanned probes venture out across the far reaches of the solar system.

Commenting on the report’s recommendations Professor Keith Mason, Chair of UK Space Board and CEO of The Science and Technology Facilities Council (a key partner in BNSC) said: “The working group has produced a comprehensive report and set of recommendations which will contribute and feed into the new UK Civil Space Strategy currently being developed by BNSC and scheduled for publication this autumn”.
DH: Matron comes back as a Regulator - A new hospital regulator with powers to impose fines and close down entire wards in hospitals that do not meet hygiene requirements will be introduced and hospitals across England will undergo an aggressive programme of intensive deep cleaning.

Trusts already undertake deep cleaning programmes on a ward-by-ward basis, but this will be the first time hospitals have been asked to deep clean their entire site restoring surfaces and fabrics as close as possible to their ‘original’ condition.

The deep cleaning could cost as much as £50m, but Strategic Health Authorities will be expected to manage the funding of this programme from within their own regional financial plans. The government claims that each of the ten SHAs has the resources to do this in this financial year.

The new regulator is intended to have a much stronger focus on safety & quality across all health and adult social care services, in both the NHS and independent sector. It will replace three existing bodies (Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission), building on their existing experience & expertise and simplifying cross-boundary working.

The proposals to create the new regulator will be introduced in the Health & Social Care Bill in the next Parliamentary session, while Trusts will be expected to begin their deep cleaning programmes as soon as possible.
Press release ~ Uniforms and Workwear: An evidence base for developing local policy ~ Isolating patients with healthcare-associated infection - A summary of best practice ~ Clean-safe-care.nhs ~ NPSA: Clean your hands campaign ~ Patient Environment Action Teams (PEATs) ~ National Patient Safety Agency ~ HPA - Healthcare-associated Infections ~ DH – Healthcare Associated Infection ~ DH – Healthcare environment ~ NHS Infection Control Training Programme ~ Microbiology and infection control ~ Hea lthcare associated infection: what else can the NHS do? ~ Infect ion control links ~ DH cleaner hospitals website ~ Clean Hospitals website ~ Hospital Infection Society ~ Hygiene Code ~ HC – Hygiene code~ The Health Act (2006): Hygiene Code of Practice ~ RCN: Good practice in infection prevention and control Guidance for nursing staff

DCSF: Dealing with the dark side of an e-world – The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has launched an online cyberbullying campaign which also includes new guidance and a short film to help schools tackle bullies who use the internet or mobile phones to bully other children or abuse their teachers. It also published new guidance to teachers about how homophobic bullying can be addressed in schools and a summary of the Government's overall approach to bullying.

Estimates vary, but a recent study by the DCSF showed that up to 34% of 12-15 year olds had experienced some form of cyberbullying. There is also growing concern from teaching unions that school staff are increasingly becoming the victims of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can include posting upsetting or defamatory remarks about an individual online and name-calling or harassment using mobile phones. These may be general insults or include prejudice-based bullying. In other cases bullies physically assault other children and post images of fights online or send recordings via text messages to other people.
Defra: Switch bulbs if you can’t switch off - Defra has announced that the most energy-guzzling light bulbs in Britain will start disappearing from shop shelves early next year as part of efforts to cut CO2 emissions. This ‘voluntary’ initiative will see energy efficient light bulbs replace their least efficient equivalents on shop shelves over the next four years.

Its aim is to save up to 5m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2012 from UK electricity generation - the equivalent to the carbon emissions of a typical 1 Giga Watt coal fired power station.

Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock has also written to retailers to progress the initiative announced in Budget 2006 to encourage more energy efficient set top boxes and other consumer electronics, including setting targets to reduce stand-by power.
DCSF: Good policy, but will there be the staff resources to carry it out? – The Department for Children, Schools and Families, has announced a new programme of intensive support for writing in primary schools - Every Child A Writer. It also announced the roll out of intensive support and one-to-one tuition in reading & maths: Every Child A Reader (ECAR) and Every Child Counts (ECC).

The Government will spend £144m over the next three years into rolling out nationally the two programmes and claims that, by 2011, 30,000 seven-year-olds who need help with maths and 30,000 six-year-olds who have difficulty reading will get intensive one-to-one tuition through ECAR and ECC each year.

Every Child Counts will be a partnership between the Government and the new charity - Every Child a Chance – set up by the KPMG Foundation and a coalition of business partners, charitable trusts and others.
CRE: As always, it comes down to communication, communication, communication - The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has used its official powers to hold a Formal Investigation into regeneration schemes in England, Scotland and Wales.

In this, one of the most important pieces of work carried out by the CRE in its 30 year history, the impact of these schemes on local communities has been revealed. The report highlights the hidden human cost of regeneration schemes.

Billions of pounds of public money are being invested to create brighter futures for some of the most deprived areas in this country. However, this investigation has revealed that the communities that these schemes are affecting are not being properly involved in the process.

The report highlights that new buildings and public spaces must allow for interaction between different communities. However, the CRE found that often these schemes create further divisions between these groups.

Local authorities and public bodies have a key role to play in this process. They are the organisations that are uniquely placed to shape and revive the communities they serve.

Building on examples of effective regeneration, the report recommends how local authorities can put in place plans and governance structures to ensure race equality is embedded in the policy & practice of regeneration, so that it has a real impact on communities.

The CRE argues the need for strong local leadership in order to ensure that regeneration delivers benefits to all members of society. This issues a warning to the government and other national bodies that they must provide leadership & support for local authorities to help them achieve this.
HC: Remember, some day you might end up old and in hospital - The Healthcare Commission has called for NHS trusts to do more to ensure they consistently provide dignity in care to older people, including offering adequate nutrition and privacy.
Publishing a national report on dignity in care, the independent watchdog is warning NHS trusts of further checks, including unannounced visits, where there are clusters of evidence suggesting a problem at a hospital or on a ward. It is also asking patients, their carers and the public - and their representative bodies like Age Concern - to come forward and tell the Commission where they have reason for concern.

Examples of best practice included one trust that had introduced a new gown to protect patient modesty and another where senior nursing staff spent Fridays on the wards to better understand the challenges. But the Commission also found that in some cases, there were inadequate arrangements for providing privacy through curtains and locks on toilet & wash facilities.

The Commission’s inspections found not all trusts had clear policies relating to dignity issues for older people, including nutrition and privacy. The Commission recommends that attendance on training courses on equality, diversity and the practical aspects of dignity must be mandatory & be ongoing, not just available to staff at induction.

The inspections found that all trusts inspected had mechanisms for involving older people in their care but they were not always put into practice. Systems for involving older people & their carers from minority ethnic groups were not robust and there was a greater reliance on family members to provide translation in these cases.
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General News

CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched the Faculty of Building Control and Standards with the intention of raising the professional profile of building control professionals and to assist individuals who are currently working within all sectors of Building Control to gain additional recognised professional qualifications.
DfT: The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has launched its specification for the design of wheelchairs for use on board commercial passenger aircraft. Any manufacturer that keeps to the DPTAC specification will know that they are providing a chair that offers a comfortable, dignified & safe mobility aid for the vast majority of passengers who would otherwise have difficulty moving around on board an aircraft.
DPTAC is also about to publish an accessibility specification for toilets on aircraft.  The onboard wheelchair specification will dovetail with this, in order to ensure a safe and comfortable means for mobility impaired passengers to transfer within the aircraft.
While DPTAC specifications are not statutory requirements, experience with DPTAC specifications for other modes of transport strongly suggests that there will be progressive introduction of the specifications as a basis for tendering, resulting in vehicles & aircraft offering both improved access and better travelling conditions.
TNAThe National Archives is celebrating its victory at the Conservation Awards 2007, where it won an award for leadership and practical advancement in the new & challenging field of digital preservation.
The prize was given to The National Archives for its work on active preservation through the development of two tools:
* the PRONOM Technical Registry and
* Digital Record Object Identification (DROID) file format identification
ScotGov: Scottish Government Ministers have given the go ahead for the biggest wave energy project in the world, capable of generating electricity for around 2,000 homes. The project, owned by ScottishPower and operated from the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, will consist of four 750 Kilowatt Pelamis wave energy converters.
Defra: Defra has confirmed that Bluetongue disease is circulating between the local animal and midge population in East Anglia.
Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer, Fred Landeg said: "Bluetongue is spread via midge vectors, rather than animal to animal.  This means animals infected with Bluetongue will not be compulsorily slaughtered from now on.  There is no vaccine currently available, however we will consider vaccination in the event that a suitable authorised inactivated vaccine becomes available."

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DWP: 40% of older workers believe their younger colleagues teach them skills they previously did not have, according to a study of older and younger workers commissioned by Jobcentre Plus, whilst one third of younger workers believe older workers are more likely to work anti-social hours than colleagues their own age.
Jobcentre Plus has launched the ‘Wise Council’ - a dedicated, online advice forum spear-headed by inventor Trevor Baylis and supported by TAEN - The Age and Employment Network and BT for employers & individuals across the country, to enable older people to make the most of employment opportunities available.
In addition, this week saw the launch of 'Gene rationXperience UK Older people's day' on 1 October 2007 - a celebration of the opportunities & aspirations of older people and their contribution to society.  See also ‘General Reports and Other Publications’ below - Key findings have been published from DWP research into 'Employer responses to an ageing workforce',
DWPCitizens Advice and Jobcentre Plus have announced a new partnership agreement to improve links between them and deliver better advice & support to people in England and Wales.  Jobcentre Plus is also working with Citizens Advice Scotland on a similar partnership agreement.
Citizens Advice Bureaux advise over 2 million people each year on employment, benefits and tax credits.  In the financial year 2006/07 the CAB service helped people deal with more then 5.7 million problems, the most common being debt and welfare benefits.  Many clients that use a local CAB are also customers of Jobcentre Plus and many are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.


ScotGov: A consultation (closes 4 January 2008) on a new Strategic Framework for Scottish Freshwater Fisheries has been launched, which seeks to outline the actions required to develop the direction within which the future management of fisheries in Scotland should work.
The strategic framework has been developed by the fisheries sector and this consultation allows wider dissemination of their views & proposals before it can be considered for adoption by all the parties, including Scottish Ministers.  Freshwater fisheries in Scotland currently contribute in excess of £120m to the Scottish economy and support around 2,800 jobs.
OFT: The OFT has launched consultations on the way it calculates the direct financial benefits to consumers of its work and on the way it prioritises which projects should be started and whether work on existing projects should continue.
The consultation on measuring direct benefits to consumers (closes 18 December 2007)sets out how the OFT proposes to assess performance against its key target to deliver direct financial benefits to consumers of at least five times the amount the OFT costs taxpayers. Direct benefits to consumers from OFT actions include price decreases after remedying anti-competitive activity, but also improvements in quality or the benefits consumers gain from making better informed choices.
The consultation on prioritisation principles (closes 22 January 20087)forms part of the OFT's continued commitment to a more targeted & transparent approach to its work.  This consultation is inviting stakeholders to contribute their views on what principles should underline the OFT's future priorities and explains how the OFT currently understands a range of issues, including consumer welfare.
LR: Following an internal review, Land Registry is seeking views on its proposals to amend the Land Registration Rules 2003.  The review looked for ways to improve practice for the benefit of customers and reduce the administrative burden of land registration.  The consultation period runs from 8 October 2007 until 14 January 2008.

Many of the proposals are to amend existing rules, but there are some that would introduce new practice, such as:
* a requirement on Conveyancers to provide, on application forms, confirmation as to the identity of parties they are acting for
* making exceptions to public inspection of documents in the case of those that relate to identity evidence or the investigation and prevention of fraud and other crime
* the use of statements of truth as an alternative to statutory declarations

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DfT: The first revised Highway Code in eight years has been published and it offers the latest road safety rules and advice, as well as promoting greater courtesy & understanding among all road users, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
The revised Code has increased in size by approximately 50%.  It includes 29 more rules than previously and many other rules have been increased, rewritten or enhanced to make things much clearer for all road users on how they should act or react in a variety of situations.
A new Safety Code for Novice Drivers, to help motorists better navigate their first few months behind the wheel, has also been added.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued the newly updated guideline on the early care of adults & children with head injuries.  Developed by the National Collaborating Centre for Acute Care, the NICE clinical guideline gives recommendations on the care & treatment options that should be available in the NHS for people with a head injury.
This guideline is a partial update of the original document issued in 2003, revising areas where new evidence has since been published.  The guideline also gives some new recommendations, including imaging of children and the need for collaboration between hospitals to achieve optimum care.

Hospital emergency departments see an estimated 750,000 people with head injuries each year.  The advice provided by the guideline includes pre-hospital management, assessment in the emergency department, investigation for clinically important brain & cervical spine injury and indications for specialist referral.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health have issued guidance providing clear & consistent advice to doctors and midwives on how to support & care for women in labour.
The guideline supports normal birth (that is a spontaneous vaginal birth where mother & baby are healthy afterwards), as well as setting out what to do if labour does not progress normally.

All recommendations in the guideline are underpinned by the principle that women are provided with information & advice so they are in control of what happens to them during labour and are able to make decisions that are right for them and their baby.
HA: The Highways Agency has published new guidance, in the latest version of the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, to help highway engineers, planners and environmental specialists to assess the impact of transport schemes on historic landscapes throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It provides advice on the assessment of historic landscape character and the effects of road schemes using the analysis of topography, archaeological remains, historic buildings and the natural world. The new guidance will help scheme designers to prepare more sensitive designs that integrate better with the environment and reduce the impact of road schemes on sites of historic interest.

Annual Reports

ScotGov: Annual Statistics on child protection in Scotland in 2006-07 have been published and the headline messages include:
* In 2006-07, there were 11,960 child protection referrals, spilt fairly evenly between the sexes
* For 85% of children who were subject to a case conference, the primary known/suspected abuser was the child's birth parent (where this was known)
* In 2006-07, the number of registrations on to child protection registers as a result of emotional abuse were up by 26%, and by physical neglect were up by 21%
* The number of registrations due to sexual abuse were down by 11%
ScotGov: Crime covered by the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS) 2007 increased by an estimated 13% between 2003-04 and 2005-06, according a research report published by the Scottish Government.
22% of people had been the victim of at least one household or personal crime, but there has been no statistically significant change in this figure in recent years.
Longer term, crime against households appears to have fallen, specifically housebreaking and theft from motor vehicles.  Crime against the person has increased, mainly driven by the number of minor assaults recorded
DfT: The Department for Transport has published ‘Road Casualties Great Britain 2006: Annual Report’", which provides headline final figures on the number of people killed & injured on the roads in Great Britain in 2006, based on information about accidents reported to the police, that were first published in June 2007.
This report provides more detailed information about accident circumstances, vehicle involvement and the consequent casualties in 2006, along with some of the key trends in accidents and casualties.  There are also six articles containing further analysis on specific topics.
IPCC: The Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody - an independently-chaired high level group to reduce deaths in custody - has published its first annual report.  The Forum has found that approximately 600 people die each year in custody.
Although many of these deaths are through natural causes, some follow as a result of apparent suicide attempts and others from other non-natural causes.  The Forum believes that some of these deaths could and should have been prevented.
The work of the Forum includes deaths of people in prison, police stations, immigration detention and secure mental hospitals.  It also focuses on those who have been released from custody and are under supervision of the National Probation Service.

General Reports and Other Publications

DWP: Key findings have been published from DWP research into 'Employer responses to an ageing workforce', which aimed to examine how employers are responding to an ageing workforce, particularly in response to the introduction of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 which outlawed age discrimination in the workplace and in vocational training in October 2006.
DWP: New research reveals that people's perceptions of ethnic minority women in the workplace are lagging behind the reality. 37% think that unemployed Bangladeshi & Pakistani women face cultural & religious barriers that prevent them from working and that 53% of people thought that white British women in work were more likely than ethnic minority women in work to have a degree.
A separate study on Pakistani and Bangladeshi women's attitudes to work & family found that attitudes are changing from one generation to next.  It shows that difficulties in finding suitable childcare and flexible working arrangements act as the biggest barrier to work for ethnic minority women, in the same way as they do for women in general.
Ofwat: Water companies are continuing to invest to deliver environmental and water quality improvement, according to a report published by Ofwat. The Financial performance & expenditure of the water companies in England and Wales 2006-07 report provides a comparison between the industry's actual performance over the last financial year and Ofwat's expectations of when the price limits were set in 2004.
Overall investment in spending on assets (which includes maintenance & improvement schemes) is behind Ofwat's expectations for the first two years of the current price limit period.  While the majority of companies are investing what is needed in most areas to maintain the standard of service consumers expect, there have been delays in delivering some improvement schemes.
CRE:  The CRE has recently launched its final legacy document, 'A lot done, a lot to do: Our Vision for an integrated Britain’. 
The report outlines the current state of race in the UK today, with facts & statistics relating to all aspects of British life, from young people, health and education through to employment, communities, sport and local government.
In it, the CRE sets out the challenges faced in creating an integrated society and some key steps that need to be taken to reduce pernicious inequalities, growing social segregation & declining participation.  It contains specific recommendations for both government and the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
ScotGov: The independent body charged with reviewing NHS Health Board funding has submitted its final report to the Scottish Government. Ministers will now consider the detailed recommendations of the NHS Scotland Resource Allocation Committee (NRAC) within the context of the forthcoming Spending Review. The earliest any proposed revisions to the Formula could be implemented is 2009/10.
NRAC was established in March 2005 to "improve and refine" the Arbuthnott Formula, which has been in use since 2000 to allocate resources to the territorial NHS Boards to cover funding for Hospital & Community Health Services and GP Prescribing.
The final report includes more than 30 recommendations, including a proposed revised formula to replace the Arbuthnott Formula, as well as other recommendations on data developments, use of formulae in funding allocations and on the future maintenance of the formula.

Legislation / Legal

Home Office: A range of new powers to tackle alcohol-fuelled disorder, knife and gun crime, including realistic imitation firearms and air weapons, have come into force under the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, including:
* An offence to manufacture, import or sell realistic imitation guns
* An offence to modify an imitation gun to make it realistic or convertible into a real firearm
* A doubling of the maximum sentence for carrying an imitation gun in public without reasonable excuse
* Air weapons to be sold only by firearms dealers who are registered by police with all sales taking place face-to-face
* An offence to sell a knife to a person aged under 18 (increased from 16)
MoJ: A new organisation looking after the interests of some of the most vulnerable people in society started this week. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), introduced under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, is intended to provide legal protection for thousands of people lacking the mental capacity to make decisions themselves.
Under the final clauses of the Act, there will also be:
* a new Court of Protection with a wider jurisdiction than the old court, and
* a new Lasting Power of Attorney replacing existing Enduring Powers of Attorney.
Lasting powers of Attorney (LPAs), replacing Enduring Powers of Attorney, will hopefully give vulnerable people greater choice & control over their future and enable people to choose someone they trust to look after their affairs should the need arise.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Defra have announced an immediate programme of environmental monitoring of farmland following the EU Agriculture Council's decision to set a 0% rate of set-aside for 2008. The monitoring will be established under Defra's Agricultural Change and Environment Observatory (ACEO) to assess what happens on the ground in the next few months and to provide a firmer basis for future action.
If there is evidence of significant environmental impact - including on the bird population - as a result of the zero percent rate of set aside in 2008, then the Government will look at what action to take.
Defra will also be looking at how the Entry Level (ELS) strand of Environmental Stewardship can help to mitigate any environmental impact, as part of the current review of scheme progress and their preparations for the CAP Healthcheck.

Business and Other Briefings

HMRC: The Joint International Tax Shelter Information Centre (JITSIC) has opened a second ‘home’ in London. JITSIC London and JITSIC Washington will work together as a single office.
JITSIC was established in 2004 by the tax administrations of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, to supplement the ongoing work of the Australian Taxation Office, the Canada Revenue Agency, HM Revenue & Customs, and the US Internal Revenue Service in identifying & curbing tax avoidance & shelters and those who promote them & invest in them.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published the findings of its latest review of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) selling standards.  They show improvements in some areas, but also that many firms are still failing to treat their customers fairly.
The FSA's latest review assessed whether firms had made improvements in five key areas.  Welcome improvements were found in two of these: the vast majority of firms are now making it clear to customers that PPI is optional; and firms are now offering cancellation refunds on virtually all single premium PPI policies.
However, little or no progress has been made in the other three areas: many firms are still not giving customers clear information about the product and what it will cost; not telling them the extent to which they are eligible for PPI cover and what they are covered for; and not telling them why, where advice is given, the recommended PPI policy meets their demands and needs.
BERR: The government claims that businesses will begin to see the benefits of the Companies Act 2006 from this week, as the first major provisions of the Act are implemented. The Act, which followed extensive consultation with the business community, is expected to save business up to £250m a year and bring greater shareholder engagement and transparency. Further provisions in the Act will be implemented with effect from April 2008 and October 2008.
Provisions which commenced on Monday 1 October include:
* The statutory statement of Directors' Duties (other than those on conflicts of interest)
* An enhanced business review for quoted companies
* Increased Rights for Indirect Investors
* A new approach to Company Decision Making,
* New procedures for bringing Derivative Claims
BERR: Millions of British workers will benefit from an increase in the national minimum wage and additional annual leave entitlements, which came into effect on Monday, 1 October 2007.
Under the changes:
* The minimum wage will increase from £5.35 to £5.52 an hour for workers aged 22 and over. There will also be increases from £4.45 to £4.60 for 18-21 year olds and from £3.30 to £3.40 for 16-17 year olds.
* The minimum annual leave entitlement will increase from 20 days to 24 days for full-time workers.  A further increase to 28 days will take place on 1 April 2009.

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