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In the News

DCSFThe tarnished gold standard of A levels set to be replaced by Diplomas? - Ed Balls has announced plans for additional Diplomas in Science, Languages and the Humanities in order to increase the options for 14 to 19 year olds. Mr Balls told a group of business leaders and education professionals at the CBI Conference Centre recently that the expanded Diploma range could become the qualification of choice over the next decade.

Mr Balls also confirmed that an A-Level review scheduled for 2008 will now be postponed and that a first review of 14-19 qualifications will instead take place in 2013. 

Developed to meet the needs of universities and businesses, Diplomas are intended to secure a fully-rounded education for all young people at all levels of ability. They are intended to combine in-depth theoretical & practical study of specific subject areas, a strong focus on English, Maths & ICT skills and opportunities to apply their learning in work-related contexts. 

The government claims that all Diploma students will be able to communicate & analyse data at the highest levels, while at the same time developing a broader set of personal skills & attitudes that businesses and universities require.

There are already plans for 14 Diploma qualifications introduced over the next three years, with the first five Diplomas being offered for the first time in September 2008 to nearly 40,000 young people in almost 900 schools and colleges around the country.
ScotGovWhat Government is happy with another Government organising its elections? - First Minister Alex Salmond has responded to the report into the problems experienced on 3 May in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, which were under the responsibility of the Scotland Office. 

Mr Salmond said: "In the organising of the election, Ron Gould concludes that the Scotland Office and the then Scottish Executive frequently focused on 'partisan political interests', and overlooked those of the voter, which is a damning indictment. And he recommends discussions to assign responsibility for Holyrood and Council elections to one body in the future, and suggests that the Scottish Government would be the 'logical choice'. 

Another issue is ensuring that local issues get a chance to be heard in elections to local government, by decoupling Council from Scottish Parliament elections".
DHReal service improvement or just musical chairs? - Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson has claimed that a new regulator for health & adult social care services will ensure good quality and safe care for the public. The Care Quality Commission will have a key role in tackling & preventing Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), strengthening the current system of regulation by bringing together the experience & expertise of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission. 

Rather than just bringing problems to the attention of providers & government, the Care Quality Commission will now have a key role in tackling them by taking rapid & appropriate action against any health and adult social care organisation that is putting patients or service users at risk. The wider range of enforcement options available will include:
* increasing the frequency of inspection, including unannounced spot checks
* undertaking investigations
* issuing warning notices
* fining providers, or
* closing services 

They will be able to close down wards if necessary, making sure that they are thoroughly cleaned before they can be re-opened for patients. The powers of the Care Quality Commission will be included in the new Health and Social Care Bill, due to be introduced in Parliament this year.
MoJWe will belief it when we see it - A package of measures to enhance openness and increase public access to information, including a review of the ‘30-year rule’ and extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, has been announced by the Prime Minister.

The Government is also to consult formally on extending the application of the Freedom of Information Act (closes on 1 February 2008) to include a range of organisations that perform public functions. 

A review will also be launched ‘looking into the way we share & protect personal information in the public and private sector’ (to be published in the first half of 2008).  

As well as plans for the two reviews and new consultation, the Government is also publishing its response to the two consultations carried out earlier this year on:
* whether to amend the Freedom of Information Act, and
* Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 

The Government has listened to the views of those who responded and ‘decided not to proceed with proposals to amend the regulations’. 

The Ministry of Justice's reply to The Constitutional Affairs Select Committee's Report Freedom of Information: the Government's proposals for reform has also been published.
BIGIt’s the biggest yet - The Big Lottery Fund has unveiled the final shortlist for the People’s £50m Lottery contest, which will see a project of national importance win a one-off award of £50 million chosen by public vote – the largest Lottery good cause funding to be awarded in this way.

The final short list of projects has been announced and these projects will now face the public vote in early December 2007:
* Black Country Urban Park
* Eden Project: the Edge
* Sherwood: The Living Legend
* Sustrans – Connect2

Voting starts in just under 4 weeks and will take place online & by phone vote following the TV show on ITV1 – further details to be announced soon.
Press release ~ The People's 50 Million Giveaway ~ Black Country Urban Park ~ Eden Project: the Edge ~ Sherwood: The Living Legend ~ Sustrans – Connect2  

Industry NewsIts time for organisations to get real and stop using historical information systems to manage services - Billions have been thrown at UK public services in the last decade – often with little or no discernible impact. Hundreds of millions have been spent on ICT systems – often seemingly based on the concept that computerising a bad system will automatically turn it into an efficient system. 

The government has spent the last few years talking about ‘transforming’ itself and the way it does things – churning out endless policy documents and targets – which public sector organisations (PSOs) strive to meet (often to the detriment of service provision in general), yet what has really been achieved during that time?:
* Its claims to have saved billions in efficiency savings have had scorn & doubt poured on them.
* A hospital trust cannot even notice the fact that the monthly number of new patients with C. difficile has doubled.
* The recruitment of tens of thousands of new police officers is shown to have had little discernable additional impact on crime reduction targets.

All the above highlight the fact that however much ‘investment’ in public services the government of the day makes, they are probably wasting their time and ‘our money’ UNLESS they can monitor on a ‘real time basis’ (i.e. what is happening now, not what happened several months ago) just where the investment goes to and what are its effects.
Even more importantly they need to be able to identify where need is increasing (and even decreasing) in order to be able to direct the extra investment to the areas of greatest need in the first place.
For other Industry News please click HERE

For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

General News

MoD/PCS: The MoD claims that at least £50m of ongoing savings (which can be reinvested in operations) will be released per year by reducing the Head Office staff by 25%.  This means the loss of around 1,000 civilian jobs and 300 military posts, but the scale of reductions in military posts will not require redundancies.
The PCS union responded by warning that further cuts to civilian support staff, combined with the disruption of relocating staff, would undermine the ability of the MoD to support the armed forces. The union also criticised the creation of additional senior posts when the job cuts will disproportionately fall on the lowest grades, where starting salaries including London Weighting are approximately £15,500.
12,000 jobs have already gone in the MoD across a range of areas including defence logistics, procurement, IT & armed forces training.  PCS general secretary, Mark Serowtka said: "The MoD and the government need to seriously rethink their proposals and address the concerns of staff by negotiating with the union."
TfL:   Transport for London (TfL) announced that it has lodged a formal bid to take control of Metronet.  Under TfL's plans, the people & the assets of the two Metronet companies, BCV and SSL, will be transferred into two TfL nominee companies, which will be managed on a standalone basis whilst the long-term structure is agreed with the Mayor and Government.
Metronet Rail BCV is responsible for the maintenance & renewal of the Bakerloo, Central, Victoria and Waterloo & City lines, while Metronet Rail SSL is responsible for the maintenance & renewal of the Sub-Surface lines – the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and East London lines.
TfL’s bid for the two Metronet companies has been constructed on the basis that there should be no net additional cost to the organisation.
CLG: Junior Minister for Housing Iain Wright has announced five priority places - the Thames Gateway, the South West region, Corby, Portsmouth Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) and ELEVATE East Lancashire - to work with the Government in creating the places we all want to live and work.
These areas have been identified as part of the Living Places Partnership, a joint initiative between Communities and Local Government and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, along with five key cultural agencies.
This joint work aims to ensure that all communities, in particular those experiencing economic growth, benefit from cultural facilities such as museums, libraries, art and sport as well as making better use of cultural heritage.
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has announced the introduction of a human papilloma virus (HPV) immunisation programme to routinely vaccinate girls aged 12 - 13 years of age against cervical cancer, starting from September 2008.  In England there are about 2200 cases of cervical cancer a year, with about 800 deaths.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that causes 99% of invasive cervical cancer. To ensure maximum benefit and protection from this vaccine, it would be necessary to administer it before the onset of sexual activity. The Health Secretary also confirmed that there would be a 2-year catch up campaign starting in Autumn 2009, for girls up to 18 years.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Professor Sir John Tooke have launched recommendations on how the NHS can ensure that more patients receive the most effective treatments. According to them, by better harnessing the expertise of medical staff & relevant bodies, the NHS will be able to enhance & incentivise more effective and efficient clinical care.
These recommendations come from the Report of the High Level Group on Clinical Effectiveness, which the CMO asked Professor Sir John Tooke to set up following on from his 2005 report Waste not Want Not.
Sir John and the group found that there is no single solution to address the issue of clinical effectiveness, but that national co-ordination of activityand support for sharing of activity & information at local level are both vital.
The Department of Health is announcing a call for proposals to pilot 'National Institute for Health Research Academic Health Centres of the Future'.  These are intended to bring together academia and the NHS across the health community covered by the Centre, in order to develop innovative models for conducting research and also translating research into practice and improving outcomes for patients.
BERR: Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks has commented on the security of energy supplies, as a new report - The Energy Markets Outlook - provides energy market information on security of supply, looking forward over a fifteen-year time span.  
The intention is to help develop a shared understanding of the longer-term outlook for energy supply and demand, and to help understand emerging risks that could affect security of supply.
DCSF: Ed Balls, Children, Schools and Families Secretary, has launched the National Year of Reading by urging employers to be creative and turn their old smoking rooms into 'mini libraries.'  He also wants parents to spend ten minutes a day reading to their children to inspire a love of reading.
Starting in January 2008, the National Year of Reading is a campaign that encourages everyone of any age to discover the pleasure of reading. It will be run by the National Literacy Trust .and it will involve a series of national & local level events focused around themed months, such as 'father to son', 'alternatives to books' and 'classics and modern literature'. 
From January to March organisations and authorities will be asked to take up the Reading Challenge, to pledge & plan their support with activities beginning in April 2008.
ScotGov: A £25m aid package to help Scottish farmers and crofters recover from the recent F&M outbreak has been announced. The main elements of the package cover:
* Scottish Ewe Scheme
* Sheep dip disposal
* Funding for the Sheep Welfare Scheme
* Marketing and promotion
* Help for farmers and other members of rural communities who have suffered
* Crofters
DH: The Department of Health has introduced the new Contract Research Organisation model Clinical Trial Agreement (CRO mCTA), which replaces the many different contracts companies had to negotiate with individual hospital trusts.
The new contract is a tripartite agreement between the pharmaceutical company sponsoring the trial, the contract research organisation managing it and the NHS Trust where the trial takes place.  It will complement the bipartite agreement model used by pharmaceutical companies and NHS Trusts published in 2006.


DCSF: Dr Tanya Byron is asking children & young people under the age of 18 to come forward with their opinions on the internet and video games. The call for evidence (closes 17 December 2007) is for those children & young people who use the internet & video games for fun, socialising & education and it will ask children & young people questions such as:
* what they see as the benefits of the internet / video games
* whether they think there are any dangers or risks involved in using the internet / video games
* whether and how their internet / video games use is controlled
* how well they think those controls work
* whether they think anything else might be done to keep children safe online
MoJ / Home Office: The government has published 3 consultations under the generic heading of the ‘Governance of Britain’:
* The first is a consultation on how Parliament should play a stronger role in approving decisions to deploy the Armed Forces into conflict abroad and on the ratification of treaties (closes 17 January 2008).
* The second concerns the role of the Attorney General (closes 30 November 2007).
* The third concerns the proposals to allow government buildings to fly the flag continually (closes 9 November 2007).
Two further consultations (both closing 17 January 2008) have also been published concerning:
* the future role of the Government in judicial appointments, and
* management of protests in Parliament Square
CLG: Housing Minister Yvette Cooper has re-announced a drive to deliver more affordable housing by bringing empty homes back into use and giving more cash to communities who are building more homes. The announcement was made in a new consultation (closes on 17 January 2008) on the Housing and Planning Delivery Grant (HPDG) and form part of the Government's plans to build 3 million more homes to be built by 2020.
The Government will make clear to councils they should also have strategies in place to bring more empty homes back into use in order to be able to access the funding.  The HPDG supersedes the Planning Delivery Grant which provided additional funding as a reward for councils who had speeded up their planning decisions.
CLGCommunities and Local Government have published a consultation document (closes 31 January 2008) which puts forward options for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for the Fire and Rescue Service in England.
A CoE will only be established if the consensus of the FRS is that a CoE is required and FRAs are willing to commit their ongoing support (including financial support) to the establishment & running of a CoE. The outcome of the consultation will help to determine whether there is such support and how these proposals are taken forward. The earliest date on which it would be practicable to establish a CoE is April 2009

MoJ: A package of measures to enhance openness and increase public access to information, including a review of the ‘30-year rule’ and extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, has been announced by the Prime Minister. The Government is also to consult formally on extending the application of the Freedom of Information Act (closes on 1 February 2008) to include a range of organisations that perform public functions – See ‘In the News’ above

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

CEOP: Children as young as 8 years old are for the first time the focus of an online safety programme being launched by the UK police organisation dedicated to tackling child sex abuse - the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.
The programme - developed & launched with BECTA - focuses on a state of the art Cybercafe where children between the ages of 8-11 years learn about different aspects of online safety at their own pace.  There is also a glossary for children to use should they need help in understanding online ‘language’.
It is intended that the programme can be delivered either as a stand-alone online service for children and parents at home, or through teachers in schools who can download lesson plans and other resources - all of which have been designed by teachers for teachers and are FREE.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has published its own commentary notes to help all Local Authorities seeking to rural proof their Local Area Agreements to 'think rural', when they complete their copy of the national indicator set for the performance framework for local authorities.
This underpins the Local Area Agreements that local authorities and their partners will now be negotiating with the Government Offices over the next few months.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance to the NHS in England & Wales on the use of bortezomib (Velcade) for the treatment of multiple myeloma.  The guidance confirms the response-rebate scheme which will allow patients at first relapse who show a full or partial response to bortezomib to carry on with the treatment, fully funded by the NHS, and patients who show no or minimal response to be taken off the drug and the drug costs refunded by the drug’s manufacturer.
Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said: “The scheme proposed by the manufacturer and amended by NICE will ensure that patients at first relapse, who have had one prior therapy and who have had or are unsuitable for a bone marrow transplantation will get the chance to see if the drug works well for them.  This is a win-win situation for patients and the NHS.”
ScotGov: A guide that aims to help food producers identify new business opportunities in the fast-growing field of local produce has been launched in Scotland.

The publication of the Local Food Marketing Guide is part of the Scottish Government funded ScottishAgriculturalCollege Advisory Activity programme.  The food marketing element of this programme provides information & advice relating to the marketing of food from Scottish produce.
The guide addresses a number of different aspects regarding local food, including alternative routes to market and marketing best practice.  It provides practical advice on marketing and case study examples prepared with assistance from businesses which have achieved success within the local food sector.

Annual Reports

DH: Life expectancy is at the highest level ever, deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke are falling, and infant mortality is at its lowest level ever according to the Health Profile of England 2007, published by the Department of Health. The Profile contains international comparisons and compares the health of England to that of the European Union.
Whilst the statistics show that there has been ongoing improvement in many aspects of the nation's health, the Health Profile also shows that there are some issues where progress is slow.  Regional health inequalities still exist and rates of obesity, diabetes & alcohol related hospital admissions are rising.

General Reports and Other Publications

TDA: Research, published by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), finds that 90% of pupils think it is a good idea to have access to extended services in and around their schools; and 61% of pupils would like input in planning extended school services with their student council.
The TDA has announced that 8,000 schools are now offering access to the full 'core offer' of extended services - 2,000 more than the government target for Autumn 2007.  Some 72% of schools in England are already offering some extended provision.
A varied menu of activities is one aspect of the full 'core offer' that the government expects all schools to provide access to this by 2010.  The other core offer elements are: 8am - 6pm childcare in primary schools; parenting support including family learning; community access to school facilities, such as sports spaces and IT suites; and early intervention & support, leading to swift and easy access to specialist services for pupils that need it.
Working in conjunction with 150 schools, the TDA has developed a School Improvement Planning Framework that will enable schools to put the child at the centre of their school improvement planning process.
MoJ: Research published by Ministry of Justice reveals that less than one in four consumers have heard of either Before the Event (BTE) or After the Event (ATE) legal expenses insurance, which provides the policyholder with the cost for legal fees in the event that they become involved in litigation.  It is a relatively inexpensive mechanism for resolving a range of problems and legal disputes.
The research report produced by FWD reveals that there is a considerable lack of information about the product both in the public domain in general and at the point of sale.  Awareness among lower socio-economic groups (C2DE) is particularly low even though this group appears to be more likely to need to use a BTE product. However, around 28m adults currently owning the product (mostly as an add on to another insurance policy). 
The report recommends a number of steps that insurance industry bodies and consumer's groups- such as the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and Association of British Insurers (ABI) - should take forward.
Sport England: The latest Taking Part Children's Survey is now available via Sport England’s website.  
The survey was commissioned by the DCMS and their partners (including Sport England) to collect data about engagement and non-engagement in culture, leisure and sport.

ScotGov: A DVD promoting the work of the Tripartite Working Group (TWG), which encourages greater collaboration between wild and farmed fish industries, has gone goes live on a new website. Fresh water angling tourism attracts visitors from across the world and is worth £100m per year, whilst the farmed fish/salmon industry, generates £350m per year to Scotland and accounts for 40% of food exports.
Press release ~ Tripartit e Working Group (TWG) ~ TWG video ~ ScotGov - Fisheries

Legislation / Legal

CLG: More strategic powers for the Mayor of London in key areas ranging from climate change to housing to culture have become law as the Greater London Authority (GLA) Act received Royal Assent recently. The Act gives the Mayor new lead roles in housing and tackling climate change, strengthened powers over planning & waste and enhanced powers in health & culture.
The Assembly will also be subject to a duty to address climate change and will be able to hold confirmation hearings in order to scrutinise candidates for key appointments the Mayor intends to make. The Act also allows the establishment of a London Waste and Recycling Board to promote the production of less waste in the capital and encourage recycling and re-use of waste.
The provisions in the Act will be brought into force in three stages between now and April 2008.  The detailed operational aspects of the Mayor's new development control powers will be set out in secondary legislation, and will be subject to public consultation before being finalised.
ScotGov: The Graduate Endowment Bill has been published outlining the Scottish Government's plans to scrap the fee for around 50,000 students including those who have just graduated and those who have just started new courses.
Graduate Endowment Fee was introduced for Scottish domiciled students and EU students entering a Scottish university from 2001-02 and is a one off payment on successful completion of a higher education course of three years or more.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

CC: Has your charity won £1,000?  The Charity Commission, which regulates the 190,000 registered charities in England & Wales, has published the list of all charity winners from its monthly online services prize draw.
Each month, to encourage smaller charities with an income of under £250k to use its online services the Commission holds a random £1,000 prize draw.  All smaller charities completing their annual returns, sending in their annual report or accounts or simply updating their details online are eligible to win.
BIG: The Big Lottery Fund has unveiled the final shortlist for the People’s £50m Lottery contest, which will see a project of national importance win a one-off award of £50 million chosen by public vote – the largest Lottery good cause funding to be awarded in this way – See ‘In the News’ above.

Business and Other Briefings

DWP: Proposals for easing the burden of regulations on employers providing pension schemes have been unveiled by Minister for Pensions Reform Mike O'Brien in the DWP’s response to the findings of an independent review of pensions regulation.
A number of organisations asked the Government to remove the statutory requirement to index pensions in payment but the Government has rejected this move.  There will be a further period of consultation on the proposals ending on November 15 2007.
HM Treasury: Otto Thoresen has published the interim report of the Thoresen Review of Generic Financial Advice (GFA), which shows that, on the evidence the Review has studied, GFA is an essential element in improving financial capability across the UK, that it is feasible to build a national service, and that benefits would outweigh costs by 3.5 to 1.
Depending on the final design, annual running costs could range from £40m to £80m.  The report suggests that the costs should be borne equally by Government and the financial services industry, broadly defined, and welcomes further debate on how this might work in practice.
It says that GFA should offer a range of information and guidance, from 'jargon busting' to managing debt and budgeting, and understanding tax and benefits, delivered through a mix of channels. Otto Thoresen will make final recommendations to Government in the New Year, which take into account the findings from the pilots currently taking place in North West England, London and South Staffordshire.

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