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In the News

Newswire – ACMore centralised control is NOT the answer - The Children's Trusts created by the government after the death of Victoria Climbié have been confused & confusing, according to an evaluation by the Audit Commission.  5 years after the Green paper Every Child Matters and 8 years after the child's death, ‘there is little evidence of better outcomes for children and young people’ resulting from the requirement that local areas in England set up special panels to co-ordinate services.

A third of directors of children's services say the purpose of the trusts is ‘unclear’ and the uncertainty is hampering their efforts to deliver better services, but on the ground professionals are working together, often through informal arrangements outside the trust framework. Progress has been made in bringing professionals together, but sometimes by navigating around the ‘centrally-directed’ approach. Local agreements worked better than external direction, the study found. 

The Audit Commission study found too much time & energy being expended on ‘structures and processes’ at the expense of improving the lives of children and young people and their families.  In a blow to government hopes for streamlining of services locally, there was little evidence children's trusts had offered value for money improvements.
Newswire – ICOIt’s time for those at the top to be held responsible - The number of data breaches reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has soared to 277 since HMRC lost 25m child benefit records nearly a year ago.  In a speech last week Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner,
* highlighted the risks associated with large databases
* the need for tougher sanctions to deter data breaches and
* called on CEOs to take responsibility for the personal information their organisations hold

Arguing that information can be a toxic liability, he challenged CEOs to ensure that the amount of data held is minimised and that robust governance arrangements are in place. Richard Thomas argued that accountability rests at the top and that CEOs must make sure that:
* their organisations have the right policies & procedures in place
* privacy by design features are incorporated in the technology their organisations use
* staff are properly trained to counter the risks

The Information Commissioner said: “It is alarming that despite high profile data losses, the threat of enforcement action, a plethora of reports on data handling and clear ICO guidance, the flow of data breaches and sloppy information handling continues.

We have already seen examples where data loss or abuse has led to fake credit card transactions, witnesses at risk of physical harm or intimidation, offenders at risk from vigilantes, fake applications for tax credits, falsified Land Registry records and mortgage fraud.  Addresses of service personnel, police and prison officers and battered women have also been exposed. Sometimes lives may be at risk”.

The ICO has long argued that its powers, sanctions and resources - fixed in another era - are now wholly inadequate and that a stronger approach is required to help prevent unacceptable information handling.  The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 provides the ICO with the new powers to impose substantial civil penalties for deliberate or reckless breaches of data protection principles which are serious and could cause substantial damage or distress
OfstedChildren want rules that protect them - Children living away from home, or using social care services, want to feel safer online, be protected from unsuitable sites and have adult supervision, highlights a new report published by the Children’s Rights Director for England, Dr Roger Morgan.

The report, ‘Future care: Children’s advice on future care standards’, follows consultation with 686 children and young people who discussed the key issues that they would like to see considered for future inclusion in the National Minimum Standards.

These Standards are not enforceable by law, but are important guidelines to help providers, inspectors, and people who use services to judge the standard of service.  They are designed to make sure everyone understands what’s expected and so services can be measured against the same standards.

Children were particularly keen that the Standards address specific concerns about internet safety:
* 61% of those consulted asked that porn & chat rooms be blocked or filtered
* 45% asked that young people be supervised how they use the internet
* 24% said that children should be taught the basics about online safety
Some of the proposals children gave to better safeguard them online included having ‘child locks’, or ‘no webcam’.  Another group said that young people ‘shouldn’t be able to put pictures up of yourself’’.
ScotGov:  For some ‘cancer care’ may mean years of ‘fruitful life’ - A new action plan to offer care and support to Scotland's cancer patients has been unveiled.  'Better Cancer Care' outlines a comprehensive approach and builds on the improvements already achieved in delivering cancer services.  The plan:
* highlights how cancer can be prevented
* recommends action to encourage people with suspicious symptoms to seek medical advice early
* includes more patients within cancer waiting times targets and
* introduces a new target

It also details new action for supporting those living with & surviving cancer and involving them in the delivery and design of care.  A new Scottish Cancer Taskforce will oversee implementation of the action plan and drive development & change.

Projections show that the number of patients diagnosed with cancer is likely to rise to nearly 35,000p.a. between 2016 & 2020 (30,000 patients p.a. between 2006 and 2010), which reflects the impact of Scotland's ageing population as well as improvements in diagnosis and treatment.  More people will be living longer after their cancer diagnosis.
DefraSaving the world by design - A new standard, called PAS 2050 and launched by BSI British Standards, the Carbon Trust and Defra will help businesses fight global warming.  The standard is a consistent way of counting the greenhouse gas emissions embedded in goods & services throughout their entire life cycle - from sourcing raw materials, through to manufacture, distribution, use and disposal.

The aim of the new standard is to help businesses move beyond managing the emissions their own processes create and to look at the opportunities for reducing emissions in the design, making & supplying of products.  This will then hopefully help businesses make goods or services which are less carbon intensive and ultimately develop new products with lower carbon footprints.
Press release ~ Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 2050 ~ BSI British Standards ~ BSI Group ~ Carbon Trust Carbon Reduction Label ~ Defra – Carbon Footprint ~ Methods report to support the PAS for the calculations for the calculation of the embodied greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services ~ Saving Carbon, Improving Health: A Carbon Reduction Strategy for the NHS in England ~ Improving the efficiency of central government's office property ~ The Carbon Trust: accelerating the move to a low carbon economy ~ Carbon Trust’s Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme ~ Carbon Trust’s Research and Technology Accelerators ~ Environment and greener living : Directgov ~ International Carbon Action Partnership (ICAP) ~ Wales' Ecological Footprint – Scenarios to 2020 ~ The Right Climate for Change - Using the Carbon Footprint to reduce CO2 emissions - a guide for local authorities ~ Towards a low footprint Scotland

Industry News: Five-point strategy for pesticides reduction – Read how one of the Complete Weed Control’s (CWC) franchisees, has worked with Cardiff Council for some 8 years, treating pavements, walkways, sports fields, amenity areas, parks waterways and the castle grounds for the unitary authority.

CWC has developed a five-point pesticides reduction strategy that arguably matches anything that the legislative process might enforce:
First: The knowledge - A deep knowledge of the area is needed to operate a successful pesticide reduction scheme and a through, accurate mapping system is vital.
Second: The technology - The appropriate application equipment is essential to optimise the quantity of pesticide applied.  Awareness of the wastefulness of blanket spraying and the incident dangers of drift has grown in recent years and expectations are higher for such factors to be minimised.
Third: The partner - Cardiff Council’s partnership with CWC continues to evolve as both elements of it adapt to shifting demands from the public and the politicians.
Fourth: The timing - Timing is crucial for several reasons. Because pesticide application is weather dependent, the team of operators must be ready to cover much ground in a set period.
Fifth: The team - Reliable, committed operators are at the hub of an effective weed control programme – ones switched on to the demands of the job and who are aware of the expectations demanded of them. 
For other Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

STFC: A massive global computer grid, designed to analyse the unprecedented amounts of data generated by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest scientific experiment, is being utilised by two high tech start-up companies from Cambridge, who are working together to build the next generation of internet search engine.
These two Cambridgeshire companies, Imense Ltd and iLexIR Ltd have created a joint venture, Camtology, to use their individual expertise & products together to search both text and images online.  They are using GridPP to test & enhance their software.  
FSCS: More than 200,000 retail depositors with savings in Icesave UK, the topped up retail deposit business of the UK branch of Landsbanki, will get back their savings through an accelerated process, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme announced recently.  FSCS expects to launch the process in a few days.  
The Government has guaranteed 100% of all deposits held by retail depositors of Icesave and has said that people will not lose their tax status for their ISAs.  FSCS is working closely with the Newcastle Building Society on the repayment arrangements.  The building society provided Icesave’s online banking facility and is playing a key part in the process which uses their existing infrastructure to host the FSCS process.
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has made the first compensation payments to members of Heritable Bank just 17 days after the bank was declared in default by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The bank was a subsidiary of Landsbanki Islands hf. The Treasury used its powers to transfer the accounts of the majority of Heritable's retail depositors to ING Direct.  Eligible retail depositors whose accounts have not been transferred to ING Direct will be compensated through FSCS.  FSCS understands that there are less than 100 eligible retail depositor accounts that have not transferred to ING Direct.
ScotGov: The push to rebuild & improve Scotland's schools received another boost recently as the Scottish Government confirmed £80m of funding to build four new low energy schools in Inverclyde. The Inverclyde Council Schools PPP project will deliver two new primaries and two new secondaries, with around 2,500 pupils set to benefit from the move into state-of-the-art learning facilities.
In the first tie-up of its kind in Scotland, the Carbon Trust has been working alongside Inverclyde Council and the building consortium e4i on ways to minimise the carbon footprint of the four schools.
TfL: Community groups across the capital have given their backing to a new social networking site aimed at encouraging debate around how to make the city better place.  ‘Together for London is an open forum for Londoners to share their ideas of how to make London a better place, starting with behaviour on public transport.
Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy was joined by representatives from Age Concern London and London Youth to pledge their support for the launch of the next phase of TfL’s campaign to encourage all Londoners to consider others when using public transport.
CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) will announce its ambitious plans for the development & establishment of a Middle East region at the forthcoming Big 5 exhibition in Dubai, on the 23 November 2008.
The establishment of a Middle East region is a strategic move which will allow the Institute to play a major role in supporting industry, professionalism and key development projects in the Middle East, as well as creating a link with the Indian Sub Continent, another key strategic area of interest for the Institute.
HAEnabling Sustainable Development was the focus when the Highways Agency recently met with 120 key stakeholders from the development & planning sector to discuss how everyone can work together to improve the planning and development process, at the second annual Stakeholder Development Forum. has announced plans to deliver a pan-public sector air programme that will streamline the supply chain and improve efficiency in air travel procurement. By contracting directly with the airline industry, this new approach will strip out additional supply chain costs and create more transparent supplier relationships.
The initiative will build on the success of the existing Government Travel Group (GTG) air deal that is owned by Buying Solutions in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which is due to expire in 2009.  This innovative development will give the public sector much greater autonomy in its air travel arrangements.
NA: In November, The National Archives will host a number of free events and talks where specialists will share their knowledge & expertise to offer useful advice on research and best practice for using the archives. Subjects range from the administration of parish records to merchant seamen of the First and Second World Wars.  Most talks & lectures will be made available as podcasts soon after they have taken place.
There are daily drop-in sessions to introduce first-time visitors to the range of services available at The National Archives and how to make the most of our resources.  These free sessions start at 11:30 and last approximately 30 minutes; pre-booking is not required. 
ATAATA (Automotive Technician Accreditation), a scheme to improve public confidence in the motor industry by formally recognising the skills & ethical competence of motor technicians in the UK, has welcomed its 11,000th registered technician.

Governed by the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) the motor industry’s professional association and Sector Skills Council, ATA is the first voluntary accreditation scheme of its kind, recognising professional motor technicians who have proved they have the right skills to work competently, have signed a code of honest conduct and are regulated.  
CRC: According to the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC), the Government’s call for suppliers to reflect lower fuel costs in consumers' bills is a welcome step in helping tackle fuel poverty.  Rural people have to rely more on oil or bottled gas for heating, but costs have doubled over the past year.  42% of rural homes are not connected to mains gas, so ‘dual fuel’ discounts are not available to many rural residents.
A third of homes in rural areas have solid walls compared with 26% in urban areas.  They cost more to insulate but just 10% of Warm Front grants go to rural areas.  Pension credit is a key eligibility criterion for grants, but the CRC State of the Countryside Update shows 250,000 eligible pensioners in rural areas aren’t PC.
MoD: An Armed Conflicts Memorial has been dedicated at Westminster Abbey in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, honouring those who have been killed in conflict zones since the end of the Second World War.
Situated in the south cloister of the historic Abbey, the memorial commemorates Service personnel, both regular & reserve, and members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Merchant Navy killed while in support of the Armed Forces.  It is in the form of an integral metal plaque and inscribed with the words: "Remember the men and women of the Armed and Auxiliary Forces who lost their lives in times and places of conflict since The Second World War."
STFC: UK physicists are constructing a novel, highly sensitive detector to create & probe rare and exotic types of atomic nuclei.  The Advanced Gamma Tracking Array (AGATA) will be a thousand times more sensitive than previous detectors and will not only give physicists a new approach to uncovering the structure of the atomic nucleus, but will help in the advancement of medical gamma-ray technology, used in hospital scans.
The social and economic benefits of AGATA include improved gamma-ray technology for PET and SPECT scanners - medical imaging and diagnosis machines which produce three-dimensional images of people’s bodies to provide information about localised function in internal organs and detect disease and tumors.  Work is already in hand to develop portable radiation monitors based on AGATA technology, which could be used by the security services to detect dirty bombs and also to monitor radioactive waste.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

TSB: The Technology Strategy Board has unveiled details of a £10m investment plan, co-funded by the Department for Transport, which aims to see up to 100 innovative ultra low carbon demonstration vehicles on Britain's roads by the end of next year.  This is one of the initiatives announced by the Government today to encourage a mass market in electric and hybrid cars.
The demonstrator and research & development competitions are the latest initiatives from the Technology Strategy Board's Low Carbon Vehicle Innovation Platform.  Three other R&D activities will cover:
* Electrification of road transport (up to £10m)
* Technologies to decarbonise road vehicles (approx £7m)
 * University-led research into lower-carbon vehicle technology (£3m), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
MoD: The MoD took a step towards becoming a more sustainable department when the Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton, along with some of defence's key industry partners, signed a Sustainable Procurement Charter.
The voluntary charter, signed at the first National Defence Industries Council (NDIC) to be hosted by the Defence Secretary, commits the MoD and its suppliers to work together to achieve sustainable development goals, through educating the supply chain, developing performance measures and sharing best practice.
DIUS: A pilot programme aimed at developing the leadership potential of students in higher education, strengthening the communities in which they live, has been launched. The Student Leadership Project is funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and designed by the charity Youth at Risk UK.
It aims to identify & support students with leadership capacity who may be at risk of losing interest in or dropping out of their course. Through helping these students to develop their learning, interpersonal and social skills the project aims to reduce drop outs from university and increase attendance, achievement & participation in both curricula and extra-curricular activities.
ScotGov: Scotland will be at the forefront of global action on climate change, Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed as he set out the key components of the Scottish Climate Change Bill. Mr Swinney said that by including international aviation & shipping, emissions from all 6 greenhouse gases and annual targets, Scotland will have the most ambitious Bill to tackle climate change anywhere in the world.
Over 21,000 responses were received to the Scottish Government's consultation on a draft Climate Change Bill, which will be brought before Parliament later this year. The Bill will establish a legal framework for emissions reductions in the run up to 2050.
Defra: Defra and the UK livestock export industry are launching a new partnership today to help exporters enjoy a larger share of the global market. The new UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP), built on the success of the Export Certification User Group that has been meeting over the last 6 years, will further improve the use of joint Defra/industry efforts to negotiate with non-EU markets.
Initially a 3-year trial, UKECP is an informal industry working group that:
* liaises with the UK livestock & livestock product industries to establish export market priorities;
* provides a forum to discuss the use of Defra agents to negotiate export health certificates on behalf of the UK
* helps to draft & follow through the agreement of export health certification which is generally required before exports can commence
WAG: All girls who were born between 1 September 1990 and 31 August 1991 will be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect them against the viruses that are the most common cause of cervical cancer, Health Minister Edwina Hart has announced.
This is in addition to the routine vaccination programme that has been introduced for all 12 & 13 year old girls this year and the catch-up campaign planned for the next 2 years. This extension to the programme will offer protection to about 20,000 more girls.  
MoD: The Ministry of Defence has responded formally to a study of public understanding & appreciation of the Armed Forces. The independent National Recognition Study was published on May 19 2008 and made 40 recommendations, including the introduction of an annual day to recognise & celebrate the work of the Armed Forces community.
In response, the MOD will hold the first British Armed Forces and Veterans Day on 27 June 2009, building on the success of events across the country for this year's Veterans Day. The study also identified the benefits of a more systematic approach to homecoming parades.  
Each of the three services is now looking at how homecoming parades can be better organised across the country.  The MOD has also welcomed an offer from the Royal British Legion to use its branches & staff to work with local military units and local authorities to help arrange military parades.
DIUS: A new advisory service will combine skills & training advice with practical guidance for people on how to overcome the barriers they face in getting on in life, Skills Secretary John Denham has announced. The adult advancement and careers service (AACS) will provide a one-stop-shop for those seeking training and help into work, but who also face problems in areas like childcare, money matters, housing and disability issues.
Publishing a prospectus setting out how the service will develop, he announced the names & locations of 10 prototype advisory services across England whose work will inform the launch of the AACS in 2010.
The 10 prototypes will run for two years, testing a range of different approaches in establishing local partnerships bringing together nextstep services, Jobcentre Plus, unionlearn, local authorities, housing associations, voluntary and community sector organisations, Connexions, Primary Care Trusts, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, Sure Start Children's Centres, and others.
HO: A delivery plan for the student tier of the Australian-style points system has been announced by the Home Office. Under the new system, which will be rolled out from March 2009, colleges and universities who want to teach non-European Economic Area (EEA) nationals must have a licence issued by the UK Border Agency.  Licensed institutions can then sponsor non EEA students to come to study in the UK.
The system is intended to clamp down on bogus students and ensure only those who benefit Britain can continue to come.  Before they can study here, foreign students must be sponsored by a UK Border Agency-licensed education institution, supply their fingerprints and meet new criteria.  Colleges and universities have been able to sign up to the sponsorship register since July.
From autumn 2009 the system will be tightened further with the introduction of a 'sponsor management system' - dedicated technology that will make it easier for universities and colleges to inform the UK Border Agency if students fail to enrol or miss more than ten sessions.
CLG: Up to £5m will be committed to promoting new ways to encourage community participation in planning Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced. The new grants are part of a Government drive to put communities in control, strengthen active citizenship and give people more say over local services.
Councils should use the grants to encourage citizens to actively engage in the planning process and the development of their community through new consultation methods and better access to information.  Innovative techniques to involve the community would be encouraged such as citizen's juries, charrettes or Planning for Real(r).
BERR: The first ever national Women's Prowess Policy Centre (PNPC) has been launched by the Government at a reception at 11 Downing Street. The new policy centre, which is receiving over £500,000 of funding from the Department of Business, is the first of its kind in Europe and will act as a 'one-stop' shop for the latest in women's enterprise-related research & policy.
The Centre will be co-located in Birmingham and London and managed by Prowess. It is intended to drive up the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK by promoting best practice and raising awareness & understanding of women's entrepreneurship across Government, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), Financial Institutions and Multi-National Corporations.
No decision has yet been taken on whether further funding will be provided for the period 2009/10 and beyond.  Ultimately, the Prowess National Policy Centre (PNPC) will need to become self-funding.
ScotGov: An additional 51 scholarships of £2,000 will be awarded to students from the US this year allowing them to study at universities in Scotland. The cost of the bursary is shared between the Scottish Government and the host universities and the overall scheme is managed by Education UKScotland.
The US Graduate Scholarship scheme aims to raise the profile of studying, living and working in Scotland and increasing interest internationally in the post graduate qualifications Scotland has to offer. Under the Scottish International Scholarship Programme, twelve students from China and India are receiving scholarships to undertake 12 month Masters level courses in Scotland.
ScotGov: An improved system to ensure the right number of teachers are in the right place at the right time has been announced as the Scottish Government moves to address the long-standing problem of accurately predicting teacher numbers required across the country.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said that the recommendations of the working group she set up to look at teacher employment would all be adopted in order to create a system fit for delivering a 21st Century education. This includes a rise in the Preferential Waiver Payment scheme to £8,000 to attract teachers to areas with vacancies.


DSA: The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has issued a consultation paper (closes on 18 January 2009) on the proposed fee structure for driving tests in 2009/10, as outlined in its Business Plan in April. The DSA plans to introduce the new fees for tests booked on or after 30 March 2009, following a review of its forecast operational costs for 2009/10.
Under the proposals the theory tests for learner drivers and motorcycle riders would be £31.00 and the practical car test £63.50.  The fee for the practical motorcycle test would remain unchanged.
DH: Delivering the best possible care for patients and addressing health inequalities will be at the heart of proposed changes to the GP quality incentive scheme, the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), Health Minister Ben Bradshaw has announced in a consultation (closes 2 February 2009).
Under new proposals, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) would in future oversee the annual process of reviewing clinical indicators.  From April 2009, NICE would review the benefits to patients and the cost effectiveness of the indicators used to assess the quality of care provided by GP practices.  NICE would be responsible for developing a more transparent and inclusive review process with input from patients and carers, primary care professionals and other stakeholders.
Defra: The Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have launched a joint consultation (closes on 3 December 2008) on proposals to raise the age above which cattle must be tested for BSE. Under these proposals, the age above which all cattle slaughtered for human consumption and all fallen stock must be tested for BSE would rise to 48 months.
The short consultation period is necessary to meet the EU's expected timetable and allow the possibility of applying these proposals from 1 January 2009.
WAG: Dr Brian Gibbons, Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, has announced a consultation (closes on 23 January 2009) on the Welsh Assembly Government’s first Single Equality Scheme and action plans.  The draft scheme sets out how the Assembly Government will promote diversity & equality over the next 3 years as an integral part of the way it does business and how it will assess the impact of its work on different groups.
It builds on a previous consultation carried out earlier this year on the framework & priorities for a Single Equality Scheme.
Press release ~ Copies of the consultation document and action plans can be requested by email at: or, later this week - HERE ~ WAG – Equality and Diversity ~ Framework & priorities for a Single Equality Scheme

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

Defra:  Local authorities, architects, planners and builders will be helped to produce high quality & locally appropriate waste facilities thanks to new expert guidance, produced by Defra in partnership with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).
The guidance covers the various types of waste facilities, from small community and municipal sites (such as compost units on estates) to larger sites (such as Combined Heat and Power facilities) and outlines key design principles, the design process, best practice in design and how best to consult the public.
NICE:  The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final guidance on the use of drugs to prevent osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.  The two pieces of guidance cover the use of drugs in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis who have not yet had a fracture (known as primary prevention) and on the use of drugs for the prevention of further fractures in postmenopausal women who have already had a fracture (known as secondary prevention).
DH: The Department of Health has urged Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to engage better with patients and the public in developing plans and making decisions about local health services. New guidance, published last week, is designed to help the public have more say in decisions made by their PCT, enabling them to shape local health services.
The strengthened 'Duty to Involve' guidance is also intended to make feedback on public consultations more transparent and accessible. This latest guidance 'Real Involvement' is being issued to help PCTs and other NHS organisations understand changes to the Duty and also to offer practical advice on how to put local people at the heart of service changes. The new Duty to Involve is also expected to be included in the NHS Constitution due to come into force next year.

Annual Reports

OCPA: Janet Gaymer, the independent Commissioner for Public Appointments, has published her annual report for 2007-08. The report, delivered for the first time online, includes a range of statistics & information about appointments and re-appointments in 2007-08 to over 1,000 public bodies.
She said: “Looking forward, I will be consulting on changes to my Code of Practice over the next few months, with the intention of publishing a revised Code in the Spring."
HSE: New statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal a reduction in the numbers of people killed, injured or made ill by work during 2007/08.  Reported major injuries at work fell by around 9% since the start of the decade and this trend continues.
Work-related ill-health has also fallen across the period, although the rate of improvement here is not as great as hoped.  Workplace deaths also fell by around 5% to 229.  Across the EU, Great Britain (GB) has one of the lowest rates of work-related fatalities and injuries.
Defra: Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies has called for renewed action on farmland birds, as new statistics show a decline in farmland bird populations, while overall wild bird populations remain stable. Changes to Defra's Environmental Stewardship scheme are being introduced following a report in February 2008 that included specific recommendations to give added help to farmland birds, such as increasing the size of the area that can be sown with wild bird seed mixture.

General Reports and Other Publications

Ofsted: A major new survey of almost 150,000 10 to 15 year-olds in England reveals that a large majority are happy, healthy and feel safe in their schools & local areas – but almost half are worried about their future. The annual Tellus3 survey of children and young people, published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, also found that:
* bullying was still a problem
* smoking, drinking and drugs remain concerns
NAO: Alcohol misuse costs the health service in the order of £2.7bn a year, but efforts to address it locally are not in general well-planned, the National Audit Office has reported.  Although the Department of Health is raising the profile of alcohol misuse, hospital admissions for the 3 main alcohol-specific conditions (alcohol-related liver disease, mental health disorders linked to alcohol and acute intoxication) have doubled in the last 11 years.  There were also twice as many deaths from alcohol-related causes in the UK in 2006 as there were 15 years before, increasing from 4,100 to 8,800.
Primary Care Trusts are responsible for setting local health priorities, but around a quarter of PCTs surveyed by the NAO have not fully assessed alcohol problems in their areas.  Many PCTs do not have a clear picture of their spending on services to address alcohol misuse and its effects on health.
There is scope for the DH to provide greater leadership to PCTs on alcohol misuse and the NAO report recommends a number of specific measures to that end, such as guidance to help PCTs assess causes and to forecast trends in the level of alcohol harm in their localities.
NAO: Most Ministry of Defence projects funded by PFI deals are delivered satisfactorily, on time & on budget according to a National Audit Office report.  In six of the eight projects examined by the NAO, the MoD has generally achieved value for money through effective allocation and management of risks, but there is scope for improving procurement times.
The Department has developed commercial disciplines for scrutinising the value for money of its PFI procurements and has extended these into other projects.  However, while the MOD allocates & manages many of the project risks effectively, it does not always have the robust data necessary to understand the risks it is asking the private sector to bear.  The NAO also highlight the risk that contractors may incorrectly report performancewhich would otherwise lead to payment deductions.
DECC: Climate change will present a major challenge to China in feeding its growing population by the middle of the century.  This is a key message from a 3-year bilateral project between the UK and China, which examined how one area of China (the Ningxia Hui Autonomous region) could adapt agricultural techniques to deal with the impact of climate change.
Vulnerable farmers are already having to develop new methods to adapt to these long-term changes in the weather, such as reducing water loss by covering the soil with stones, and planting new crop varieties. The report also predicts that as a result of climate change alone, China is likely to see a reduction in yields of key crops (wheat, maize, and rice) from the 2020s.  As the population increases, availability of staple foods may fall below the critical level necessary for people's basic needs.

ScotParl:  There needs to be a shift in GPs from affluent areas to more deprived areas where they are most needed, according to the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee. Publishing its response to the Scottish Government's publication Equally Well, the committee called on the ScotGov to take a robust stance in its negotiations with the British Medical Association over the terms of the next GP contract.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has welcomed the EFRA Committee's report & recommendations on the potential of the rural economy.  A more pro-active approach to rural proofing and mainstreaming rural into business support, transport, training, housing, communications and investment programmes is critical to releasing the potential of our rural economies.
The report makes several specific proposals where the CRC can help Defra strengthen government action for rural economies.
LSN: According to new research by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), 75% working in further education (FE) say policy-speak, acronyms & jargon are so prevalent in communications sent by government departments & agencies, that they often find them hard to understand or are put off reading them altogether
* 83% of FE staff surveyed said jargon has put them off reading important external information
* Only 5% find the information they receive is usually clear and easy to read
LLUK: Enquiries about teacher training received by Lifelong Learning UK’s Information and Advice Service rocketed 41% in the last month alone.  Compared to the end of last year (Dec 07), there has been a 300% increase
Worries about the current economic climate have led to a radical change in people’s attitude towards career development according to new research from Lifelong Learning UK’s ‘Make a Difference’ campaign.  Many people are actively searching for a more secure career option.  As a result, a management opportunity in education has become one of the top ‘dream jobs’ for those working in mid to senior management in the UK.
NAO: A £330m programme has enhanced the 46 English Fire & Rescue Services’ capacity to respond to terrorist attacks and other catastrophic incidents such as major flooding.  But better value for money could have been secured in the procurement of the specialist vehicles and equipment, according to a new National Audit Office report.
The New Dimension programme was introduced following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and it involved procuring specialist vehicles and equipment, training 10,000 fire fighters and helping to prepare Fire and Rescue Services to tackle terrorist and other major incidents.
Funding uncertainty and poor programme, project & financial management in the early days of the project resulted in delays in introducing the equipment and significant cost overruns.  Improvements in programme and financial management have since been made, but more still needs to be done to address weaknesses which might hamper future incident response.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGov: Adults at risk of harm & neglect are to receive more support & protection, thanks to the introduction of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act. The Act, which came into force last week, allows authorities to make inquiries and take action when they suspect an adult may be at risk of physical or psychological harm, of neglect or sexual abuse or is being taken advantage of financially.
The Act:
* Places a duty on councils to make enquiries and investigate situations where concern exists
* Places a duty on bodies such as the NHS & the police to co-operate in investigating suspected or actual harm
* Introduces a range of protection orders including assessment, removal and banning orders
* Establishes multi-agency Adult Protection Committees across Scotland that will oversee & monitor support and protection activities
In addition, a National Centre of Excellence for Adult Support and Protection is to be established in Scotland to act as a catalyst for change & improvement.
MoJ: A pilot scheme giving families of murder victims a chance to tell the court how the death has affected them has proven to be a success, according to research published by the Ministry of Justice. The Victims Advocates Pilot evaluation measured the success of the new initiative to allow victims' families to have an impact statement to be read out in court.
The Victims Advocate Pilots enable a meeting to take place between the prosecutor and the victim's family, pre-trial, to explain the processes and assist in making a Victim Personal Statement.  These statements include the impact the crime committed had on the victim's family.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: More areas around the country will benefit from help to tackle harmful water pollution, Environment Minister Jane Kennedy has announced.  The England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative aims to help farmers to reduce diffuse water pollution from agricultural land through a range of advice and incentives.
The Initiative will expand its coverage from October 2008 with new target areas, including extensions of existing priority catchments and 10 new priority areas.

Charity and Voluntary Sector

LDA: The capital’s small community & voluntary groups may be eligible for the Community Grants programme, if they can demonstrate an innovative approach to helping people who are out of work or disadvantaged learn new skills and get into the workforce.

Applications can be made to Greater London Enterprise (GLE) who is responsible for delivering Community Grants under ESF in London on behalf of the LDA.  The programme - worth over £5m - is jointly funded by the LDA and ESF and offers grants of up to £12,000 for each organisation.
This is the first of three Community Grants bidding rounds. A total of 450 projects will be funded between now and December 2010.  A prospectus, eligibility criteria & guidance on the application process are now available and a number of workshops will also be held at GLE’s offices:
* 30 October 2008 - 2.30pm-5pm
* 04 November 2008 - 10am-1pm
BIG: Campaigns are swinging into action in 142 local communities across the UK, who have learned that they are to compete in their ITV regions for the public vote to win a share of Big Lottery Fund good cause cash worth £5m. The groups will all be competing head-to-head in November for awards of up to £50,000 in The People’s Millions TV contest soon to be showcased on ITV regional evening news.
The regional contests, awarding grants that benefit local communities, go live in the week of 24 - 28 November.  The 142 schemes will make their bid for the awards on ITV regional news programmes, with the winners being decided in a phone vote.

Business and Other Briefings

ScotGov: The first ever Scottish national portal for public contracting opportunities, Public Contracts Scotland, has been launched as part of the Scottish Government's Economic Recovery Plan. It is a free service for suppliers to have easy access to all essential information on public sector business opportunities, worth around £8bn a year in Scotland.
The project is already improving access to public business opportunities, with over 10,000 suppliers registered and information on over 700 contract notices published since the technology went live in July.
HMRC: Over 170,000 agents have called HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Agents Dedicated Lines (ADLs) since they started being rolled out 3 months ago. With the last line going live on 30 October, agents throughout the country will receive a more efficient telephone service from HMRC.  The lines are intended for all enquiries on taxpayer specific calls about Self Assessment (for individuals and partnership matters) and Pay as you Earn (PAYE).
By ringing the number that deals with their clients' records, agents will get to speak to a well-trained adviser who can help with difficult and complex issues.  And if the query cannot be answered straight away, there is an immediate escalation route to a specialist within HMRC.
HM Treasury: Britain's small and medium-sized businesses stand to benefit from up to £4bn in loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) over the next 4 years the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has claimed. As a first step towards this, UK banks have signalled their interest in securing around £1bn a year from the EIB.
This brief gives guidance in relation to certain transactions involving new dwellings and whether HMRC would consider them to be abusive for VAT purposes.

Forthcoming Event

LSN: Do you require more information on the QCF and qualification reforms?  The Qualification Reform Support Programme (QRSP) will be hosting 3 free events in November & December to help you understand & exploit the number of changes occurring from the introduction of the QCF and the reform of vocational qualifications
These events will:
* highlight the interdependencies between the QCF and the other reforms
* explore the potential impact on providers
* provide the opportunity to share other provider perspectives on the reforms
* outline what other support is available

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