In the News
DfT: A proper job for ‘Traffic Wardens’ - Another stage in the overhaul of the Blue Badge scheme has been announced by Transport Minister Paul Clark. The Department for Transport is also looking at new technologies to make Badges harder to forge, including barcodes that can be read through windscreens.
A £10m national data sharing system will be established by councils to ensure stolen or forged Badges from outside their local area can be easily identified for the first time. The Government is looking to give councils the power to confiscate stolen or forged Blue Badges immediately when they find them.
The government’s strategy commits to extending the scheme to:
* seriously disabled Armed Forces personnel & veterans
* people with temporary but serious mobility problems
* young children with specific disabilities
* individuals with severe mental impairments
NAO: It’s difficult to concentrate when you’re being shot at - The Department for International Development has given priority to the needs of the poor in insecure countries, but DFID could be better & faster at learning lessons, according to a National Audit Office report. It has delivered benefits for the poor in difficult circumstances, but the higher risks run in insecure environments have led to lower project success rates.
The damaging effects of insecurity have hindered progress in reducing poverty. DFID has had limited experience of operating in insecure countries and insufficient evidence on how best to adapt its approach to counter the risks posed by insecurity. Guidance for staff needs to be adapted to reflect the challenges of working in an insecure environment.
Much of DFID’s work in insecure countries is delivered through partners such as host government agencies and international or voluntary organisations, but two thirds of the projects the NAO reviewed from insecure environments had problems arising from weak partner capacity.
DH: Control of finances promotes control of personal care - An independent evaluation, conducted by a combined team of five university research units, has reported that individual budgets can give people more choice, flexibility & control over their personal care, as well as a better quality of life.
While there were no important differences in overall cost (IBs cost on average about £280 compared with £300 for standard mainstream services), there were indications that individual budgets have the potential to offer greater value for money.
Mental health service users in the individual budget group reported a significantly higher quality of life, while people with learning disabilities were more likely to feel that they had control over their daily lives and younger physically disabled people were more likely to report higher quality of care and were:
* more satisfied with the help they received
* the choice & control they experienced and
* felt they had the opportunity to build better quality support networks
However, the report found that older people did not find the individual budget system used during the pilot as easy to use as the other groups and they did not appear to like the idea of managing their own support. The Government will introduce a pilot programme in early 2009, learning from the experience of individual budgets in social care and from other health systems.
DIUS: Good mental health leads to better general health - Proposals aimed at helping society realise its mental potential at every stage of peoples' lives are contained in a new report published by Foresight, the Government's futures think tank. The study into 'Mental Capital and Wellbeing' looks at how a person's mental resources change through life, as a child, adult & in old age and identifies factors that can help or hinder their development. The consequences are substantial for individuals, wider society and the economy.
The report concludes that there is a clear case for action across society, including by Government, companies & individuals, to boost both mental capital and wellbeing. This could reap very high economic and social benefits in the future.
Its main findings are that:
* Early intervention is crucial in developing & maintaining mental capital & mental wellbeing
* A small increase in levels of wellbeing can produce a large decrease in mental health problems
* There is substantial scope for improving how to tackle the huge problem of mental-ill-health
DIUS will now take responsibility for the report's recommendations to assist in policy development across government. A report in 12 months time will outline the project's progress.
HO: Support for young victims of crime - Five areas across the country have been awarded a share of nearly half a million pounds to create the next generation of support services for young victims of crime, the Justice Secretary and Home Secretary has announced, during Inside Justice Week.
The 5 pilot schemes are one part of the delivery of the £100m Youth Crime Action Plan announced in July 2008. As well as improving support for young victims, the plan sets out a 'triple track' approach of:
* enforcement & punishment where behaviour is unacceptable
* non-negotiable support & challenge where it is most needed
* better & earlier prevention
Although young people are more often victims of crime than adults they are much less likely to report incidents to the authorities, which is the main way that adults are able to get support.
DCMS: Securing the future of creative industries - The inaugural Creativity & Business International Network (c&binet) will take place at The Grove in Hertfordshire from 26 - 28 October 2009. It will give people from different creative fields, and from commercial & business communities, the opportunity to do business, share ideas and work together to secure enduring success for creative industries around the world.
C&binet has been developed following a commitment in the Government's 'Creative Britain: New Talents for the New Economy' to create an international creative business conference to help maximise the contribution of the creative industries to the wider world economy.
For information on forthcoming public sector events please click HERE to visit the WGPlus Events Calendar
For Industry News please click HERE
FCS: More than 1,200 retail depositors at the Heritable and Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander banks are a step closer to compensation with the news that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has sent out compensation claim forms now to individual savers who did not transfer to ING Direct. The Scheme will send forms to about 2,000 business account holders early this week.
Anyone with an account with Heritable or Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander, who thinks they may be entitled to claim, but who did not receive an application form by Thursday 23 October should ring the FSCS Customer Services Team on 020 7892 7300.
As well as the compensation to which eligible depositors are entitled from FSCS, depositors may be entitled to HM Treasury supplemental payments for those whose balances exceed the FSCS’s £50,000 limit.
WAG: A ‘Turnaround project’ in Pontypridd, aimed at helping young people in the South Wales Valleys overcome substance misuse so that they are able to participate in mainstream education, training and employment’ has been praised by Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons.
Dr Gibbons said the project was an example of the type of support service for substance misusers that WAG was hoping to build upon following the launch of its 10-year plan to reduce the harm caused by drugs & alcohol.
NA: The UK incoming passenger lists for 1878 to 1960 (series BT 26) have been launched online by Ancestry.co.uk. Digitised in partnership with The National Archives, the records contain information on both immigrants and tourists who arrived in the UK by boat before the onset of commercial flights.
The passenger lists are for people arriving in the United Kingdom from ports outside of Europe and the Mediterranean and may include: name of passenger, their birth date or age, port of departure, port of arrival, date of arrival and vessel name. It is free to search the website, but there is a charge for viewing the full entry and downloading images of the passenger lists.
Defra: Emergency measures to prevent further introductions of the Citrus Longhorn Beetle to the UK have been approved, reflecting conclusions agreed by the Standing Committee on Plant Health. The measures include restrictions on the import of a wide range of plants from countries where the beetle is known to be present. It was first identified in Britain in August 2008.
The measures will come into force when they have been adopted by the European Commission, most likely in November. To speed up the introduction of these measures in the UK, an amendment to the Plant Health (England) Order 2005 has been approved and will come into force on 10 November 2008.
HA: The Highways Agency has made its traffic data available to Google(tm) for use within their brand new Google Maps(tm) traffic feature. It overlays a colour-coded layer of the average speeds on England's motorways and major 'A' road network onto the existing Google Map(tm) facility with different colours indicating the current speed of traffic.
The data, provided by the Agency's National Traffic Control Centre in Birmingham, is also used to populate the Highways Agency's own Traffic England website, on which drivers can see current & predicted driving conditions, view what is currently being displayed on electronic motorway signs and even tell the average speed between any two junctions on the motorway network.
WAG: Every one of the 150 staff who lost their jobs in Swansea last month when the XL package holiday operator collapsed suddenly has already been offered work by new employers. Assembly Government Officials, the West Wales Association of Communications Centres and Job Centre Plus organised a special Jobs Fair little more than a week after XL's administration was announced.
Defra: New international measures to protect more than 70 of the world's migratory birds of prey and owls have been agreed. A joint initiative by Britain and the United Arab Emirates, has secured an agreement by over twenty countries signed in Abu Dhabi to protect migratory birds of prey and owls found in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Human activity has led to the decline in migratory bird of prey and owl species, with 50% of the world's species under threat from habitat loss & degradation, persecution, accidental killing and climate change. Many of these birds have an important cultural role for communities across the world, are an important part of the world's biodiversity and can provide economic benefits (for example through tourism).
ESRC: The Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) officially opened last week at the University of Birmingham. The TSRC will be led by Professor Pete Alcock of the UoB, in a joint venture with the University of Southampton, where Professor John Mohan will Deputy Director. The funding of £10.25m over the next five years will come from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Office of the Third Sector (OTS) and The Barrow Cadbury Trust.
Supporting the work of the TSRC will be two capacity building clusters (CBCs), led by the University of Middlesex and Lincoln University, with the CBC in Middlesex focusing specifically on social enterprises.
MoD: Health workers who provide outstanding care for the Armed Forces have been recognised in a ceremony attended by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the RoyalHospitalChelsea. The inaugural Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards highlighted exceptional individuals and teams from across the UK working in fields such as deployed healthcare, care of veterans, mental health, education and training & innovation.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall presented trophies to the winners, including a special Lifetime Achievement Award to the remaining members of the nursing team, 'The Flying Nightingales' who operated out of RAF Down Ampney during World War II. Tasked with bringing wounded soldiers back from Europe on Dakotas, altogether they brought back more than 100,000 casualties, many of who would not have survived but for the bravery and selflessness of the nursing orderlies.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
BERR: The Government has launched 'Solutions for Business - funded by government', a national package of publicly funded business support products - 30 advice, loan and grant products & services that make up a simplified portfolio alongside their ‘common look & feel’. The products will be accessed via Business Link.
The government claims that a new Business Link Strategy Group will ensure customer input directly helps drive up Business Link performance by bringing senior business leaders into the strategic oversight of the service. All the 'Solutions for Business' products will be in place by March 2009 and are a result of a streamlining exercise (announced in 2006) whereby the government committed to reduce over 3,000 products to less than 100.
DIUS: Skills Secretary, John Denham, has announced that small businesses will be the focus of £350m of Government funds to help them train their staff. The government will deliver funding for training, with the minimum level of bureaucracy or delay. Funding will not be available for unaccredited training or where there is a statutory requirement in place for employers to ensure that their employees receive certain training (e.g. Health & Safety).
Eligible employers will be able to access training through Train to Gain for their employees, regardless of whether those employees already hold a first qualification at that level. Eligible employers will be able to access units from the QCF in a list of business critical areas that will include business improvement techniques, business systems/processes, teamworking/communications, customer service, new product design, finance & credit, cashflow & profit management and risk management.
DH: More people should have the freedom to self-refer for services such as physiotherapy and podiatry, which will further empower patients and could cut waiting times. While some Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) already take-on self-referrals, many do not and this announcement will give the green light across the profession.
Recent research carried out by the Department of Health in partnership with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) showed that self-referral to musculoskeletal physiotherapy resulted in patients accessing services quicker, being more likely to complete their course of treatment and turn up for follow up appointments. The research also showed that self-referral resulted in:
* a lower level of work absence for patients and
* a high level of satisfaction from patients, GPs and physiotherapists
DCMS: Over £4.5m will be handed out to 12 English seaside towns in the latest round of funding from the Government's Sea Change programme, which aims to reinvigorate our much-loved resorts by investment in culture and heritage. Restored promenades; spectacular beach-front redesigns and new exhibition spaces will enhance the local environment and help boost visitor numbers around the coastline.
This is the second tranche of grants to be awarded in the first year of the £45m, three-year DCMS-funded programme, being led by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).
Defra: Six places ranging from a residential street to an entire region of England have been named as England's first 'Zero Waste Places'. The ZWPs will aim to go as far as possible in reducing the environmental impact of waste, whether it be at home, in the workplace or in the community.
The ZWPs have been selected as demonstrators for innovative & replicable initiatives that enable waste prevention in schools, households & businesses and support local authorities in taking leadership reducing the overall environmental impact of waste. The scheme is being managed on behalf of Defra by the BREW Centre for Local Authorities.
Cabinet Office: The Government has announced plans to create a new Third Sector skills body which will identify & address skills gaps and shortages for charities, voluntary groups, social enterprises and other third sector organisations.
It will pull together the work of the sector skills councils to open up learning opportunities for third sector paid and voluntary staff. It will ensure the sector's needs are properly considered in the design development of National Occupational Standards, the Design Apprenticeship Frameworks and Sector Qualification Strategies.
The Office of the Third Sector (OTS) in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) will jointly fund the new skills body with £2.5 million over the next three years. It will be independent and directed by a board representing the sector's employers. To help the new body become established, Skills for Justice will act as an incubator.
ScotGov: A new campaign offering hard-pressed families advice on how to cut their fuel bills and help save the planet in the process has been launched. Fronted by Mr Earth, the 'Go Greener' campaign will be using radio, tv, outdoor & online advertising to promote energy saving messages.
Launched to coincide with Energy Saving Week, it reminds people that small, simple lifestyle changes can add up to significant financial savings and safeguard the environment for future generations.
ScotGov: Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has repeated his call for a Scottish pilot licensing scheme for air weapons as statistics show offences involving air weapons still account for half of all firearms offences. Mr MacAskill has written to the Home Secretary to suggest that a Scottish pilot could be based on the firearms licensing system in Ireland.
In Ireland the system is based on a simple threshold of one joule. Any weapon with a muzzle energy in excess of this is classed as a firearm and must be licensed, including air weapons and paintball guns. Those applying for a licence must prove they have a good reason to hold a weapon, including where appropriate producing proof of permission to shoot on private land from landowners.
DECC: A new scheme to train hundreds of workers from Citizens Advice Bureaux, Housing Associations, and other organisations, to help low income households get the best deal on their energy bills has been launched. The Energy Best Deal campaign is funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and is being rolled out nationally by Ofgem following a successful pilot.
Training sessions for the workers will take place across the country over the next few months. The advisors will learn about savings that people can make through switching their energy deal, either to another supplier or to their existing supplier's cheapest offer. They will also learn what help low-income customers can get from their energy suppliers and the government with their energy bills, as well as in insulating their homes and other energy efficiency measures.
DWP: A new pilot aimed at helping the parents of children in poverty get into work, has been launched in 10 Local Authorities (30 from January 2009). Parents will have access to Jobcentre Plus personal advisers in Children's Centres to help them access work focussed services.
As well as testing the impact of putting a full time Jobcentre Plus Personal Adviser into children's centres across ten Local Authorities, the pilot will also test what other support may help parents move into employment. The pilot will complement the existing initiative of providing tax credits advice through Children's Centres, which is being expanded following a successful pilot earlier in the year.
BERR: The Secretary of State for Business, Lord Mandelson, has received advice from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on the continued appropriateness of statutory undertakings that underpin arrangements for the supply of newspapers in England & Wales. Having reviewed the undertakings, provided by newspaper wholesalers in 1994, the OFT has concluded these are no longer appropriate and should be revoked.
He has invited interested parties to make written representations to him (by Wednesday 14 January 2009) on the OFT's advice. He will take these representations into account before making a final decision on the future of the undertakings – See also ‘Business and other Briefings’ section for related OFT item.
OPG: Plans to reduce the fees and simplify the forms for people making Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) were part of proposals announced last week in a public consultation (closes on 15 January 2009) by Public Guardian Martin John. This consultation is the first stage of a wider review by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) into how well the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) (2005) is working.
Some of these changes will be introduced from April 2009. The proposals include plans to:
* reduce the fee for registering LPAs from £150 to £120
* redesign the LPA form & guidance notes to incorporated guidance in the form(s) itself
* introduce a new level of supervision of court-appointed deputies to give support & scrutiny where needed
CQC: The Care Quality Commission is launching a consultation (closes 16 January 2009) with a wide variety of stakeholders on how it intends to use its new enforcement powers, together with publishing guidance to NHS trusts about additional requirements for registering with the new Commission in relation to healthcare associated infection (HCAI).
The CQC will be holding a series of events around the country as part of the consultation process.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government is taking steps to embed General Practice firmly within its vision of a mutual NHS and to prevent commercial companies from running GP surgeries. A consultation (closes 17 December 2008) is seeking views on the eligibility criteria for providers of primary medical services, which includes issues surrounding commercialisation of GP practices.
Proposals to deliver this vision and debar commercial companies from providing GP services are expected to form part of the forthcoming Health Bill. Scottish Ministers are proposing to amend the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
CCWater: In support of Energy Saving Trust's Energy Saving Week (20 to 26 October) the Consumer Council for Water encouraged consumers to take a look at where they may be wasting water, energy and therefore money, around the home. Around 77% of a household's energy use relates to heating & hot water use (in baths or showers or for washing clothes or dishes).
Tips include avoiding using the half load setting on washing machines as half-load cycles use much more than half the energy & water of a full load. Also, by reducing the temperature from 40 to 30 degrees, energy consumption will be reduced by 40%
LLUK: The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) has launched an online toolkit which provides new accessibility guidelines, designed to ensure that teachers & trainers find the right guidance to widen participation and support all learners.
Grouped into 8 categories (users who have difficulty seeing things; hearing things; understanding things; concentrating; handling and manipulating things, communicating with others, difficulty accessing text; or are dyslexic) the resources will enable staff to create effective, engaging and accessible learning materials.
They are now available on the Excellence Gateway, which incorporates some 50 education websites and a resource bank comprising more than 75,000 pages and 12,000 separate pieces of content. Registration & use of the Excellence Gateway is completely free.
FSA: As Parents’ Week (20 October - Sunday 26 October 2008) got under way, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) began the UK-wide distribution of the Parent’s Guide to Money, its practical & impartial resource for expectant parents designed to answer questions about their changing financial circumstances and to help them prepare for parenthood.
It includes ‘a countdown to becoming a parent’ which sets out clearly & simply the steps people can follow to plan financially for parenthood. There is a free information pack for parents, which includes a useful CD-Rom containing easy to use calculators to help parents balance family finances on a PC.
The FSA is now distributing the guide to expectant parents via midwives and other health professionals and are making it available to parents of young children from Children's Centres and Sure Start Centres across the UK.
WAG: Health Minister Edwina Hart has unveiled new guidelines that form part of a delivery strategy for the management of adults with diabetes in Wales. Almost 5% of the population in Wales are known to have diabetes and it is estimated there are about 50,000 people with diabetes who remain undiagnosed.
DH: Almost 100,000 older people have benefited so far from a £60m scheme to keep them in their homes and out of hospital & residential care, according to a new report on Partnerships for Older People Projects (POPPs), which was launched in 2006 with the aim of helping older people to remain independent and prevent or delay the need for more intense care.
The projects help older people by, for example:
* doing their shopping or gardening
* making sure they get help in collecting prescriptions & advice on taking medicines
* targeting those who may be at risk of hospital admission
Following the successful interim report, Local Authorities will be given a guide to help them introduce POPP projects in their areas.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published new public health guidance on occupational therapy interventions and physical activity interventions to promote the mental wellbeing of older people in primary care and residential care.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the National Collaborating Centre for Women and Children’s Health have published a guideline on the prevention & treatment of surgical site infections.
Surgical site infections have been shown to be the cause of up to 20% of all healthcare-associated infections, affecting at least 5% of patients undergoing a surgical procedure. They can have a significant effect on quality of life for the patient and are associated with considerable morbidity and a prolonged stay in hospital. In addition, surgical site infections result in a considerable financial burden to healthcare providers.
BERR: In the run up to Bonfire Night the Government is targeting the small minority of irresponsible businesses who flout the law by selling fireworks to under 18s. Earlier this month Home Office published "Tackling Firework Misuse - A practitioner's guide", which illustrates the powers available to local authorities and police.
These include Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Penalty Notices for Disorder, which can be used to tackle the small minority of people who misuse fireworks. Anyone over the age of 10 caught misbehaving with fireworks can be given a fixed penalty notice.
Anyone buying and setting off their own fireworks in a display for family & friends should check the Firework Code first, or risk putting themselves or their loved ones in danger.
Monitor: According to Monitor, the independent foundation trust regulator, the results of the Healthcare Commission’s 2007-08 Annual Health Check show the benefits for patients of healthcare provided by NHS foundation trusts. These results provide a further incentive for all remaining NHS acute and mental health trusts to be ready to apply for foundation trust status.
38 out of the 42 organisations rated ‘excellent’ overall for both Quality of Services and Use of Resources are NHS foundation trusts
PADA: The personal accounts delivery authority (PADA) has published its first annual report, highlighting the key steps taken towards setting up one of the world's largest occupational pension saving schemes.
The delivery authority outlined progress to date towards advising on and, pending legislation currently before parliament, ultimately setting up the new personal accounts scheme. The scheme is expected to have between four and seven million members, with up to £200bn of assets under management by 2040.
Press release ~ Annual report ~ Personal accounts delivery authority (PADA) ~ Pensions Bill
General Reports and Other Publications
LBRO: A 3-point strategy for helping councils and fire services improve protections for consumers & workers and provide better regulatory support to business has been published by the Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO). It outlines actions planned to:
* support services in making improvement
* enhance the regulatory system
* delivery greater consistency
As well as making direct investments in individual authorities and regional co-ordination, LBRO will be publishing & promoting best practice in regulatory services, including on tackling issues that concern communities, such as illegal alcohol sales to children. It will also launch projects to give regulators greater insight into business and how to cut unnecessary burdens on retailers.
DH: Primary angioplasty is set to become the nation's first line of treatment for heart attacks, saving hundreds of lives each year, according to the National Infarct Angioplasty Project (NIAP) final report launched by the Department of Health. The study has concluded that is both feasible & cost-effective to offer angioplasty as an emergency treatment (within 120 minutes from call for professional help to treatment) for 97% of the population of England.
Currently, thrombolysis, the injection of life saving clot busting drugs, is the most common treatment for heart attack patients. Angioplasty is the procedure of inserting, then inflating, a small balloon in the blocked coronary artery, leaving a rigid support to restore blood flow.
NAO: According to the National Audit Office (NAO), under the management of the Department for Transport, the process for awarding passenger Rail Franchises in England & Wales has delivered better value for money, with subsidies expected to fall. But some fares will rise above inflation and crowding for many commuters will increase in the short term until investment delivers more carrying capacity.
The Department plans to increase capacity on the rail network, mainly from an additional 1,300 carriages. In the 8 franchises they examined this would lead to increased capacity of 22%. Many passengers – particularly on routes serving London – will, however, face increased crowding at peak periods until the planned improvements can be carried out.
NAO: The Security Industry Authority, the body which licences security guards, door supervisors and vehicle immobilisers, has secured a high level of compliance by people working in the industry with the requirement to be licensed, the National Audit Office has reported.
As at the end of May 2008, the Authority had issued over 248,000 licences and compliance is over 90%. Its efficiency has, however, been hampered by poor forecasting of licensing demand & costs and difficulties with the computerised systems procured to process licence applications.
HEFCE: The future of science and other key vulnerable subjects, which have seen declines in the past in the number of students, is now far healthier than it was three years ago, Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said when launching a report on the Council’s approach to strategically important and vulnerable subjects.
CLG: Major recommendations to improve the Private Rented Sector for both tenants and landlords have been published as part of an independent review into the Private Rented Sector (PRS), headed by Julie Rugg of the University of York.
MO: Changes in the salinity of our oceans are being brought about by man's influence on our climate, suggests new research conducted by the Met Office Hadley Centre and the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters next month.
Using data from the Atlantic Ocean and Met Office climate model simulations, the study reveals increasing salinity in the sub-tropical zone - an indication of less rainfall and increased evaporation. This mirrors decreased rainfall over land areas in the same latitudes identified in previous research in 2007, attributing this to human activity. Saltiness of the oceans can help us to understand what the likely drying and droughts on land might be in the future.
DIUS: An independent report which makes recommendations to the Government on improving regulation and reducing bureaucracy in England's higher education sector has been welcomed by Lord Tony Young. The Government has accepted the recommendations from the Higher Education Regulation Review Group (HERRG) which produced the report and the group's work will now be taken forward by the sector itself.
HERRG Chair, Steve Bundred, has recommended that HERRG should not be reconstituted as it has accomplished what it was set out to do. Further progress will be made by universities & colleges working together under the leadership of Universities UK and Guild HE, working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: Victims of domestic violence will receive extra help & support from six new specialist Domestic Violence Courts (SDVCs) (adding to the 98 already in existence). The new courts will be in Wales, the East Midlands, North East, North West and South East.
These courts work by bringing together trained & dedicated criminal justice staff with enhanced expertise in dealing with domestic violence, including magistrates specially trained in dealing with domestic violence cases. By clustering cases on a particular day, all agencies are able to focus their specialist resources.
HM Treasury: The Government has announced new rules to help protect homeowners, who may be facing the threat of repossession. New court protocols will help make repossessions a last resort and the Government is proposing that companies engaged in sale & rent back schemes, which may target vulnerable home owners, should be brought under FSA regulation.
The Master of the Rolls has approved the Civil Justice Council's new protocol for the courts in mortgage repossession cases, which sets out clear guidance on the steps that lenders are expected to take before bringing a claim in the courts to ensure that repossessions are a last resort.
Lenders will now be expected to demonstrate that they have tried to discuss & agree alternatives to repossession when borrowers get into trouble with their mortgage repayments. If a case reaches court, lenders will be required to tell the court precisely what they have done to comply with the protocol.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
WAG: Two programmes – both supported by European Structural Funds – to help Welsh business fight the global credit crash and compete in the Internet Age have been announced by the Wales Assembly Government:
* The £10m Strategic e-Business Support Programme will provide enterprises in West Wales and the Valleys with support & guidance to improve crucial elements of their operations.
* Meanwhile the e-Crime Wales programme – available throughout Wales – will invest £2.6m in helping businesses to prevent Internet-based crime with support from the four Welsh Police Forces and key players from the financial, legal and internet security sectors.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has announced plans to create a multimillion pound urban development fund (UDF) - the first of its kind in Europe - under the European Commission’s Jessica programme.
The fund, which could be operating by 2010, would be a joint venture with the private sector and would invest in a wide range of regeneration projects across Wales, with the WAG and its private sector partner sharing in the returns. More detailed work needs to be done on the financial structure, governance arrangements and geographic scope of the fund as well as the project selection process.
WAG: An £12.5m project aimed at tackling the difficulties women face when progressing in the workforce has been given the go-ahead for Convergence funding. Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation project, which will receive an £8.2m boost from the European Social Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government, will help women to achieve their full potential by promoting gender equality in employment and supporting career advancement. It will also contribute to a reduction of the gender pay gap that still exists in the labour market.
By assisting up to 2,800 women in West Wales and the Valleys through training and mentoring, the project aims to progress their careers and higher skilled employment opportunities. In addition, a training allowance scheme will be available for women wishing to improve their range of skills, as well as help with identifying quality part-time work.
Agile Nation will also help over 600 employers with training on equality & diversity issues, raise awareness of the benefits of flexible working, as well as promoting & educating employers around work life balance issues.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: People across England living with the muscle weakening condition, Myasthenia Gravis (MG) are set to benefit from a host of regional conferences to offer advice & support. The conferences are being funded by £50,000 awarded from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme to the Myasthenia Gravis Association (MGA). The funding programme aims to improve the lives of people in need across England.
MG is a rare 'muscle-weakening' disease that causes loss of speech, movement or even death if left untreated. With no apparent genetic link, it strikes indiscriminately and could affect anyone. The nine conferences will provide the latest information regarding management of this incurable disease and encourage myasthenics to support each other by sharing advice and experiences. Details of the conferences should appear on the MGA website in the New Year, with the first conference possibly being held in February 2009.
Business and Other Briefings
DWP: The Government has tabled amendments to the Pensions Bill that would introduce measures to protect the benefits of pension scheme members. The Government's intention is to adapt the Pensions Regulator's powers to an evolving pensions market, as its main concern is the emergence of new alternatives to pensions’ buyouts, which can reduce the security provided by the employer responsible for backing the scheme.
These developments may put scheme members' benefits ‘at risk’ and could have serious cost implications for the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), and those responsible for paying its levy. The Government intends that the principal amendments will have retrospective effect from 14 April 2008, the date the Minister announced the intention to legislate.
Draft content for a statutory Code, which will support a new test for ‘material detriment’, has also been issued by the Pensions Regulator. It is expected that the Regulator will consult formally on this Code later in the year, subject to passage of the legislation.
HM Treasury: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has warned of the higher risks of money laundering and terrorist financing posed by deficiencies in the anti-money laundering and countering-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) systems in Iran and Uzbekistan. The FATF has also drawn attention to AML/CTF deficiencies in respect of Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Sao Tome and the northern part of Cyprus.
All UK businesses regulated under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 whether financial institutions or other regulated persons should treat transactions associated with Iran and Uzbekistan as situations that by their nature can present a higher risk of money laundering or terrorist financing, and which therefore require increased scrutiny and enhanced due diligence.
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has issued three publications following a wide-ranging analysis of competition in newspaper and magazine distribution in the United Kingdom. It has:
* published an Opinion, providing guidance on the legality of newspaper and magazine distribution agreements
* recommended that wholesalers are released from the undertakings underpinning the National Newspapers Code of Practice, and
* published for consultation its proposal not to refer the newspaper & magazine supply sector to the Competition Commission.
The OFT has also published a paper that provides an introductory overview of key elements of the operation of the newspaper and magazine supply chains for those outside the industry.
HMRC: New rates of interest on direct & indirect taxes and national insurance contributions paid late and overpaid have been announced. These new rates of interest, which take effect from 6 November 2008, are as a result of the recent movement in market rates.
VAT - new requirement from 1 January 2010 that businesses provide EC Sales Lists for taxable supplies of services to which the reverse charge applies.
CIOB: The Chartered institute of Building (CIOB) has announced that its international intensive training seminar, the Masterclass, is to come to Brussels. The Brussels event is part of the long-running series held across the globe, and organised by the CIOB in partnership with international construction consultancy Hill International, to address issues affecting the industry’s top professionals.
The Brussels Masterclass will be held across two days on the 24th & 25th of November 2008 at The Plaza Hotel. Its focus is ‘Delay and Disruption in Construction Contracts’ with topics to include:
* Planning for excellence
* Delay clauses in European and international contracts
* The use of visualizations in disputes
* Valuation and analysis of disruption
Due to the ongoing demand for places at Masterclass events, early booking is advised.
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