In the News
HC: Will we learn the lessons this time? - The Healthcare Commission has commented on the health-related findings of the joint review at LB Haringey, which it carried out with Ofsted and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. The review assessed the Borough’s current arrangements for safeguarding children & young people following the tragic death of a 17-month-old baby boy, known as Baby P.
In response to the joint area review, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has asked the Healthcare Commission to report on the role of the four NHS trusts involved in events leading up to the death of Baby P. He has also asked the Commission to conduct a review to ensure that NHS trusts across England are meeting their obligations to safeguard children.
This review at the four trusts will particularly focus on:
* communication between healthcare professionals & between agencies
* awareness of healthcare procedures for child protection
* recruitment & training
* levels of staffing
Ofsted: A woeful standard of investigation - Ofsted is calling for urgent action to reform the serious case review system which was set up to ensure that lessons are learnt when a child dies or is seriously injured, as a result of abuse or neglect. Since its inception in April 2007, the children’s inspectorate Ofsted has evaluated 92 serious case reviews, finding that 38 (41%) were inadequate.
It has now published an in-depth report into the lessons to be learnt from the first 50 of these reviews, conducted between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2008. Of the 50 serious case reviews considered in the report, 40% were inadequate and none was outstanding.
Learning Lessons: Taking Action highlights that serious case reviews must be more child focused, must be prepared with greater urgency so that lessons can be learned more quickly and that the reviewers must demonstrate greater independence.
The report is highly critical of progress being made to protect society’s most vulnerable children. Serious case reviews are carried out by Local Safeguarding Children Boards following the death or serious injury of a child where abuse or neglect is known or suspected.
HL: Most of the problems are interlinked - Clinks, DrugScope, Homeless Link and Mind have announced the launch of a powerful new partnership, Making Every Adult Matter, which will work to improve policy & service provision for adults with complex problems and multiple needs. The four charities, representing the criminal justice, substance misuse, homelessness and mental health sectors, recognise that their clients often cross over - and can fall between - their services.
The fact that those with complex & multiple problems do not always get the support they need has been recognised by government, but much remains to be done. The extent of the problem is demonstrated time & again by research that shows, for example, that:
* 25% of prisoners leave prison without a settled address
* around 70% of people seeking drug or alcohol treatment experience mental health issues
* 13% of care leavers are homeless at age 19
The coalition has also launched the report - In from the Margins: Making Every Adult Matter - setting out the coalition's priorities and marking the beginning of a crosscutting approach to reconfiguring services and policy. The work of the coalition is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
UKBA: Less ‘economy with truth’ needed for Green Lane - From 1 December 1 2008, UK residents travelling from outside of the EU will be able to bring back an increased amount of duty free shopping. The changes to current restrictions see the allowance for goods such as electrical products & souvenirs double from £145 to £300 (To be increased to £340 on 1 January 2009 to take account of € - £ exchange rate). Additional changes have been made to rules covering wine, fragrance, tobacco and alcohol products.
DWP: Surely the current problem is about keeping those in work, in work? - The Government should extend conditionality so that virtually no one can claim benefits without taking active steps to address barriers to work, according to an independent review undertaken by Professor Paul Gregg from Bristol University, who was commissioned to look at how more people can be helped off benefits and into work.
The report, 'Realising Potential', looks at the requirements currently placed on the unemployed and calls for a new attitude to parents with young children and those on incapacity benefit who could work in the future. The review recommends that nearly everyone on benefits should be required to take steps towards finding employment; with claimants treated as individuals - empowered to design their own route back to work.
Professor Gregg recommends making sanctions quicker, clearer and more effective with a simple & understandable system of fixed penalties for most occasions with a targeted, escalating series of sanctions for repeat offenders who refuse to play by the rules.
PCS: A trade union recognition agreement between PCS and the Training and Development Agency for Schools was signed last week. PCS, whilst eager to begin negotiating with the TDA on the whole gamut of workforce matters, will be taking forward immediately members concerns over their planned relocation.
In line with the Lyons Review, the TDA is planning to relocate to central Manchester by April 2010 with a transitional move to another building in central Manchester taking place between April 2009 and March 2010. However, the union believes that the economic situation has changed so radically recently that the costs to the tax-payer of such a move require ‘serious scrutiny’.
DECC: The world's second largest offshore wind farm has been given the green light to be built off the coast of North Wales. Gwynt y Mor Offshore Wind Farm combined with three other nearby wind farms off the North Wales coast will provide enough clean, green electricity to power the equivalent of 680,000 homes.
The 750MW development by Npower Renewables Ltd has been approved by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Comprising of up to 250 turbines, it will lie some eight miles off the coast, ten miles from Llandudno and eleven miles from the Wirral.
MoD: Actor & presenter Ross Kemp has added his support to the charity uk4u Thanks! Christmas Box campaign. The charity is sending 24,500 boxes full of presents to all Armed Forces personnel serving abroad over Christmas.
Following on from the 1914 gesture from the 17 year-old Princess Mary, who had the idea of presenting a gift from the nation for everyone wearing the King's uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day, forces charity uk4u Thanks! raises money & sponsorship throughout the year to provide these boxes as a way of saying thank you to our Armed Forces and to let them know that people are thinking of them over Christmas.
PCS: The PCS union has announced a breakthrough in its pay campaign by reaching a national agreement with the government over pay. Following intensive talks over the past 3 weeks, the union’s national executive committee endorsed the agreement, which means that money from ‘efficiency savings’ will now be released for pay bargaining in individual departments and related public bodies. The government has also said that there is no 2% cap on pay increases.
Whilst the threat of industrial action has been lifted the union’s pay campaign continues and negotiators will be testing the agreement in pay negotiations. There will also be further talks with the government on performance pay, pay progression, regional pay and reducing the number of bargaining areas.
ScotGov: Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell said 10 advisers will offer hands-on support as part of the £500,000 Energy Saving Scotland Home Help service. Advisers carry out home visits, surveys, assistance with planning applications and follow up support once the technology has been installed.
Monitor: Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts has confirmed the following foundation trusts have been authorised since 1 December 2008, bringing the total to 112 NHS foundation trusts, of which 31 are mental health NHS foundation trusts:
* Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (formerly North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust)
* Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (formerly Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust)
* Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
CLG: New citizenship lessons challenging the notion that there is any conflict between being a good Muslim and a good citizen are starting to be taught in after school madrassahs or mosque supplementary schools, across the country, as part of government efforts to emphasise shared values.
Around 30 madrassahs in East & West London, Bristol, Bradford/Kirklees, Leicester and Oldham/Rochdale are piloting the new materials. Through class discussion, role play and written exercises, the children aged 7-14 are learning (through Islamic tradition) the importance of tolerance & respect, how to be better neighbours, the importance of volunteering and how to play an active part in their schools & communities.
DH: Leading children's illustrators and the children's laureate Michael Rosen have teamed up to provide a unique artistic contribution to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS for children. To accompany, the anniversary poem especially written by Michael Rosen called ‘these are the hands’, Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo), Helen Oxenbury, Tony Ross ( Litttle Princess), Ed Vere ( Mr Big) and Nick Sharatt (Jacqueline Wilson) have provided their own individual visual interpretation of the poem.
HO: A new £1m TV and online FRANK advertising campaign, which shows the dangers of cocaine use, has been unveiled by the Government. The campaign is centred on ‘Pablo the drug mule dog’, who died as he was being used to smuggle cocaine into the country. Waking from the dead, he goes on a mission to find out the truth about the risks & consequences of taking the drug.
The adverts are aimed at 15-18 year olds and signpost young people to the FRANK website.
STFC: New images, taken by instruments on board ESA’s Venus Express, provide a unique insight into the windy atmosphere of our neighbouring planet and reveal that global patterns at the Venus cloud tops are the result of variable temperatures and cloud heights.
Using the spacecraft’s ultraviolet and infrared cameras, the Venus Express team, including UK scientists, have been able to compare what the planet looks like at different wavelengths, allowing them to study the physical conditions & dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere.
DH: Patients are being urged to put ‘people power’ into action by rating the service they receive in hospitals using a new tool on the NHS website, which allows patients to review the services they received in hospital and share their experiences with other patients, hopefully empowering patients to directly influence the quality of care they receive.
The five key areas patients are asked to comment on are:
* dignity & respect
* whether doctors & nurses worked well together
* if patients felt they were involved in decisions around their care
* if they would recommend the hospital to friends & family
As part of the 11 MILLION Takeover Day initiative, 2 young people have been shadowing Care Services Minister Phil Hope. The day aims to get young people more actively involved with the organisations that shape their lives, including the NHS, and to encourage adults to value children more.
DH: The process to select the organisations that will be designated as Academic Health Science Centres (AHSC) has formally opened (closes 12 noon on Friday 16 January 2009). At the same time it has been confirmed that Sir Ian Kennedy has been formally appointed to chair the international panel which will make a recommendation to Secretary of State about which partnerships should be awarded AHSC status.
The NHS Next Stage Review announced the Government's commitment to fostering AHSCs in England. The designation process is intended to allow the Government to identify the University and NHS partnerships best able to realise the synergies between research, education and health services to deliver better patient care.
NE: Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England, has called on Parliament to seize the ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ that is being provided to protect England’s marine environment with the Marine and Coastal Access Bill included the Queen’s Speech.
The Bill contains provisions to look after England’s marine environment by introducing a network of protected areas – Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). In addition, the Bill also promises to transform access around England’s coastline, by empowering Natural England to secure a walking route around the whole coast – at least 30% of which is closed to the public at present.
NE: Some of England’s most beautiful countryside will be more accessible for people with disabilities thanks to a new online facility which maps out the location and terrain of six of England's National Nature Reserves (NNRs).
Using photographs, maps and detailed descriptions, this new online service provides information that everyone will find useful. It will be especially helpful for people with disabilities and their carers, parents with pushchairs to better plan & prepare for a trip to a NNR.
Direct Enquiries Ltd’s assessors walked the six NNRs collating data and mapping each point of accessibility using GPS technology & cameras. The online guides are easy to navigate, offer points of interest and highlight where more information is available on site - such as including Braille signage and voice information boxes, which can be found along the route of the Stiperstones NNR. The guides include details of distances, steps, seating and any boardwalks along the routes.
DIUS: A possible UK-led Moon mission involving 'penetrator' darts that would impact into the Moon's surface will be the focus of a technical study to ascertain its feasibility, the British National Space Centre (BNSC) has announced. A tender process will run until March 2009 to award the study contract. The Phase A technical study is expected to take nine months.
Known as MoonLITE (Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecom Experiment), the unmanned mission aims to place a satellite in orbit around the Moon and deploy 4 penetrators to deliver scientific instruments below the surface of the Moon. MoonLITE could create the first network of geophysics instruments to probe the interior structure of the Moon and help answer questions about how it formed.
The satellite orbiter would then act as a telecommunications station between the surface network and the Earth, relaying information to the Earth during the penetrators' one year life on the strength & frequency of Moonquakes and the thickness of the crust and core. It might also determine whether organic material or water is present in the Polar Regions.
Defra: A contract that is designed to help Defra buildings achieve sustainability targets and provide workplace services management has been awarded to Interserve (Facilities Management) Ltd. The 15-year Sustainable Built Environmental & Workplace Support services contract has a core-services value of approximately £500m and a potential value for non-core services of £400m. It covers Defra estates throughout England & Wales.
Defra's existing facilities management contracts are due to expire at the end of March 2009 and Interserve will take over in April 2009. During the interim period Interserve will work closely with Defra's current teams to ensure a smooth transition.
NA: The National Archives offers unprecedented access to more than 60 years worth of Cabinet papers with the launch of a new website, revealing how British governments of the past made some of the seminal decisions of the 20th century. More than half a million pages of key government papers, taking readers from the First World War to the welfare state, are available to search and download for free.
The project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) digitisation programme, opens up a vast amount of information to people around the world.
TfL: The Mayor is warning Londoners against the temptation of travelling in illegal cabs with the Christmas party season beginning & increasing numbers of revellers travelling home late at night. Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police Service are intensifying their efforts to crack down on the menace of taxi touting.
PCS: The PCS union have condemned last week’s announcement that HMRC are to go ahead with the closure of 93 offices across the UK and the loss of over 3,400 jobs by 2011. With the economic picture growing ever bleaker, the union warned that the closures would be bad for business, the public & the taxpayer and would lead to the loss of valuable skills and expertise.
The union expressed deep concern that the ability of the department to collect revenues and provide tax advice to the public & local businesses would be further undermined by the closures. Services are already suffering in HMRC with a drive to axe 25,000 jobs and close over 200 offices, leading to backlogs of post & reports that the department can only chase up those who owe £20,000 or more in tax due to a lack of resources.
FSCS: The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has contacted almost all 214,713 Icesave customers offering them compensation following the closure of the internet bank Icesave. FSCS sent letters last week to those individuals who are eligible to claim via the online system, but have not yet claimed. The letter informs claimants that they should claim online as soon as they are able following the instructions in the second email.
There were around 17,000 UK Icesave customers who were unable to claim compensation through the online process. Approximately 16,000 of those have been sent an application form and the remaining 1,000 will receive them shortly. FSCS has started processing those application forms that have been returned and aims to complete claims within six weeks of receipt.
The sending of some ISA certificates has been delayed after scheduled pre-print testing identified an issue in relation to certificate data. UK Icesave customers will be able to use the certificates to open new ISAs by 5 April 2009without losing their tax status.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
Cabinet Office: The Prime Minister has set out the Government's 'fair rules' agenda, outlining a wide range of policy initiatives designed to support strong communities. The 'Fair Rules for Strong Communities' strategy sets out a comprehensive series of reforms covering welfare reform, crime & policing, children & young people, business rules, immigration and communities, which are designed to bring people together and steer the country through the global economic downturn.
Building on the action taken to deliver economic help to families & businesses, the strategy sets out over 50 measures to strengthen the rules that tie communities together, strengthen enforcement and provide for clearer consequences for rule-breakers. This includes a new 'one strike rule' for benefits cheats under which they could lose their benefits for up to 4 weeks.
ScotGov: NHSScotland has robust plans in place to cope with extra demand over the winter months, Chief Executive Kevin Woods has claimed, saying that NHS boards were laying on extra staff & beds to deal with the expected increases in GP visits and hospital admissions in their areas.
Meanwhile, special NHS boards like NHS24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service, which cover the whole of Scotland, are prepared for the anticipated rise in calls, particularly over Christmas and New Year when many GP surgeries will shut for two 4-day periods.
WAG: A report which gives a snapshot of how public authorities are taking account of disability equality in their work has been presented to Assembly Members by Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons. It is the first time a report of this kind has been published by Welsh Ministers who have a legal duty to do so.
The Discrimination Act 1995 states that every three years a report about the progress being made towards improving equality of opportunity for disabled people will be published. The Minister said that this report has identified that public authorities are making good progress in meeting their duties under the act.
DWP: Giving credit unions and other third sector partners direct access to Social Fund money so they can better help those on low income who have difficulty accessing financial services is one of the options unveiled by Kitty Ussher recently as part of a discussion on reforming the Social Fund.
Organisations such as credit unions are experienced in helping people on low incomes and have proved successful in giving them a sound financial basis upon which to progress. The Government will investigate how they might work more closely with credit unions and other external providers to deliver the further financial services that Social Fund customers need.
However, the PCS union has warned that the plans would lead to the privatisation of the Social Fund allowing private companies to profiteer from loaning public money to some of the most disadvantaged in society. Whilst supporting the principles behind credit unions, the union also expressed concern over their capacity to administer the Social Fund’s loan system.
CLG: Top business men, journalists, servicemen, a fire-fighter, lawyers and media experts are amongst the twenty individuals named in the first-ever national role model programme for Black boys and young Black men by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.
The REACH role models are from a wide range of occupations and many different parts of the country include an army officer, a barrister, a TV weatherman, a fire fighter, a royal navy engineer, top business consultants and entrepreneurs, a teacher, local council leaders, a probation officer, accountants and finance experts, a civil servant and a TV presenter and were selected because of their outstanding abilities to inspire, lead and connect with young black boys.
DH: A ban on 'all you can drink' promotions in pubs & bars is among a range of new measures announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Health Secretary Alan Johnson, supported by a new £4.5m crackdown on alcohol fuelled crime and disorder.
Following an independent review, which found that many retailers are not abiding by their own voluntary standards for responsible selling & marketing of alcohol, the Government now intends to introduce a new mandatory code of practice to target the most irresponsible retail practices. In a public consultation on a mandatory code in July 2008, over 90% of approximately 2,000 respondents supported a mandatory code.
The Government also commissioned an independent review of the effects of price & promotion on alcohol-related harm, the findings of which suggest that changes to how alcohol is priced & promoted could deliver reductions in health harms, crime and absenteeism from work.
However, the ScHARR review is a very detailed study examining a wide range of policy options. The Government needs to evaluate these before deciding whether or not to act in this area. Details of how this will be done will follow in due course.
WAG: The Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, has outlined the response of the Welsh Assembly Government to Phase 2 of OFCOM’s review of Public Service Broadcasting, as set out in the consultation document published in September 2008.
The response outlines the need for OFCOM and the UK Government to provide a financial incentive to ensure the continued provision of Welsh news and current affairs on ITV1.
DH: A three-year £12m communications campaign to promote public awareness around stroke (the third leading cause of death in the UK and the single largest cause of adult disability in England) has been announced by Health Minister Ann Keen. The campaign will be launched in February 2009.
The awareness campaign will teach the public and NHS staff to remember FAST - Face Arm Speech Time to call 999 - to help them recognise the symptoms of stroke and understand that prompt emergency treatment can reduce the risk of death and disability. Improving public awareness of the symptoms of stroke is a key element of the National Stroke Strategy, published one year ago.
CLG: The Government has published legislation - the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill- which is intended to give local people new rights to shape local services and give greater responsibility to local authorities to promote economic development helping communities respond to local challenges.
The Bill is the next step in transforming communities and public services - by implementing policies set out in Communities in Control White Paper and in the Government's Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration (SNR).
Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has welcomed publication of legislation - the Marine and Coastal Access Bill - intended to provide better protection & development of the seas around Britain. The Government has agreed a UK-wide approach to marine planning with the Devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with more functions devolved to Scottish and Welsh ministers – See also ‘General News’ item from Natural England.
WAG: Providing equality of opportunity and the best possible chances in life for disabled children & young people was the message recently from First Minister Rhodri Morgan and Children’s Minister Jane Hutt, as they launched the Welsh Assembly Government’s first policy agenda for disabled young people in Wales.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) published a feedback statement for consultation (closes on 1 March 2009) following its review of the structure of the Listing Regime. The proposed changes will provide further clarity to the Listing Regime and are intended to help maintain the integrity of the UK markets enabling issuers & investors to make informed decisions.
The FSA will consult on changes to the Listing Rules to reflect the proposals and aim to provide feedback in the summer of 2009.
PADA: The Personal Accounts Delivery Authority (PADA) has launched its consultation (closes 4 March 2009) on ‘decumulation - Securing a retirement income. PADA is considering the options for helping members of personal accounts get a good deal when they retire and is seeking views to inform its approach.
PADA is proposing that the personal accounts scheme will design a largely self-service process to help members decide which retirement product will suit their specific needs. The personal accounts scheme will not provide annuities for members, but intends to ensure that its members have clear information about the decisions they need to make, and how they can buy one.
DCMS: From the lofty spires of Westminster Abbey to the rugged beauty of the Giant's Causeway and the Causeway Coast - How best do we protect the UK's World Heritage Sites - asks a consultation (closes on 24 February 2008) launched by Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham.
At present all nominations added to the World Heritage List are taken from the UK Tentative List - a shortlist of sites, updated every ten years, which have been judged by the UK to fulfil the criteria demanded by UNESCO in order to be recognised as being of 'outstanding value'.
Ahead of this consultation, DCMS with its funding partners Historic Scotland and Cadw commissioned a cost benefit analysis of World Heritage Site status. The review is published alongside the consultation paper.
ScotGov: Fewer household developments would require planning applications under proposals unveiled by the Scottish Government. The consultation (closesFriday 13 March 2009) on permitted development rights seeks views on removing red tape for people who want to carry out alterations or minor developments in and around their homes.
The proposals include:
* Allowing extensions up to 50% of a house's original footprint, up to the height of the house
* Introducing new rights for installing decking, small porches and alterations to chimneys
* Increasing the maximum area of gardens that can be developed under permitted development rights
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities’ Commissioners have agreed detailed plans to implement its inquiry into the future of England’s upland communities. They particularly want to hear the voices of people often overlooked in public debate.
The timetable includes a public ‘call for evidence’ scheduled for February 2009, together with a short series of evidence gathering seminars and six regional hearings. The inquiry will be open to all to contribute, with live reporting as they move forward.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper (closes on 4 March 2009) which proposes an overhaul of the liquidity requirements for banks, building societies and investment firms. The proposed rules are based on recently agreed international liquidity standards, in particular the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s (BCBS) Principles for Sound Liquidity Risk Management and Supervision and also take into account difficulties faced in the market over the past 18 months.
As part of the CP the FSA is also pre-consulting on the reporting requirements for the new liquidity regime. The consultation period runs for a month and the FSA will then look to issue a separate reporting CP in Q1 2009.
Ofgem: Energy regulator Ofgem has published the second consultation document (closes on 13 February 2009) for the electricity distribution price control for 2010-2015. Distribution charges account around 14% of a typical domestic customer’s electricity bill.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
TfL: Freight operators signed up to Transport for London's Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) are now taking advantage of one of the free benefits available with the scheme. FORS is an industry-led membership scheme that offers practical advice & guidance to freight operators in London to help them drive down costs and become safer & more environmentally-focussed drivers.
As part of the scheme, TfL is now making in-vehicle driver profiling, using the ‘GreenRoad Safety Centre’, available to all members to help improve driver safety and efficiency. This innovative device uses in-vehicle sensors to collect information on up to 120 different driving manoeuvres, such as acceleration, braking, lane changing, cornering and speed handling.
This information is analysed in real-time to give drivers continuous feedback about areas that require improvement. It is also used to build a driver profile. Driver safety and economy levels are displayed using a colour classification system: green light indicates safe driving, yellow needs attention and red is high risk.
WAG: Wales is the first country in the UK to publish guidance on the welfare of dogs, cats and horses in a bid to inform people of the responsibility, time & cost involved in caring for an animal properly. Cases of animal cruelty & abandonment continue to rise, which suggests that not all prospective pet owners have considered carefully the responsibilities associated with looking after an animal.
The Codes of Practice for Dogs, Cats and Equines (which includes horses and donkeys) have all-party support in the National Assembly are welcomed by animal welfare groups. They are practical guides for people who own, or are thinking of getting a dog, cat or horse.
CLG: New guidance highlights the many ways in which New Deal for Communities projects are working to ensure that efforts continue to turn around the most deprived areas of the country when the programme comes to an end in 2010.
Two reports on the New Deal for Communities programme have also published:
* Neighbourhood Governance: making NDC elections a significant event for partnerships and communities?
* Worklessness policy and practice issues based on NDC experience
ScotGov: Scots are being urged to take steps to avoid preventable deaths - including some cancers - by Scotland's Chief Medical Officer. To accompany his third annual report - focusing this year on the main causes of death in Scotland and how these can be prevented - Dr Harry Burns has recorded a cancer prevention podcast.
Available on the Scottish Government website, the podcast outlines how to help yourself reduce your risk of developing cancer and includes advice on screening to increase early detection.
DIUS: The UK’s national progress report on innovation has been published by the UK Government as Ministers underlined the vital role innovation has to play in securing the country's long term prosperity. The Annual Innovation Report outlines progress made on innovation to help transform public services and ensure UK businesses benefit from the £175bn spent annually through Government procurement.
In addition, the Innovation Research Centre has also been announced. The centre will be funded by DIUS, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).
ScotGov: NHSScotland has been given a clean bill of financial health in the latest report by Audit Scotland into its performance in 2007-08. NHSScotland has cut its underlying deficit from £92m to just £16m in 2007-08 with the deficit set to fall to just £3m in the current year.
All NHS boards have predicted they will break even in 2008-09, except the Western Isles where the situation is nonetheless improving. Sickness absence rates are falling, but remain above the 4%
General Reports and Other Publications
HEFCE: Details of how universities & colleges can do still more to help businesses during an economic downturn have been published recently by Universities UK and GuildHE, supported by HEFCE. The brochure, 'Standing together: universities helping business through the downturn', sets out the kind of support universities & colleges can offer employers, both in the current economic climate and longer term.
With over 150 providers to choose from, it lists a point of contact within each HE institution for businesses to use to find out more about how higher education and business support providers can help them.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has published the findings from the fourth annual census of the ethnicity of inpatients in mental health & learning disability services. The figures continue to show that some black & minority ethnic (BME) groups are three or more times more likely than average to be admitted as inpatients in mental health services.
As a result, the report calls for healthcare providers, local authorities and other statutory agencies to work together to prevent & better manage mental illness in BME groups. Some BME groups are also more likely to be detained on admission and are more likely to be admitted through the criminal justice system.
The report notes issues such as higher rates of mental illness in some ethnic groups, socio-economic factors, living alone and family & social support, as important factors in the different pathways into care and rates of admission & detention of some BME groups.
ESRC: A major reform of the way that NHS hospitals pay for legal liability insurance has led to improvements in patient safety, according to research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Offering discounts on insurance premiums to hospitals that meet certain targets has led to falls in MRSA infection rates.
A team of academics looked at how the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) had changed the way that hospitals paid into the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts (CNST), which funds the cost of clinical negligence claims, and whether these changes had improved patient safety.
IfL: The Institute for Learning (IfL) has published a report summarising the findings of its first member survey, which nearly 6,500 members completed during summer 2008. The purpose of the survey was to help IfL learn more about its members' views so far and develop a better understanding of what they valued and their requirements.
LSN: The Learning and Skills Network’s quest to understand employability skills has revealed ten key messages. The document summarises their quest, over the past twelve months, to understand what we mean by ‘employability skills’; their importance to learners and employers; and how colleges, work-based learning and other providers are tackling the issue.
CRE: The Commission for Rural Communities has submitted the first of its regular reports to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the rural impacts of the recession. Its briefing helps inform his contribution to the National Economic Council, which meets weekly to consider impacts of the recession and recovery measures.
NSG: What is evidence? Whose evidence is it? How can using evidence help deliver better public services? These challenging questions are addressed in a new Evidence Based Policy-Making report, which marks the culmination of a series of seminars run by the National School of Government in partnership with the Public Management Policy Association (PMPA).
The seminars brought together policy professionals & academics involved in the supply of data & analysis to consider issues & tensions which may arise in ensuring policies are evidence based. In particular, areas such as knowledge sharing, understanding different analytical approaches and ways of working together were identified as key to successful collaboration.
NAO: CDC Group plc, the government-owned fund management business tasked to invest in private businesses in developing countries, has exceeded the financial and investment targets set for it in 2004, when it was restructured. CDC has secured a good return on public funds, in a portfolio weighted towards poor countries, and to that extent it has achieved good value for money.
But the Department for International Development (DFID) needs better information to show how far profitable CDC investment contributes to poverty reduction and to confirm improved monitoring of compliance, according to a National Audit Office report.
ScotGov: The use of imprisonment is inappropriate for people with severe & enduring mental health problems according to a thematic inspection report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons. At least 315 prisoners have a severe & enduring mental health problem (4.5% of the prisoner population excluding HMYOI Polmont).
The number of prisoners with these problems is rising and some of them are being released from prison with few, if any, links to continuing support in the community.
Legislation / Legal
BERR: Twelve employment agencies in Plymouth have been issued with warnings for failing to comply with the law. The warnings follow an investigation in Plymouth by the Government's Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate. Between these 12 agencies, inspectors found 68 infringements of the law. Many of these offences were relatively minor, however the worst practices identified included:
* failing to inform workers sufficiently about the type work they would be doing
* agencies failing to confirm the identities of staff they were planning to supply to employers
* risking workers safety by failing to ensure their awareness of H&S issues relevant to their assignments
The Department for Business has also launched a campaign to raise awareness of the Employment Agency Standards inspectorate, particularly among vulnerable agency workers. People can report employment agencies they suspect of breaking the law by contacting the inspectorate.
MoJ: A study into the funding & provision of local legal advice has been announced by Ministers. The Government is keen to assess how recent legal aid reforms and any wider changes to the way in which local advice agencies are funded, have affected the provision of services. The aim is to identify, bring together and analyse the available evidence across England & Wales. The group will submit its report in March 2009.
HO: A new power to close premises involved in persistent anti-social behaviour came into force last week. Police and local authorities can now apply to magistrates' courts to close privately owned, rented, commercial and local authority premises.
The new Premises Closure Order extends crack house closure powers, which have been used successfully to close over 1,000 crack houses and bring respite to hundreds of local communities since they were introduced in 2004, to other premises associated with persistent nuisance.
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
LDA: The London Development Agency (LDA) has announced a £23m programme of combined LDA and European Social Fund (ESF) funding to support the roll out of the LDA’s Personal Best scheme to all London Boroughs. A series of support workshops will also take place in early December at venues across London to help guide applicants through the process.
In line with the Mayor’s policy to help Londoners to survive the economic downturn, the ESF co-financing programme will fund a range of activities including job search, careers advice, basic skills and in-work support to help Londoners get back into the labour market and develop the skills needed by London’s employers.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: New state-of-the-art youth facilities in Enfield and Camden are all set for take off after the success in their bids for millions of pounds of funding from myplace, a Government scheme run by the Big Lottery Fund. The myplace programme is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).
It is funding world-class projects across England that are working to create safe places for young people to go, where they can engage in a wide range of activities and get information & advice from people they trust.
Press release ~ myplace programme ~ BIG – my place ~ Government’s Aiming High strategy
Business and Other Briefings
OFT: The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) has become the first trade body within the debt management industry to successfully secure approval for its code of practice under the OFT Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).
Debt management companies act on behalf of consumers to help clear outstanding debts by negotiating with creditors and facilitating repayments. In return for their services, these companies are generally paid a fee by the customer. DEMSA currently has 4 members, who between them deal with around 38% of all fee-paying debt management cases handled in the UK.
HMRC: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has issued a reminder to large employers about important PAYE changes coming into effect next April. From 6 April 2009, employers with 50 or more employees must send the following in-year PAYE information online:
* Form P45(1) - details of employee leaving
* Form P45(3) - new employee details
* Form P46 - employee without a form P45
* similar information for people receiving a pension
HMRC: The Corporation Tax Bill, introduced into Parliament by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, has been published. The Bill is the fifth produced by the Tax Law Rewrite project which rewrites UK direct tax law to modernise it so that it is clearer & easier to use.
Marine fuels and marine voyages excise duty relief - proposed consultation exercise.
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