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In the News

DCSFSome Sin Bins to be binned - The government has announced plans for a major overhaul of how some of society's most troubled & challenging young people are educated and how poor behaviour can be tackled at a much earlier stage. 

Around two thirds of excluded youngsters have a special educational need and the new White Paper (consultation period ends on 25 July 2008) is meant to ensure they receive the support they need to turn around their behaviour and get their learning back on track (Currently only 1% of pupils educated in alternative settings will get five ‘good’ GCSEs).

The new plans include:
* closing the poorest performing Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)
* encouraging more use of innovative private & voluntary sector providers
* publishing performance data for both alternative education providers and for local authorities, and
* a new emphasis on early intervention to prevent the need for exclusion

To improve the quality in alternative provision, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will also gather together a good practice guide that will be issued in the summer term.  There are currently 70,000 pupils in alternative settings at any one time of which 75% have a special educational need.
Newswire - CCJSMore evidence of poor government investment strategy - The government's wide ranging youth justice reforms have had no measurable impact on levels self-reported youth offending, according to an independent audit published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London.  The report says that despite substantial investment in radically restructuring & expanding the youth justice system success has been far more mixed & ambiguous than the government says and claims of significant success are overstated.

Ten years of Labour's youth justice reforms: an independent audit looks at spending levels on youth justice and the performance against a range of key targets, including youth crime levels, first time entrants to the youth justice system, the time from arrest to sentence, the use of custody and re-offending rates.  It highlights that far more children have been criminalised and imprisoned and that youth offending teams have struggled to meet the multiple social needs behind their offending.

It also considers progress on meeting the social and personal needs of children and young people in the youth justice system including, accommodation; education, training and employment; substance misuse and mental health.

Nearly all the targets set relating to each area of need have not been met.  This suggests that the multi agency make up of YOTs is not necessarily working as well as was hoped and are not necessarily as impressive as is often claimed.  There are also significant reasons for questioning the value of the targets in providing a meaningful assessment of progress.
Defra:  Googling to save the world - Millions of Google Earth users around the world will be able to see how climate change could affect the planet and its people over the next century, along with viewing the loss of Antarctic ice shelves over the last 50 years, thanks to a new project launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the recent Google Zeitgeist conference.

The project, Climate Change in Our World, is the product of a collaboration between Google, the UK Government, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Antarctic Survey to provide two new 'layers', or animations, available to all users of Google Earth.

One animation uses world leading climate science from the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre to show world temperatures throughout the next hundred years under medium projections of greenhouse gas emissions, along with stories of how people in the UK and in some of the world's poorest countries are already being affected by changing weather patterns.

Another animation, developed by the British Antarctic Survey, show the retreat of Antarctic ice caps since the 1950s and features facts about climate change science and impacts in the Antarctic.
CLGEven fewer job opportunities for white males without higher academic qualifications? - Fire Minister Parmjit Dhanda has announced a new national Equality and Diversity Strategy for the Fire and Rescue Services (F&RS).  The government claims that F&RSs which better represent the diversity of their local population are better equipped to reach those most at risk, driving down the number of fires & incidents, and helping to ensure that all communities are fully aware of fire safety and what they should do if an incident occurs.

Currently just 3.2% of staff are from a minority ethnic background, and just 3.1% of firefighters are women; there is only one female chief fire officer, and none from minority ethnic communities.  In the police, 5% are now from a minority ethnic background and more than 20% are women. All 46 local fire and rescue services will now have a target to ensure that at least 15% of new firefighting recruits are women and that the number of minority ethnic recruits overall reflects the local working population by 2013. 

Each service will set out an annual action plan with practical steps to improve recruitment.  A new National Strategy also requires each fire chief to take action that leads to real progress, contributing details of what they have achieved to an annual report, published by the Government.
Press release ~ Equality and Diversity Strategy ~ Firefighter Survey ~ National Framework 2008 -2011 ~ Audit Commission: Making equality and diversity a reality ~ Chief Fire Officers Association ~ Recruitment Toolkit ~ Equal opportunities and diversity in the fire and rescue service

NAO:  Why start without common set of Business Processes? - Plans to increase the efficiency & effectiveness of services such as human resources, payroll & finance could cost the Department for Transport £81m (by March 2015) rather than saving £57m as originally expected.  According the recent National Audit Office report to Parliament, changes to initial cost estimates, inadequate contract management and poor initial implementation mean that the Programme, as originally envisaged, will not achieve value for money.

The Department envisaged building on existing processes and IT systems as the basis for developing shared services for the whole Department.  In practice, the Department could not agree a common set of business processes and the initial estimates proved optimistic.  Supplier relations could have been better and inadequate testing of the system led to an unstable IT system being introduced.
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General News

DH: A new 'Units' campaign which aims to tell drinkers how many units are in their drinks and help them stick to their limits has been launched. The Know Your Limits campaign kicks off its units strand with a series of adverts on TV, radio, billboards and in press, depicting the number of units in individual drinks.  
The units campaign uses iconic imagery to help people understand how many units are in typical alcoholic drinks, and how to stay within the recommended daily guidelines for regular drinking of 2-3 units a day for women and 3-4 units a day for men.  A new YouGov poll found that 82% claim to know what a unit of alcohol is, yet 77% don't know how many units are in a typical large glass of wine.
To help people add up the units in their drinks, the Government has launched a new online calculator that can be downloaded to your desktop.
Home Office: A £1m FRANK campaign targeted at 15-18 year olds, a commitment to the Colombian Government's Shared Responsibility campaign and a new leaflet illustrating the dangers of the drug have been announced to enhance the drive to tackle cocaine use.
The Government claims it wants to strengthen efforts against the use of cocaine by:
* launching a new million pound multi-media FRANK campaign later this year with a focus on cocaine
* issuing leaflets for young people & drug workers to illustrate the dangers & consequences of cocaine use
* hosting a summit to explore how cocaine use can be driven down
* signing up to the Colombian Government's Shared Responsibility campaign that highlights the global consequences of cocaine use
FAFellows Associates reports that Local Authorities serving over 9.3m people are in the process of implementing Northgate Information Solutions’ eBenefits service, which helps to reach out to those who may be missing out on their entitlement and radically simplify & speed up the process of housing and council tax benefit assessment.

Using mobile technology, visiting officers are able to help citizens through the assessment process face-to-face, to collate & verify the documents supporting the claim and provide an immediate ‘indicative benefits’ calculation.
DH: Sir Michael Parkinson is to become National Dignity Ambassador for the Government's drive to ensure that all older people using care and health services are treated with dignity and respect at all times.  To support the dignity campaign further, the Department of Health will be launching a revamped website this summer to support Dignity Champions.  
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government is inviting people who worked for the NHS when it began 60 years ago to attend a celebration at the Senedd.  First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Health Minister Edwina Hart will be hosting a lunchtime reception on Thursday 3 July to mark the inception of the NHS (Saturday 5 July is the 60th actual anniversary of the NHS).
To take part in the reception, please contact Marina Edwards, Welsh Assembly Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ or 029 2082 3756 (telephone); 029 2082 3403 (fax); or
NA: If you wish to look at original documents when visiting The National Archives, you will need a Reader's Ticket.  If this is your first visit (or if you need to renew your Reader's Ticket), please make sure you bring two forms of identification with you - one proof of identity with a signature (such as a passport or bank card) and the other a proof of address (such as a driving licence or recent utility bill).
ScotGov: The British Irish Council (BIC) met in Cardiff last week. Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell joined Ministers from across the UK and Ireland to discuss the key challenges & barriers to progress in tackling child poverty. 
The BIC was established under the East-West or Strand Three element of the historic Good Friday Agreement which was concluded in 1998. The members of BIC are the British and Irish Governments, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly, and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Acas: Acas, the employment relations service, has announced plans to establish its Disabled People's Involvement Forum, one of the first of its kind, to help ensure fairness and equality in Acas' work. As part of the Disability Equality Duty set by Government, Acas wants to involve disabled people in areas of their policies and decision-making to make sure the issues around disability are understood.
To do this, Acas are seeking six highly committed disabled individuals from a diverse range of perspectives and impairment groups to volunteer for this unique committee to act in an informal advisory role.  The closing date for applications is 16 June 2008 and interviews will be held week commencing 30 June 2008.
Defra: Defra has announced that the Bluetongue Protection Zone will be extended again as from Monday 26 May 2008, following the delivery of additional doses of Bluetongue vaccine. Vaccination is only permitted within the Protection Zone; therefore, in accordance with the Bluetongue vaccination plan, the Protection Zone will be extended to cover all of Devon (including the Unitary Authorities of Plymouth and Torbay).  The Surveillance Zone is unaffected.
Livestock keepers in the areas coming into the Protection Zone will be able to obtain the vaccine from the time they become part of the Zone; however they are encouraged to order vaccine in advance through their vet.  The vaccine is available in 20ml and 50ml bottles.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: The UK Border Agency has announced plans for up to 60% more immigration removal centre places. The extra spaces, which will total between 1,300 and 1,500, will help the new Agency lift the number of removals of illegal immigrants up from its current performance of one removal every eight minutes.
The Home Office announced it will take forward planning applications at two possible sites - at Bicester in Oxfordshire and at Yarls Wood in Bedfordshire.
DCSF: Independent and state schools will join forces to raise the aspirations of gifted & talented pupils and encourage more disadvantaged children to go to university in a scheme announced by Ed Balls and Andrew Adonis. 23 projects will be funded with over £4m to 2011.  The largest partnership will be a London based Gifted & Talented programme, involving 18 schools across 7 boroughs, funded by over half a million pounds.
Independent State Schools Partnerships have been running successfully for a decade, involving around 330 schools and funded by £10m.  This year the projects on the scheme must:
* Have a focus on gifted and talented children;
* Aim to increase university applications from children from disadvantaged backgrounds;
* Raise attainment and participation in maths, science and/or languages.
ScotGov: More than £43m is to be dedicated over the next three years to tackle Hepatitis C in Phase 2 of the Hepatitis C Action Plan which sets out 34 separate actions & measures to:
* Improve treatment, testing, diagnostic services & care for those who have Hepatitis C or may be at risk
* Improve support services for those living with the virus
* Raise awareness through education & prevention work to reduce the transmission of the disease
* Recognise the social care needs & drug addiction problems of infected people
* Monitor the scale of the problem and measure the success of reducing the spread of Hepatitis C
Defra: In future, bat and wintering waterbird numbers will be used to help measure the health of the UK's wildlife. They join other wildlife indicators published as part of the UK and England Biodiversity Indicators.
Bat populations remain vulnerable, which is why they serve as a good indicator for the wider health of the UK's wildlife.  Pressures faced by bats (including landscape change, agricultural intensification, development and habitat fragmentation) are also relevant to many other wildlife species. The overall trend of the indicators published shows that, since 2000, there has been general slowing and halt in the long-term decline in populations of key species or habitats.  
Also published last week was the list of habitats and species of principal importance for the conservation of biodiversity in England under the:
* Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
* Wild bird population indicators for the English Regions 1994-2006.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government recently announced its way forward for infrastructure investment in Scotland to secure new schools, hospitals and transport projects at better value to the public purse. Ministers published the strategic business case for the Scottish Futures Trust initiative to be supported by a new company established in the public sector.  SFT will be formed this summer and work with the public sector & market.

Professor John Kay, a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, Visiting Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, said: "PFI is well past its sell by date. The Scottish Futures Trust can achieve its three objectives of cheaper finance, better project management and the operation of infrastructure projects for the benefit of the people of Scotland."
Press release ~ Taking forward the Scottish Futures Trust ~ ScotGov – Council of Economic Advisers ~ Prudential Code ~ Scottish Funding Council


DCSF: Ministers have launched an interactive website and poster campaign to encourage children to give their views on play and play areas as part of a national consultation on children's play (closes 18 August 2008). 
On the website children can choose from a variety of settings to reflect their local areas, with a choice of urban, rural or sports fields on which to build their ideal play area.  In order to add equipment to their play space children must answer a series of questions around the idea of play.  The more questions answered the more points they earn to spend on designing their own play space.
CLG: Local Government Minister John Healey has launched a consultation (closes on 11 August 2008) on whether or not the date of the 2009 local elections (7 May 2009)should be moved to coincide with elections for the European Parliament (four weeks later on 4 June 2009).
While no official decisions have yet been taken, combining these elections has the potential to make them more convenient for voters and more efficient for administrators, by avoiding asking electors to vote on two separate occasions in a short period of time.  However holding two different elections on the same day may confuse some voters.
SGC: Courts dealing with breaches of Anti-social Behaviour Orders should impose sentences that first & foremost reflect the level of harassment, alarm or distress caused by an offender – the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) has proposed (consultation closes on Friday 25 July 2008).

In a Consultation Guideline the SGC identifies three levels of behaviour involved in breachesGuiding principles are also proposed for dealing with first-time youth offenders.
DCSF: Around two thirds of excluded youngsters have a special educational need and the new White Paper (consultation period ends on 25 July 2008)is meant to ensure they receive the support they need to turn around their behaviour and get their learning back on track – See ‘In the News Section’ for more information.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

HA: The Highways Agency has published revised Introductions to the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) and Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (MCHW). Each volume of the DMRB is focused on a particular aspect or group of aspects of highway or highway structures design or assessment.
Continuing with this theme the Agency has also introduced a new volume of the DMRB - Volume 0 - bringing together those parts of the DMRB that are generally applicable to all types of design for highway works covered by the manual. The revised Introduction to the DMRB will be in this new Volume along with the indexes.  It will also include standards such as ‘Quality Management Systems for Highway Design’.
DCMS: England's major heritage, architecture and built environment organisations have joined forces to trial & develop practical support to schools so that children and young people have more opportunities to understand why buildings and places matter, as part of the Government's 'Engaging Places' plan to offer schools ways to connect with their local heritage and architecture.
'Engaging Places' is designed to offer teachers accessible, curriculum linked ways to unlock the educational potential of their built surroundings. Support available to schools from autumn 2008 includes:
* an on-line resource for schools providing a national database of heritage/built environment curriculum resources, developed by Culture 24
* a national partnership of leading cultural and education organisations that will develop a network for schools & educators providing practical local support & resources over the next 3 years support the new curriculum
* increased support to 'Find Your Talent' and the 'Learning outside the Classroom' manifesto

Annual Reports

Newswire - AC: A record £140m in fraud and overpayment has been detected by the Audit Commission's National Fraud Initiative (NFI) report 2006/07 - a 26% increase from £111m in 2004/05.  NFI has now identified around £450m in fraud and overpayments since it started in 1996, at a cost of less than £10m.
Despite this success, however, the Commission is calling on the public sector to devote more resources to using the NFI information to track down fraud.  The NFI is the country's largest public sector anti-fraud programme and it enables public bodies to share & compare information through a secure website and to identify those taking services or money that they are not entitled to.
Defra: Publishing his Department's Annual Report, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn reaffirmed Defra's commitment to helping people live within their environmental means and acknowledged the role of staff in some key achievements over the past year.
MoJ: The Ministry of Justice's first annual report claims better regulation has significantly reduced cold calling in person, which includes the practice of 'clipboarding' - knocking on doors and aggressively approaching people in shopping centres.  Unauthorised advertising and marketing in hospitals have also been almost entirely removed.
Other successes include a strategy developed to deal with outright fraud like contrived accidents and a significant reduction of malpractice by companies handling claims made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, with some businesses voluntarily leaving the market.
ScotGov:  The next 12 months will be critical in defining Scotland's approach to tackling climate change, John Swinney told the Scottish Parliament last week when he published the Government's second annual report on Scotland's Climate Change Programme.
CRC: Two years ago the Government’s Affordable Rural Housing Commission (ARHC) launched its report setting out a raft of inter­related recommendations for government departments, regional assemblies, local authorities and communities and the Commission for Rural Communities been tracking the progress that's been made to implement the ARHC's recommendations.
Its new report - 'Assessment of the implementation of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission’s recommendations' -  shows that although some of the essential elements have been put in place, there are still key gaps which need to be addressed.

General Reports and Other Publications

UK SA: The UK Statistics Authority has welcomed publication of the House of Commons Treasury Committee report Counting the Population which calls for urgent improvements to the current statistics on migration & population and tasks the Statistics Authority with taking a lead in finding solutions, drawing as necessary on data from across government.
A recent survey released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 17 March 2008 found that only one in five people think figures are compiled without political interference.  The UK came 27th out of 27 in a recent survey within European countries of trust in their Governments' statistics.
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has welcomed the publication of the independent National Recognition of the Armed Forces study by Quentin Davies MP, which makes 40 recommendations to enhance public awareness & appreciation of the Armed Forces. The MoD will respond in detail to all of these recommendations later in the year, but has already implemented some and work is underway on others.
The recommendations being worked on now include:
* Greater encouragement for the military to wear uniforms in public where circumstances & Service rules allow
* Creating a British Armed Forces and Veterans Day
* Introducing extra Local Authority engagement for Homecoming Parades and
* Strengthening cadet organisations
ESRC: Do we really fear crime or are we just anxious about neighbourhood breakdown and the speed of change in society?  Research, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, shows that our everyday concerns about crime in & are much less frequent than previously thought.
For people who live in high crime areas, the fear of crime tends to be an everyday experience that reduces their quality of life.  Yet for those people who live more protected lives, the fear of crime tends to be a more diffuse feeling that reflects a broader expression of concerns about social change.
NENatural England recently called for a new approach to managing the UK’s natural environment in its 'State of the Natural Environment' report, if it is to stand any chance of adapting to the next 50 years of unavoidable climate change and the modern pressures of development.
The findings from the report have led Natural England to publish a 'Manifesto for the Natural Environment', which outlines what needs to be done to set the nation on a greener path by tackling difficult questions to help protect our future natural assets.
Ofsted: Teaching sustainability in schools can help bring the significance of climate change to life and show children that they each have an important part to play in helping to protect the environment.  Some schools are already leading the way in encouraging pupils to be green, but most have limited knowledge of sustainability and place little emphasis on teaching or promoting it, according to the latest report by Ofsted.
The report, ‘Schools and sustainability: A climate for change’, assesses the extent to which those schools surveyed are making sustainability an integral part of school life and the progress they are making towards meeting the expectations of the Government’s National Framework for Sustainable Schools.
NAO: Grant-makers in the culture, media and sport sector fund awards of around £1.8bn a year.  The cost of administering these grants, and of related activities, is in the region of £200m.  Variations in administration costs between grant programmes reflect their differing objectives, but also suggest scope for grant-makers to learn from each other to reduce their costs, according to a new report from the National Audit Office.

The report found that grant-makers need to identify where the costs of grant-making are incurred and to evaluate whether the costs of awarding grants are proportionate to their value and the outcomes delivered. The report concludes that there is little co-ordinated or regular sharing of information on the costs and processes of grant making across the sector.  For example, grant-makers have developed and implemented their own IT systems and there is little evidence that the lessons learned have been shared.
CEL: Six years after the publication of a landmark report by the Commission for Black Staff in FE, the position of black and minority ethnic (BME) staff in colleges remains largely unchanged.  These are the findings of research commissioned by the Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) and presented in its new report - ‘Succession planning and racial equality in the further education system’.

 Key findings of the research included:
* BME staff are still under-represented in management and leadership roles in the FE system in England
* Morale is low among BME staff, and many are leaving or wish to do so
* Many BME staff believe that promotion is achieved through informal networking, from which they are excluded
* 25% of BME staff rate their appraisal as effective in providing agreed training & development opportunities
* Many BME staff are not confident about using formal complaints procedures
* Individual, uncoordinated measures increase the likelihood of discriminatory practice
*Lack of knowledge about subsidies for BME staff participating in CEL programmes acts as a barrier
DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has committed to creating more responsive and accessible primary care for black & minority ethnic groups (BME) groups, following the recommendations of two reports that identify ways of improving access and responsiveness of GP services.
The findings are published in response to issues raised in the largest GP patient survey, which was conducted last year.  In response, the Department has announced the creation of a national support programme to work with the NHS and with GP practices to drive forward improvements in GP services.
The government claims that each report identifies 10 areas of best practice that will be shared across the NHS to make GP services more accessible and responsive to the needs of all patients, particularly those from BME communities.

Legislation / Legal

MoJ: Individual tribunal jurisdictions doing similar work will be brought together into a simplified two tier tribunals system - consisting of a First Tier and Upper Tribunal that goes live on 3 November 2008.
Following a consultation on implementing the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement (TCE) Act proposals to create five First Tier Tribunal Chambers and three Upper Tribunal Chambers will be taken forward.  Two Chambers from the First Tier, the Social Entitlement Chamber and the Health Education & Social Care Chamber will commence on 3 November 2008.
The Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal will be separate from the First Tier and Upper Tribunal, although there will be close links between them.  The Government is currently considering bringing the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal into the unified tribunals structure and is likely to consult on this shortly.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Hilary Benn has welcomed the publication of the proposals for the next stage of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The CAP Health Check is a scheduled review of the major CAP reforms of 2003.  The legislative proposals published by the Commission launch six months of negotiations, with the intention of concluding a deal by the end of the year.

Business and Other Briefings

BERR: The Government has agreed a deal between unions and employers that it claims will see agency workers in the UK receive equal treatment after 12 weeks employment. The Government believes this deal can pave the way to reaching agreement in Europe on an agency workers directive that secures this flexibility for the UK.
The Declaration includes the following points:
(a) After 12 weeks in a given job there will be an entitlement to equal treatment.
(b) Equal treatment will be defined to mean at least the basic working and employment conditions that would apply to the workers concerned if they had been recruited directly by that undertaking to occupy the same job.  It will not cover occupational social security schemes.
(c) The Government will consult the social partners regarding the implementation of the Directive more generally
(d) The new arrangements will be reviewed at an appropriate point in the light of experience.
Revenue & Customs Brief 27/08
This Brief gives details of an article: VAT - Interpretation of Article 13 of the Principal VAT Directive – “bodies governed by public law” and “special legal regime”.

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