In the News
DfT: It will take longer but will hopefully be safer - New proposals to reform the way people learn to drive and how they are tested have been published for consultation (closes on 8 September 2008). The aim of the consultation is to create safer drivers for life by strengthening the current learning & testing procedures and creating a culture of extended & advanced learning.
Road deaths and serious injuries have fallen by 33% since the mid 1990s, but the casualty rate for young drivers has not changed:
* 20% of people have an accident within 6months of passing their test,
* 70% report near-misses in the same period
* newly-qualified drivers and their passengers account for 20% of all car deaths in Britain
* A foundation course in safe road use for under-17 year olds will be piloted in schools & colleges in Scotland from this Autumn.
* The new syllabus will set out more clearly the necessary steps to driving safely - beginning with the basics of car control, progressing to skills such as driving in difficult weather or at night and culminating in ensuring driver awareness is enhanced, to help novice drivers predict the intentions of other road users.
* Development of post-test courses & qualifications that produce safer drivers such as a new advanced training qualification, a course in motorway driving or vocational qualifications such as for van drivers.
The Driving Standards Agency is also developing a non-compulsory Attitude Advisor - a computer-based self-evaluation aid that helps make learners aware of their attitude towards risk and safety. Learners are asked to respond to questions about their reaction to different situations, allowing the programme to build up a profile of their overall attitude which can be used by the learner and instructor to improve their driving.
ScotGov: The real price of one for the road - Alcohol misuse is costing Scotland a staggering £2.25bn to business, the NHS, social services, police and courts - more than double previous estimates - according to figures released just released. Yet it warns that the new £2.25bn figure may be a significant underestimate.
Among the findings, the report shows:
* Lower productivity at work & days off from hangovers could be costing Scottish business £400m
* The use of hospital beds to treat drinkers could be costing the NHS more than £150m
* Alcohol is costing A&E services another £32.3m
* Premature deaths caused by alcohol abuse are estimated to be costing Scotland £328m
* Police response to alcohol misuse is estimated to be swallowing £288m - with alcohol assumed to be behind 40% of violent crimes
HC: More treatment but still need for improvement - A report released by the Healthcare Commission and the National Treatment Agency (NTA), shows results from the second of three annual reviews to assess the performance of substance misuse treatment services.
Focusing specifically on how services are commissioned and harm reduction service provision, the findings reveal the majority of services are performing well within acceptable levels across these categories. However, there were significant deficits, particularly in the provision of vaccination for hepatitis B and testing & treatment for hepatitis C. As 90% of all hepatitis C diagnoses are associated with injecting drug use, this is a key area of concern.
No local drug partnership had an overall score of “weak” however the review revealed the majority of partnerships had deficits in key areas. The NTA is engaging the sector in a range of initiatives and programmes to address the deficits identified by the review.
The Commission and the NTA will follow up this report with a third and final review into this sector, which will look at diversity & residential services. In relation to commissioning, the NTA continues to support the work of local areas in relation to treatment planning and needs assessment. 2008 will also see the publication of new guidance initiatives to enhance commissioning practice.
CRC: What happens if the immigration tide goes out? - News that the numbers of migrants from countries such as Poland are falling, and the numbers now leaving the UK is on the increase, has led the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) to ask ‘who will do the work?'
They are investigating the possibility that some rural communities & businesses could be vulnerable to an economic shock if there was to be a sudden slowdown or even a reversal of the current influx of migrant workers. Recent findings from ippr have highlighted the main factors that might lead to fewer migrants.
BIG: Building Third Sector Infrastructure - Greater support is on its way to voluntary & community organisations across England, as the Big Lottery Fund launches the second round of its BASIS (Building and Sustaining Infrastructure Support) programme with up to £50m available to develop the sector (deadline for applications is 2.00pm on 27 August 2008).
The programme is looking to fund projects that fill the highest priority gaps in the current VCS infrastructure support to ensure the sector’s wide spectrum of organisations can access relevant high-quality assistance. BIG’s regional staff will hold a series of stakeholder events to ensure that those who are eligible to apply for BASIS 2 funding are fully briefed on the opportunities presented by the programme.
DH: Will the NHS ever have a year without change? - Leading clinician and Health Minister Lord Darzi has issued five pledges to the public & staff on how the NHS will handle changes to services. Lord Darzi's report - 'Leading Local Change' - comes ahead of his final report on the next stage of NHS reform and it is meant to signal that ‘whilst the NHS must never back away from necessary change to improve services and save lives, there should be important checks which any change has to undergo before it proceeds’.
PCTs will have a duty to have regard to:
* Change will always be to the benefit of patients
* Change will be clinically driven
* All change will be locally-led
* Patients, carers, the public and other key partners will be involved
* Existing services will not be withdrawn until new & better services are available to patients so they can see the difference.
PCS: Plausible savings or just wishful thinking? - The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union has echoed concerns expressed by the Committee of Public Accounts, over Cabinet Office claims that £1.4bn will be saved each year through government organisations sharing corporate services such as finance and human resources.
The committee's report - Improving corporate functions using shared services - highlights concerns that the government lacks accurate information on what corporate services cost and how they perform in addition to central benchmarks & timelines for achieving the savings. Savings targets were being set without taking into account the impact on the quality of service provided.
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ACE: Folkestone based Strange Cargo Arts Company has been recognised by the 5th European Prize for Urban Public Space, for their public art project ‘Other People’s Photographs’. The Prize is awarded every 2 years to projects that promote activities to improve public spaces and the quality of life in towns & cities across Europe.
‘Other People’s Photographs’ involved local communities in collecting photographs of the people Folkestone and the satellite towns of Sandgate and Cheriton. The photographs feature residents outside in the streets, resulting in a collection of 1,650 images representing life in the town over 120 years.
All of the images, together with voice recordings that tell the stories behind them, are included on an interactive 3D map of the town accessible via touch screen units at the Bouverie Place Shopping Centre, Folkestone, the main commissioning body for the project.
DIUS: Further education institutions in England can now apply for powers to award their own Foundation degrees under new regulations that came into force on 1 May 2008. Foundation degrees are higher education qualifications designed in co-operation between education institutions and employers. Courses combine academic study with workplace learning enabling individuals to develop their careers whilst helping business to retain talent and increase productivity
Colleges interested in obtaining powers to award Foundation degrees must apply to the Privy Council, who will receive advice from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills based on an assessment of the applicant institution made by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
HW&W: Employers who work hard to keep their workforce healthy & happy have the chance to win recognition at this year's National Business Awards. For the second year running, the cross government initiative Health Work and Wellbeing is sponsoring an award to help find the country's best employer when it comes to ensuring the health & wellbeing of its employees. And for the first time this year, it's also sponsoring a similar award for small or medium-sized firms with 250 staff or less.
The HW&W categories aim to build on the momentum created by Dame Carol Black's review of the health of the working age population, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow. To win one of the awards you must be able to demonstrate to a panel of independent expert judges how you've improved the health & wellbeing of your workforce. For example, by maintaining a safe and healthy working environment beyond legal obligations; promoting healthy lifestyle choices; or supporting staff with a health condition to remain in or to return to work.
ScotGov: Marks and Spencer have been praised by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead for their policy in reducing the number of single use plastic bags used by their customers. From this week M & S will charge 5p for every single use carrier bag with the profits going to environmental charities.
CEOP: Children as young as five years old are the focus of a new online safety programme launched by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. OFCOM research indicates that 59% of 5-7 year olds access the internet at home and that 21% do so unsupervised.
Now building on the success of the organisation's Thinkuknow education initiative, which has already reached over 1.7m children and young people between the ages of 8-16 years, the UK's Centre for tackling the sexual abuse of children is now reaching out to parents of much younger children with vital 'safety first' advice.
Hector's WorldTM comprises five state-of-the-art, animated episodes. It takes children on a journey with Hector and his friends as they explore issues such as personal information, trustworthiness, making positive choices online and how to be open with a trusted adult when they use the internet.
OGC BS: OGCbuying.solutions, an executive agency of the Office of Government Commerce in HM Treasury, has announced the renewal of the framework agreement for:
* Commercial Catering Warewash and
* Kitchen Waste Management equipment
The new framework agreement, which became effective on the 21 April 2008 is for a period of four years.
Defra: Defra has given approval to Leeds University to conduct a research trial this year of GM potatoes. The research is on potatoes that have been genetically modified to resist infection by potato cyst nematodes. The Leeds University application has been evaluated by the independent expert group the Advisory Committee of Releases to the Environment (ACRE).
Reflecting ACRE's advice, precautionary conditions have been attached to the statutory consent for the trial. These aim to ensure that GM potato material does not persist at the trial site. The harvested GM potatoes will not be used for food or animal feed.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
Home Office: A new poster campaign to raise awareness of the exploitation & trafficking of some women among men who pay for sex has been launched as part of the Government's six month review into tackling the demand for prostitution.
The posters are being piloted in men's toilets in pubs and clubs in Westminster and Nottingham. They will be supported by online advertising, with additional advice on the UK Human Trafficking Centre's "Blue Blindfold" website.
A 2007 research report by the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit revealed the peak age for buying sex is 34, with men aged 20-40 counting for the majority. Most are employed, around half are in a relationship and over a fifth have children.
ScotGov: Scotland's position as an international leader in the biotechnology field is to be strengthened with the creation of a £10m national life sciences institute in Dundee. The planned Scottish Institute for Cell Signalling will link with Dundee University's existing College of Life Sciences to create the strongest research complex of its kind in Europe.
It will create 40 jobs initially, become a new engine for the city's economy and help drive forward Scotland's £1bn life sciences sector. The Institute will concentrate on an emerging area of 'cell signalling', which has great potential for the development of drugs to treat cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The centre is expected to be operational towards the end of the year. It will be sited on the top floor of the Sir James Black Centre at the University of Dundee. In March the Scottish Government announced the creation of a new Life Sciences modern apprenticeship to provide the firm foundations in skills to underpin this growing sector - aligning the country's skill base to areas of growth.
ScotGov: Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & the Environment, Richard Lochhead, has re-launched the Whole Farm Review Scheme (WFRS) which is intended to help farmers identify how best to maximise their business' potential. The scheme offers increased grants, less paperwork and greater flexibility than its predecessor.
Application forms and the Scheme booklets are available from any of The Scottish Government's RPID local Area Offices or through the Scheme's own website.
CLG: Local Government Minister John Healey has published the framework - regulations & guidance - which the Government intends to put in place for the transfer & appointment of staff to the new unitary councils. The framework, centred on the Government's commitment to TUPE protection for staff transferring to the new unitaries, also makes clear that councils should take full advantage of their new start to bring in fresh blood to their senior management teams, so that the best people are in place to lead & manage the new councils.
Draft Staffing Regulations & Guidance are being circulated to trade unions, Joint Implementation Teams and the Local Government Employers, for a two-week period for final comments. The Regulations will provide that:
* all employees of councils which will cease to exist on 1 April 2009 who are in post immediately prior to that date will become employees of the new unitary councils
* those employees will transfer to the new councils on terms & conditions no less favourable than those that applied under their previous employer and
* the post of chief executive (head of paid service) of the new unitary council must be recruited by means of open competition
ScotGov: The additional £40m per year identified by Lord Sutherland as vital for the delivery of free personal & nursing care across Scotland will be met by the Scottish Government, it has been confirmed. The additional funding was announced by Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon in her response to Lord Sutherland's independent review of Free Personal and Nursing Care policy.
Ms Sturgeon advised the Scottish Parliament that all the recommendations made by Lord Sutherland have been accepted and will form part of a wider package of measures being developed with local government. These include:
* additional funding of £40 million per year to local authorities from 2009/10
* legislation to clarify charging for food preparation and
* a more open and transparent system that explains how access to free personal & nursing care is managed
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that the Scottish Government has asked that the decision by the UK Government to withdraw the Attendance Allowance - a decision criticised by Lord Sutherland in his review - be on the agenda at the next meeting of the UK Joint Ministerial Committee.
ScotGov: Following the publication of the Scottish Government's International Framework, details of the new International Development Policy have now been published, which is intended to help build mutually beneficial links with other countries and help people in some of the world's poorest countries to work themselves out of poverty.
The policy sets out the framework for our engagement with some of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which have historical, and in some cases, contemporary relationships with Scotland. More detailed information on the programme strands, including funding criteria, will be published in due course, following discussion with the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS) and the Scotland Malawi Partnership on the detail and process.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government's refreshed China Plan has been unveiled. In line with both the International Framework and the Government Economic Strategy, the China Plan sets out the Government's aims & aspirations for its engagement with China with a view to maximising trade, increasing tourism and boosting inward investment.
The Scottish Government currently has 2 members of staff working out of the Scottish Affairs Office in the British Embassy Beijing, the First Secretary Scottish Affairs and a locally appointed Communications Officer. This team is supported by the China Team within International Division. In addition, SDI has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
TSB: The Technology Strategy Board has revealed its 3-year strategic plan and outlined how it will promote & invest in technology-driven innovation for the benefit of business, to increase sustainable economic growth and to improve quality of life.
Launching the Board's strategic plan - Connect and Catalyse - a strategy for business innovation - Chief Executive Iain Gray summarised the Technology Strategy Board's role as "ensuring that the UK is in the forefront of technology-enabled innovation."
WAG: The starting pistol has been fired in the race to find up to 16 people to serve on the Executive Committee of the All Wales Convention. First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan said the net would be cast far & wide to ensure committee members truly represented every aspect of Welsh life. He also announced the setting up of the All Wales Convention website, which will keep the public up-to-date with its work.
DH: Care services Minister Ivan Lewis has announced £500,000 for Government research into the numbers of adults with autism and their specific transitions needs. This prevalence study will inform the first ever Government strategy on adults with autism and Asperger's syndrome, due to be published next year.
The number of children with autism is as high as 1 in 100 (according to Prof. Baird's 2006 study) and this prevalence study will give the government a more accurate picture of how many adults have the condition. Part of the new research will focus on the period of transition to adult life and will inform service planning for adults with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
DfT: Proposals to improve marine safety in ports and at sea have been published for consultation (closes on 25 July 2008). The Marine Navigation Bill is intended to improve the ability of the Secretary of State, harbour authorities and the General Lighthouse Authorities to manage shipping and allow the better management of wrecks to help to minimise their environmental and financial impact.
BERR: UK Business Secretary John Hutton has set out proposals for changes to UK consumer law, to benefit consumers, reduce burdens for business and help enforcers. He now wants business and consumer groups to come forward with evidence(by 31 July 2008) that could inform the root & branch review of consumer law.
The Government is seeking feedback on a number of ideas and questions including:
* Simplifying the law by replacing the 100-plus consumer laws with more flexible general rules
* Are there other significant costs for business which could be reduced?
* How to help consumers better understand their rights?
* Bringing together a small number of core consumer rights into a single Act of Parliament
* How to encourage swift & effective dispute resolution between business and consumers?
* Whether changes might be required to keep pace with technological developments like the internet?
* What changes would most help enforcement bodies target their resources on rogue traders or those that deliberately flout the law, and ensure that honest businesses do not carry unnecessary costs
DfT: New proposals to reform the way people learn to drive and how they are tested have been announced by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and published for consultation (closes on 8 September 2008). The aim of the consultation is to create safer drivers for life by strengthening the current learning & testing procedures, and creating a culture of extended and advanced learning – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DCSF: New advice on how to get young people involved in their school and learn important citizenship skills, for example through 'buddying' younger pupils and encouraging them to study or improve behaviour has been published.
The revised guidance looks at best practice from schools and local authorities across the country who have involved students in decisions which affect them, resulting in a positive impact on local schools and communities. It also provides advice on the principles and practice that support such involvement.
DH: Nurses could double the amount of time they spend on direct patient care and slash unnecessary paperwork thanks to £50m investment in a project to improve efficiency on wards, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has claimed.
The Productive Ward programme, designed by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, has been piloted in 4 trusts and there are 10 learning partners, one in each SHA. Evidence from the pilot sites shows the Productive Ward can:
* Double the amount of time nurses spend on patient care
* Cut handover time by a third
* Reduce medicine round time by 63%
* Cut meal wastage rates from 7% to 1%
CLG: Peer mentoring has made a difference in preventing homelessness by providing support at a crucial time for young people who may be experiencing personal difficulties or family breakdowns. Family intervention and mediation can also be key in stopping young people at risk from making the step to leaving home by working together to identify the problems and move together to a solution.
The Government now wants to encourage all local authorities to offer these services as part of a new strategy to drive down youth homelessness, alongside other approaches such as supported lodgings.
HSE: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued a safety alert aimed at homeowners, tenants, landlords and heating professionals following five incidents in the last 5 years, where redundant solid fuel back boilers exploded. A number of these incidents led to injury and sadly in one case a fatality.
The risk can arise when a disused boiler has been left at the back of a fireplace and a coal or wood fire is lit in front of it. This can mean the boiler heats up causing the boiler casing to explode. If you have a redundant back boiler you should not light an open fire in front of it.
DCSF: Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families has published research showing parents want even more involvement in their children's education - and prefer informal chats with school staff instead of parent’s evenings. Parents now see informal discussions with school staff as the most useful way of finding out about a child's progress.
He has promised to set out plans to consult with parents within the next month on a range of issues to help them play a full part in their child's education.
General Reports and Other Publications
DH: A new study shows that large community contraceptive centres, cottage hospitals or polyclinic type settings could offer a safe, high quality service for women. It shows that some women welcomed the informality and increased availability of staff support. This confirms the experience from other countries which already offer EMA in non-hospital settings.
Medical professionals will now be consulted on whether early medical abortions (EMAs) should be made available in non-hospital settings and patients will be asked if this would be a preferable option for them.
ScotGov: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill reiterated his determination to develop a coherent penal policy for Scotland when responding to the findings of an Audit Scotland report into managing Scotland's prison population.
The report looks at some of the factors contributing to rising prison numbers and the impact overcrowding has on efforts to rehabilitate prisoners. Based on present trends it concludes that Scotland's prisoner population - which is already one of the highest in Western Europe - will increase by almost 20% by 2016/17.
Defra: Findings from the Government study into personal carbon trading have been published by Defra and the study indicates that personal carbon trading has potential to engage individuals in taking action to combat climate change, but is essentially ahead of its time and expected costs for implementation are high.
The Government remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading and, although it will not be continuing its research programme at this stage, it claims that it will monitor the wealth of research focusing on this area and may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings & cost implications change.
Legislation / Legal
ScotGov: The Scottish Government will take an early legislative opportunity to repeal the law which exempts spouses from giving evidence against their partner. Currently a husband, wife or civil partner can only be required to give evidence against their other half if they are the victim of an offence by their partner.
On June 27, 2006, the previous Scottish Executive issued a short consultation paper on the issue of spousal compellability. The consultation ended on 19 September 2006 and 15 responses were received. Following the consultation on possible changes to the law, the Scottish Government has decided to repeal Section 264 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 and Section 130 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: Local authorities and charities working with young people are invited to work together to bid for a share of the multi-million pound capital grants programme, which has just opened for applications. The myplace programme, funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund, will be making available grants of between £1m - £5m.
These grants will support projects across England that are working to create safe places for young people to go, where they can get involved in a wide range of exciting activities and get information & advice from people they trust. The deadline for fast track applications is 29 July 2008 and the deadline for the standard route is 30 September 2008.
BIG: A number of parks across the UK are set to share in more than £11m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Big Lottery Fund (BIG). Clifton Park in Rotherham, Roberts Park in Bradford, The Rose Garden in Bushey, Hertfordshire, and South Park Gardens in Wimbledon, London, will all share in the lottery millions, which will help to transform & regenerate these much loved community spaces.
Coinciding with this major investment is the return of the ‘Postcards from the Park’ photography competition. HLF and BIG have once again joined forces with GreenSpace, the parks charity, to launch this year’s contest, which will encourage people to capture images showing what they love most about the UK’s public parks.
‘Postcards from the Park’ runs from May until 1 August 2008, with £1,000 in Jessops vouchers up for grabs for the overall winner. The best entries from all over the UK will be featured in a national exhibition in September and turned into postcards for distribution in Lottery-funded venues nationwide.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: A Financial Services Authority (FSA) assessment of the insurance comparison website market has found evidence of both good & bad practice, but the regulator is looking for all websites to ensure that users are treated fairly.
In a review of 17 insurance comparison websites, the FSA found that, although they are all appropriately authorised, there was mixed evidence in terms of the clarity, fairness and accuracy of the information given to customers.
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