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WGPlus provides an in-depth weekly briefing from the UK Government and Public Sector. To save your time, we research & validate the links to websites, documents and further background information. Click here for more about WGPlus

In the News

HOThree strikes and it’s ‘Go to Jail’ - People caught carrying cannabis for a second time could now face an on-the-spot fine of £80 instead of a warning.  This was announced alongside a Parliamentary Order laid to reclassify the drug to Class B from 26 January 2009.

Under Penalty Notice for Disorder proposals, which the Ministry of Justice will shortly consult on, those caught with cannabis on a first occasion could still get a cannabis warning, but on a second occasion are likely face a fine of £80 and arrest if caught for a third time.

Alongside this, the Government also published its response to 21 recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).  In accepting 20 of the ACMD's recommendations in its Report - Cannabis: Classification and Public Health, the Government has committed to taking forward work across a range of Departments.
HEFCEWorldwide e-access to good teaching materials - The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has announced an initial £5.7m of funding for pilot projects that will open up existing high-quality education resources from higher education institutions to the world.

The Higher Education Academy and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) will work in partnership to deliver the 12-month pilot projects.  These will run at institutional, subject and individual level along with accompanying support services. The projects will be formally launched in April 2009.

Open educational resources could include full courses, course materials, complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software and any other tools or materials or techniques used to support access to knowledge.  These resources will be released under an intellectual property license that permits open use & adaptation.  Invitations to tender will be sent out in December 2008 from both HEA and JISC.
STFCMaking science education interesting - A unique new scheme to use the excitement of space to teach science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in specialist secondary schools in England has been over-subscribed.  30 ‘space schools’ across the country are taking part in the two year ‘Leading Space Education Programme’ funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and run by the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT).

The 30 selected schools will be using ‘Space’ as a theme to develop lessons and for cross-subject collaboration, learning resources and enrichment activities, with the aim of enthusing their students about science. For example they will:
* have access to existing resources from STFC, NASA and ESA education programmes
* use space education to enrich the teaching & learning of STEM subjects & skills across the curriculum
* create innovative space activities, such as space clubs that involve parents and the wider community
* support primary & secondary teachers with using space education through developing pedagogy and providing resources
* partner with the space industry and higher education to enliven space education

They will then share their experience with local secondary schools and feeder primary schools. In return schools will receive support, resources and opportunities to meet with & visit those working in space research and industry.
OfstedEnsuring every child has a chance to be educated - A shared commitment by school staff to helping pupils succeed and robust monitoring of pupils’ academic, personal & social progress are among the keys to re-engaging pupils who have become uninterested or de-motivated, according to the latest survey - Reengaging disaffected & reluctant learners in secondary schools - from Ofsted.

Other key factors include:
* the support of teaching assistants
* regular & effective communication with parents & students
* high quality, flexible curricula
Press release ~ Good practice in re-engaging disaffected and reluctant students in secondary schools ~ Connexions ~ Relate ~ Working Together: Listening to the Voices of Children and Young people ~ White Paper: Back on Track  -  A strategy for modernising alternative provision for young people ~ Practical guidance on accommodation and design for PRUs, with case studies of good practice ~ Learning Behaviour: The Report of the Practitioners’ Group on School Behaviour and Discipline ~ Behaviour Improvement Programme (BIP) website ~ Pupil Referral Units ~ Learning Support Units ~ Learning mentors ~ Safer Schools Partnership ~ Behaviour Online ~ Establishing successful practice in pupil referral units and local authorities ~ DfES, Exclusions & Alternative Provision - Pupil Referral Units ~ PRU – legal aspects ~ Improving Behaviour and Attendance: Guidance on Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units ~ National Organisation for Pupil Referral Units

WAGWAG reacts to counter depression - A £35m scheme to help people facing redundancy has been announced by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The ReAct programme is intended to help over 12,000 redundant workers gain new employment or training and is made possible with over £15m from the European Social Fund, which is managed by WAG.

As part of a package of measures provided by ReAct, redundant workers will receive a training grant designed to replace outdated skills with those sought by prospective employers.  The new scheme will also help to remove barriers to training such as travel and accommodation costs.

Over 1,000 employers will be encouraged to recruit redundant workers with a £2,000 wage subsidy – and will also receive grant support to enable their employees to undertake training to equip them with the skills they need for their new job.
CLGWhere to find the glue to bind us together - The government has welcomed the launch of an interactive dedicated website, developed by the Institute of Community Cohesion (ICoCo), giving help & guidance on creating strong, cohesive communities.  Aimed at practitioners, policy-makers and other organisations from a whole range of sectors, the website is intended to provide a continuously updated bank of cohesion resources, including toolkits, links & briefings on key issues. 

It builds on the Government’s work following recommendations made by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion in their report - Our Shared Future - and will underpin the Cohesion Delivery Framework overview document launched in the summer. Future stages in the portal’s development will follow, including forums for users to have private & shared discussions and pages to share information
ACEStart your own art collection - Last week saw the launch of My Own Art Collection – a new website which will enable people to design & curate a ‘virtual collection’ featuring real works of art supplied by Own Art member galleries from across the country.

My Own Art Collection aims to highlight that contemporary art can be accessible & affordable for all, with 9 ‘home hosts’ - all of whom are new to the idea of owning art - hosting work from local galleries that offer Own Art, the Arts Council England’s interest free loan scheme, that offers people a loan of up to £2,000 to buy contemporary art.

The website invites people to design & curate a room of their own by choosing from a catalogue of over 150 art works currently available from Own Art member galleries - all with a price tag of under £2,000.  Online ‘collectors’ can then submit their ‘room’ to the Arts Council for the chance to win £500 to buy a real piece of art for their home, plus the advice of a specialist arts advisor, courtesy of the Contemporary Art Society, the UK’s leading independent authority on contemporary collecting.

Forthcoming Event(s): Infrared marks the spot -  Despite what gardeners say, weeds don’t grow everywhere if you can stop them before they spread and Complete Weed Control are hitting the road with dates & venues for Britain’s first series of half-day roadshows to highlight the benefits of spot weeding using infrared technology.

The FREE roadshows will discuss how state-of-the-art infrared guidance on the Weed-IT tractor-mounted sprayer can deliver heightened sensitivity to restrict pesticide application only to where it’s needed – on the weeds, rather than on hard surfaces - and without drift (The volume of chemical applied on average per kilometre, for Cardiff Council, has plummeted to just 300ml).

Parks and highways managers will hear about CWC’s 5-point strategy for pesticides reduction, the EU thematic strategy, pesticides reduction programmes and news the methods that CWC employs to control Japanese Knotweed, now seen as enemy number one among UK invasive species.
For information on other forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar

For Industry News please click HERE

General News

TfL: Transport for London is increasing the penalty fare for non-payment on its services to £50 from 11 January 2009.  Under new plans, TfL will also introduce an early payment incentive which will reduce the £50 penalty fare to £25 if it is paid within 21 days.  This is an increase from the current level of £20 on the Buses, Tubes, DLR and London Overground. 
The increases do not relate to the Tram penalty fare which is currently £30.  In order to bring that into line with the new penalty fare by January 2009, a limited consultation is planned to take place later this month.
STFC: Three young researchers are starting exciting new fellowships in UK Universities as part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Aurora Fellowships scheme. Now in its third year, the scheme is dedicated to enhancing the UK’s capabilities & cross-disciplinary approach to planetology and astrobiology to enable the UK to fully exploit the European Space Agency’s Aurora programme and the continuing science programme.
The primary objective of Aurora is a long-term European plan for robotic & human exploration of the Solar System initially targeting the Moon and Mars.  The second objective is the development of technologies for future planetary missions.  The next round of recruitment for Aurora Fellows will close on 14 January 2009.
PCS: Responding to the loss of Ministry of Defence (MoD) data, the PCS has warned that EDS was on the verge of chaos as it sought to cut jobs and urged the MoD to review its outsourced Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) contract with EDS.
The news of the data loss comes two days after Hewlett Packard (HP) and the newly merged EDS, announced that they would cut its UK workforce by 3,378 posts over the next two years. That announcement led the union to warn that the delivery of public services could be affected due to the job cuts.
ESRC: One thing that all western nations have in common is ever evolving societies.  In order to understand the impact of such changes on our communities, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is launching Understanding Society, the world’s largest ever household longitudinal study, which will provide valuable new evidence to inform research on the vital issues facing our communities.

As a longitudinal study, the initial funding will carry the study though to 2012, however it is envisaged that the project will continue for decades to come.  It will collect information from 100,000 individuals, across 40,000 households from across the country, from Lands End to the Highlands & Islands of Scotland.  It will assist with the understanding of the long term effects of social & economic change and will provide tools to study the impact of policy interventions on the well being of the UK population.

The large sample size will give a unique opportunity to explore issues for which other longitudinal surveys are too small to support effective research.  It will permit analysis of small subgroups, such as teenage parents or disabled people.
PCS: PCS supports the Say 'no' to Violence against Women campaign.  Help the campaign reach 1 million names by 25 November - the day all names will be handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a broad based call for governments to take action to end violence against women and girls.
What you can do: Ask 3 people to visit the say 'no' to violence against women website and add their names
PCS: Monday 13 October saw the start of a work to rule at the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) which could double the time it takes for prospective teachers, nurses, social workers and foster parents to obtain clearance to work with children.  These checks currently take less than 4 weeks, but could take more than eight weeks as a result of the action.
Up to 450 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) at the Liverpool based CRB are protesting at the government capping public sector pay rises at around 2%, while inflation is running at 5%+. 

DCMS: All care home residents will get help with the switch to digital TV following changes to the Switchover Help Scheme announced by Culture Secretary Andy Burnham. The scheme has been set up by the Government and the BBC to deliver practical help to those older & disabled people who are likely to have the most difficulty in making the switch to digital.
The next place to switch to digital is the Scottish Borders on 6 November 2008 and arrangements are already in place to contact all care homes in this area.  DCMS is working with the Scottish Executive to make sure all care home residents are able to take advantage of the help available to them.  DCMS has also begun a procurement process to select an organisation to collect personal data from all UK care homes for use in future switchovers.
STFC: Astronomers using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii are set to make major new discoveries about the origins of the planets, stars and galaxies with the start of a new survey to map the Universe.
The JCMT Legacy Survey, made up of 7 projects, makes use of two sophisticated new instruments - SCUBA-2 and HARP – which will allow the astronomers to detect & probe clouds of cold dust associated with the mysterious earliest phases of the formation of galaxies, stars and planets.  Projects already underway include the Nearby Galaxies Legacy Survey, the Gould Belt Survey and the Spectral Legacy Survey.
ESRC: The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is building upon its commitment to support research & training essential to the international competitiveness of UK business with a new £6m investment.  The Capacity Building Clusters in Business Research and Engagment are designed to develop closer dialogue & collaboration between social science and the business sector through skilled people committed to the co-production of knowledge and its application to the business sector.

Four Capacity Building Clusters in Business Research and Engagement have been created under this initiative totalling a £6m investment.  The Clusters take as their focus one or more of the priorities set out in the ESRC Business Engagement Strategy and have a five year grant including a portfolio of training & knowledge exchange activities (including: CASE awards, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, Business Placements and a Business Voucher Scheme):
* Creative Industries in Scotland: Capitalising on Creativity led by Professor Barbara Townley at the University of St. Andrews - £1,494,491
* Exeter Cluster in Sport, Leisure and Tourism led by Dr Tim Coles at the University of Exeter - £1,491,780
* Engaging Research for Business Transformation (EREBUS) (Energy, Financial Services, Health Technologies) led by Professor MA West at the University of Aston - £1,494,850
* ESRC Retail Industry Business Engagement Network (RIBEN) led by Professor Neil Wrigley at the University of Southampton - £1,454,650
TfL: Friday 17 October 2008 saw a convoy of more than 100 licensed London taxis taking 200 sick & terminally ill children on a three-day trip of a lifetime to Disneyland Paris.  The fifteenth Children’s Magical Taxi Tour is an annual event organised by the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.
The convoy, which reached 3 miles long, included Metropolitan Police escorts, London Ambulance NHS Trust vehicles and AA breakdown trucks. To date 1,500 taxis have taken almost 3,000 children to Disneyland.  Some of the drivers have been coming every year since 1994 - that's 9,000 unpaid miles of driving.
SESport England (SE) is changing the way it distributes around £45m a year of National Lottery funding after a public consultation showed widespread support for their proposals. The responses will help SE to develop the detail of the 4 new funding streams outlined in the consultation. SE will be publishing full details of the application processes and award eligibility criteria for these new programmes at the start of 2009.  The new programmes will be in place by 1 April 2009.
As SE moves to the new funding programmes, it will be closing the Community Investment Fund (CIF), which was launched in 2004 and is administered by SE’s nine regions.  SE will continue to accept CIF applications up to and including 6 January 2009, subject to the availability of funds in each region.
DH: The Department of Health has gone out to tender to find an independent operator for its new scheme to provide a seal of approval ensuring health and social care information is reliable, that will assure people the information they use when making choices about their health and care comes from a reliable source.  The scheme will have a broad impact, allowing the quality mark to feature on information in any format - from websites to pamphlets.
Working with United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), the successful supplier will deliver a robust and credible scheme. Organisations wishing to express an interest in this procurement should register with the DH supplier e-tendering portal where a Contract Notice and Pre-Qualification Questionnaire are available. Expressions of interest should be sent no later than noon on 17 November 2008 - The scheme will be launched in Summer 2009.
PCS: PCS is asking people to join the emergency protest to show the strength of pro-choice opinion ahead of the final abortion votes in Parliament - Tuesday 21 October, 5.30pm onwards, Old Palace Yard, outside Parliament, St Stephen's entrance.
STFC: A team of scientists, led by the Californiainstitute of Technology (Caltech), in collaboration with DurhamUniversityand CardiffUniversity, have used a technique, originally predicted by Einstein, to show how a young, distant galaxy might evolve to become a present-day system like our Milky Way.  The full paper on this research, part funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), was published in the scientific publication Nature, on 9 October 2008.
This study provides a glimpse of what astronomers will be able to see in the distant Universe once projects such as the proposed European Extremely Large Telescope, led by ESO - the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere, come into use.
Socitm: Members of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) have voted to replace all existing 5 categories of membership with two new categories, Member and Senior Member.  From Jan 2009 membership fees for Senior Members will be set at the same level as current Full Members with the fee for Members set at 70% of the fee for Senior Members.
The vote marks the first step in a new vision for the Society that embraces an ambition to widen its scope of recruitment to include not just local government, police & fire, but other parts of the public sector: housing associations, the NHS, central government & other non-departmental public bodies (quangos) and third sector organisations, from large charities down to small voluntary organisations

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DH: A new £5m research programme, which is intended to lead to an increase in service quality and patient safety through better ways of planning & providing health services, has been announced. The new Health Services Research (HSR) programme will provide funding across the country for a broader range of health services research than is already covered by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) programmes.  
These include the Health Technology Assessment programme (HTA), the Service Delivery & Organisation programme (SDO), the Efficacy & Mechanism Evaluation programme (EME), Programme Grants for Applied Research and the Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) programme.
The HSR programme will fund research mainly through a researcher-led workstream, whereby grants are provided for both primary and evidence synthesis on topics proposed directly by researchers, on an ongoing basis.  The programme may also advertise calls for research proposals on specific topics.  The first call for expressions of interest will be taking place in January 2009.
ScotGov: Five projects are to receive a share of £941,000 from the Scottish Government's new International fund to promote Scotland's colleges and universities to the world. The successful bidders are the:
* Scottish Universities International Group
* National Union of Students Scotland
* University of the West of Scotland
* Scotland's Colleges International
* Glasgow Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services
DIUS: The Government will provide £93m in a new 3-year agreement between the government & employers, to tackle current & future skills shortages within the following key sectors - £69m to help the property, housing, cleaning & facilities management sector and £24.5m to help the fashion & textile industry.  The funding will enable employers to improve the qualifications & skills of their current workforce, offer greater numbers of apprenticeships, as well as train new recruits.
In return for this funding, the Sector Skills Councils, Asset Skills and Skillfast-UK, will use their unique understanding of their sectors to encourage employers to:
* take advantage of Government initiatives such as Train to Gain
* make the Skills Pledge
* offer more Apprenticeships and
* ensure their staff are given the opportunity to gain relevant qualifications & training.
WO/WAG: The UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government have published - The Economy: A Focus on Wales, which has been drawn up as an initial framework for discussion with business, councils, housing groups, the voluntary sector and community groups.
It sets out how the two Governments will work with other agencies throughout Wales to support the economy, build on the nation’s strengths and help Welsh families & businesses through the tougher times ahead.  In addition to the work detailed in this document, local councils and the voluntary sector also support business and families in their communities.
DCMS: An action plan to secure the UK's place at the forefront of innovation, investment & quality in the digital and communications industries will be developed by Lord Stephen Carter, the Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.
Drawing on expertise from across Government, regulators and industry, Lord Carter's report will be a comprehensive analysis of our digital economy.  Titled 'Digital Britain' (and to be published in spring 2009), the work has at its core an ambition to accelerate the rate of growth and cement the UK's position as a world leader in the knowledge and learning economy.  
To ensure the UK maximises the benefits of convergence right across the economy & society, a strategy will be developed to secure four key conditions:
* open markets
* empowered and informed consumers & citizens
* universal access to public service content
* a responsive regulatory framework
DH: Health Minister Ann Keen has been confirmed as the new ministerial lead for the NHS Constitution, the Department of Health has announced.  The draft Constitution was published on 30 June and is a key part of Lord Darzi's review of the NHS.  
Over the summer every NHS authority has consulted with local people to gather their feedback. The consultation closed last week and responses will now be reviewed to develop a final Constitution.


MPA: The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) is asking Londoners to have their say and help identify the capital's policing priorities for 2010/11. By completing a short online questionnaire (by 1 December 2008) Londoners can tell the MPA if the police are focusing on the areas that are important to them.
The questionnaire focuses on:
* what are your top three priorities for policing in London?
* why do you choose these priorities?
* what should the MPS be doing to tackle these priorities?
DfT: Transport Minister Andrew Adonis has set out plans to take a more cautious approach to biofuels, as part of the Government's response to concerns about the indirect environmental and social impacts of producing them.
He published a consultation (closes on 17 December 2008) taking forward key findings from the Gallagher Review, including the proposal that the rate of increase of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) be slowed to reach 5% in 2013-14 rather than in 2010-11.
At the same time he dedicated a further £6m to research being conducted by the Carbon Trust to accelerate the development of the development of two advanced sustainable biofuel technologies:
* algae as a sustainable feedstock
* pyrolysis-based conversion (a means of recovering the energy from various forms of waste, a potential source of low-cost fuels with low system greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions)
ScotGov: A consultation (closes 3 December 2008) has been launched seeking views from the Scottish public and professionals as the European Union aims to clarify rules on so-called 'health tourism'. The EU's proposed Patient Mobility Directive seeks to bring together existing European case law to make clear the rules that will apply when EU nationals want to receive treatment in a Member State which is not their home country.
DH: Care Services Minister Phil Hope has launched a consultation (closes on 31 January 2009) on how to improve the safeguarding policy - the protection of vulnerable adults - and address abuse in all its forms in the care system. The 'No Secrets' guidance for local authorities, the police and the NHS to work together to protect adults is already in place.  The Government now wants to make sure it keeps up with changes in the social care system, with the new emphasis on choice & control and changing forms of abuse.
Key issues on which Government is seeking views are:
* Whether there is now a need for legislation
* The feasibility of a national database of recommendations from serious case reviews where abuse has occurred
* What new measures are needed in the face of increased 'personalisation' of care with more people now being in charge of their own care instead of local authorities
* What new measures are needed in the face of changing forms of abuse, such as financial abuse

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

WAG: A new guide to encourage mental health service users and their carers to have a greater role in the planning, development & delivery of mental health services has been published by the Welsh Assembly Government to mark World Mental Health Day.
The document includes:
* a Charter for service users and carer participation which sets out rights and responsibilities
* a ‘Good Practice Checklist & Monitoring Tool’ to help self assess performance & measure progress
* practical examples showing where service users are involved in a number of initiatives
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network (LSN) are delighted to be involved in delivering the recently launched Diploma support programme, offering training, consultancy and resources to practitioners preparing to deliver the Diploma.
The programme, launched in September, is supported by an extensive website to keep practitioners up to date with all the latest Diploma developments.  Essential core workshops are offered including The Diploma Team – Leading a Line for line leads and Inside the Diploma for all practitioners.  Each consortium is also entitled to three days of free Bespoke Diploma training for each line of learning they deliver.
WAG: Health Minister, Edwina Hart, has unveiled new plans to improve engagement and consultation with local people & health professionals by the NHS on any proposed changes.  The interim guidance, which will be in place until new guidance is developed when the NHS is reorganised, places a greater emphasis on better explaining why changes are needed, what services will be put in place and how it will improve patient care.

The Minister has also asked NHS Trusts and LHBs to inform the Welsh Assembly Government of any proposed changes over the next 12 months, including the nature of the proposals, the consultation planned and, for how long, as well as the level of public engagement undertaken in developing the proposals.
UK-IPO: The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) is playing an active part in helping the recently established Global Prosecutors' E-Crime Network (GPEN) to overcome intellectual property crime. The UK-IPO is working in partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service in providing a portfolio of IP training material.  The Network's activity will hopefully lead to more successful prosecutions in the fight to overcome the current multi-billion intellectual property crime business.
GPEN has been developed by the high-tech crime unit of the UK CPS's international division in conjunction with the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP).  GPEN is already set up and will go live in January 2009, with a database of e-crime prosecutors, a forum for exchanging advice and the hosting of e-crime material, including a virtual training college and legal guidance.
TDA: The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) has launched its first major campaign to tackle the barriers to effective continuing professional development (CPD) in schools.  Spearheaded by education guru, Tim Brighouse, the campaign commences with the release of a national CPD database offering guidance on quality CPD courses.
Further help & resources the TDA provides to help CPD Leaders include:
* An e-directory of best practice on CPD across the country
* Sets of standards for teachers & support staff, with guidance at each career stage
* The School Improvement Planning Framework (SIPF)
* The Senior Leadership Team Toolkit
* Funding for local authorities to set up CPD leader networks, to share best practice

Annual Reports

DH: The Department of Health has published statistics from its Report on the National Patient Choice Survey, May 2008, England and provisional headline results of the July 2008 survey.
Defra: The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) succeeded in testing over 12,000 samples for avian flu in just a 15 day period, after an outbreak in November 2007 in Suffolk.  This and other achievements are detailed in the VLA's Annual Review for 2007/08. Other achievements during the year include VLA's emergency response to three disease outbreaks, avian influenza, foot & mouth disease and bluetongue.  
The Review also includes special feature articles on FLU-LAB-NET, a web-based global interactive community for avian influenza and a new initiative, the Fellowship Scheme, introduced to develop specific skills within VLA.
DH/HC: The Healthcare Commission (HC), England's healthcare watchdog, has published its Annual Health Check.  Despite the DH claiming improvements, the assessment includes the following issues:
* 114 trusts (25%) - failed to meet one or more of the three core standards relating to infection control, rising from 111 trusts last year.  In addition, only 52% of acute trusts met the target to reduce rates of MRSA by at least 60% over three years (or a maximum of 12 cases of infection)
* There was a dramatic decline in the number of PCTs meeting the target that every patient should be able to see a GP within two working days, down to 31% this year from 80% last year.
* Only 16% of PCTs achieved the target on provision of convenience & choice, which includes the use of the online choose-and-book system.
Any trust scoring 'weak' in either quality or finance will be asked to prepare an action plan by 23 October, detailing steps taken and further plans to address weaknesses.  In addition, DH will be meeting with trusts scoring 'weak' in both components to address concerns.
Defra: Flytipping on public land across England has decreased by 7.5% in a year, according to new figures published by Defra for 2007 – 08.

General Reports and Other Publications

DECC: The international community should enable rainforest countries to halve deforestation by 2020 and make the global forest sector 'carbon neutral' by 2030 according to the Eliasch Review - 'Climate Change: Financing Global Forests'.  It provides a comprehensive analysis of the financing and mechanisms needed to support sustainable management of forests and reduce emissions associated with deforestation.
ScotGov: A report published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICS) makes a number of recommendations to help police forces provide satisfactory & consistent medical services to people held in custody.
DIUS: Students have delivered their recommendations for ‘improving the student experience’ to the heart of government. Maeve Sherlock, Chair of the National Student Forum (NSF) has presented their recommendations to the new Minister for Students, Lord Tony Young in the first NSF report, which focuses on a number of themes, including:
* Student Finance
* Information Advice & Guidance (IAG)
The Forum felt that given the huge variety in courses & colleges, all students need access to good information & advice to enable them to make the right choices about where and what to study.  Visiting an institution can make all the difference to a choice and students should not be deterred from doing so before applying on grounds of cost.

Legislation / Legal

ScotParl: The Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee has welcomed measures to ensure that people diagnosed with pleural plaques will continue to be able to claim damages. Publishing its report, the committee recommended support for the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill.  However, the committee also expressed concern about the potential financial implications of the bill and questioned the adequacy of its Financial Memorandum.
ScotParl: Changes to out-of-area placing requests and additional support needs tribunals will be examined by the Scottish Parliament's Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee as part of its scrutiny of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Bill. The committee would like to hear from individuals and organisations with an interest or personal experience in supporting children and young people with additional support needs.
BMPI: The Right Honourable Sir William Gage made his opening statement as Chairman during the preliminary hearing event for the Baha Mousa Public Inquiry, which has been formally set up under the Inquiries Act 2005.  From now on, the Inquiry is to be based at Finlaison House in Furnival Street, London.
The Inquiry is primarily concerned with the circumstances surrounding the death in 2003 of one man, Baha Mousa, and the treatment of others detained with him in Basra, Iraq, by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
Court Reporting rules: Sir William Gage would like to highlight that at the Court Martial of seven servicemen arising out of these events, the presiding Judge Advocate made an order, which remains in force for this Inquiry, requiring the media not to publish certain features & information in relation to the Defendants.  If anybody has submissions to make in relation to this order, or any related matter affecting other service personnel, they must contact Sir William Gage in writing by 14 November 2008.
DWP: The Health and Safety Offences Act 2008, which will increase penalties and provide courts with greater sentencing powers for those who flout health & safety legislation, has been welcomed by DWP Ministers.  It received Royal Assent on 16 October 2008 and will come into force in January 2009.
The Act raises the maximum penalties that can be imposed for breaching health & safety regulations in the lower courts from £5,000 to £20,000 and the range of offences for which an individual can be imprisoned has also been broadened.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

WAG: A £35m scheme to help people facing redundancy has been announced by the Welsh Assembly Government.  The ReAct programme is intended to help over 12,000 redundant workers gain new employment or training, and is made possible with over £15m from the European Social Fund, which is managed by the Assembly Government – See ‘In the News’ section for more information.
Defra: A national package of advice & support for farmers preparing for the new Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations has been launched by Defra.  The regulations come into force on 1 January 2009 and update the UK's implementation of the 1991 EU Nitrates Directive.
Around 60% of nitrate pollution in water is caused by agriculture and it is vital that this is tackled to protect & sustain the quality of the UK's drinking water.  Farmers with land located in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) should receive a letter within the next few days about how the new rules will affect them.
As NVZs now cover almost 70% of England, farmers who do not receive this letter should find out if they are in an NVZ using the detailed maps available on the Defra website.
DECC: The Government intends to auction 4m allowances at the first EU ETS auction in the UK on 19 November 2008.  During 2009 the Government plans to auction 25m allowances.  The first UK auction will provide for a competitive bidding facility.  
Bids must be placed through an intermediary, referred to as a Primary Participant.  Subsequent auctions will include a non-competitive component to facilitate direct access to the auctions for the smaller compliance buyers.  VAT will be chargeable on EU allowances in order to avoid any distortion of competition with existing carbon markets.
WAG: Welsh companies have been warned that they only have until the 1 December 2008to pre-register any chemicals they manufacture, import or recover from waste with a new Europe-wide scheme, or face their goods being withdrawn from the market.
REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals – replaces a number of regulations with a single system.  It aims to protect people and the environment from the use of chemicals.  Crucially, it aims to make people who place chemicals on the market responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their use.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

YF: A Bradford-based reading support charity, Reading Matters, is being sponsored by Yorkshire Forward this year - the National Year of Reading.  The charity helps young people in Yorkshire & Humber improve their reading skills by providing them with one-to-one support through volunteers from local businesses.

Reading Matters trains all volunteers before they are partnered with pupils, who they will spend one or two hours with a week during term-time.  Pupils chosen for the scheme are primarily 11-16 years old and struggle with reading skills and confidence.

A report by Leeds Metropolitan University found that after just 10 weeks with a Reading Matters’ volunteer pupils an average gain 15 months in their reading age.  Pupils’ attitudes to reading, confidence in the classroom, speech and language also improved.
BIG: Parents of adopted children who suffer from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) will be helped to support their children’s learning with a grant from the BIG’s Family Learning programme. FASD is a condition that often goes undiagnosed and covers a wide range of preventable birth defects caused by a woman drinking alcohol during her pregnancy, including facial abnormalities, growth problems and long-term developmental & behavioural problems.
Parents for Children (PfC), a national organisation that provides support services for children with special needs including adoption and foster care, will use the award of £50,000 to deliver residential learning weekends for these children and their adoptive families.

Business and Other Briefings

HO: New rules have been published by the Government to ‘safeguard the visitor route into the UK from abuse and keep Britain an attractive place to do business’.  Under them, those wishing to come to the UK on business for up to 6 months must apply for a dedicated new business visa and prove they will be carrying out the following activities:
* attending meetings or conferences
* arranging deals, negotiating or signing trade agreement or contracts
* undertaking fact-finding missions, checking details or goods
* conducting site visits and promotional activities
The Home Office has also set out further detail on two new visitor routes for sportspeople and entertainers, recognising the important contribution these individuals make to British cultural life.  These new routes mean that an historical concession, which allowed sportspeople and entertainers to come here for a short time without a work permit to take part in certain events, will be retained.
VAT on fuel used for propelling private pleasure craft and private pleasure flying.

Forthcoming Event

CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in partnership with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) are holding a special conference on ‘Managing Risks in Buildings and Public Spaces’, at Thomas Reuters in London, on 14 November 2008.
CIOB Ambassador Maurice Webb said: “With an increasing focus on corporate liability and the role of directors and senior managers, no organisation, which has responsibilities for buildings, can afford to be unclear about the expectations of the authorities or their liabilities under statute and common law.
To help clarify understanding in this area the CIOB, in association with RoSPA, will be holding a special conference to examine the implications of safety law surrounding buildings, including the new Corporate Manslaughter Act and its significance for relevant professionals.”

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