In the News
ScotGov: At least some aid to Africa is properly applied - An independent review of projects run by Scottish organisations in Malawi shows that the Scottish Government's International Development Fund (IDF) is making real contributions to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It confirms that, although the scale of Scotland's contribution is relatively small, its grant-funded projects are having direct, positive impacts on the lives of people in Malawi. Examples in the review of projects contributing to achievement of the MDGs include Scottish International Relief's very successful Mary's Meals programme.
The programme delivers free school meals to a quarter of a million Malawian primary school children, in communities where poverty & hunger prevent access to education. The review shows Mary's Meals helping to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG1) and at the same time enabling children to attend school, contributing to achievement of universal primary education (MDG2).
DH: Action this time or just yet more consultative spin? - A new commission of experts to advise the Government on the future role of nurses and midwives has been announced. The Prime Minister's Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery will ‘build on the existing work identified in Lord Darzi's report High Quality Care for All and consider how nurses can further improve safety, champion high quality patient care and give nurses and midwives more freedom to manage, commission and run their own services’.
All branches of nursing and midwifery will be considered including health visitors, mental health & learning disability nurses and paediatric nurses. These leading experts in the field of nursing will:
* identify the skills & support that frontline nurses and midwives need to take a central role in delivering 21st century health services for patients
* consider how to build on these expanding roles, including giving nurses and midwives more freedom to manage & run their own services
* work together with the profession, patients and the public to advise on how nurses can contribute to the implementation of Lord Darzi's vision to improve the safety and quality of patient care
The Commission will consult with the profession, patients and the public over the coming months in a series of events to take place around the country (likely to take place from June onwards). They will report to the Prime Minister by March 2010.
MoD: Encouraging the Qs of the future - A range of unmanned vehicles were recently on display at a major event to mark National Science and Engineering Week, an annual series of events celebrating science, engineering & technology and their importance in our lives.
Organised by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) and Defence Manufacturers Association (DMA), the event revealed how unmanned vehicles - in the air, on the ground, and under water - are increasingly being used for civil & military purposes.
From the disposal of unexploded bombs on UK soil, to performing surveillance and reconnaissance on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, unmanned vehicles of all shapes & sizes are increasingly helping people to perform a multitude of tasks.
LLUK: Help pilot better community engagement - The Scottish Government is seeking expressions of interest from organisations who would like to participate as a pilot project for the ‘Better Community Engagement: Development of a learning programme to support and improve practice in engaging with communities’.
ScotGov is seeking between 6 and 10 projects from different contexts in community engagement, to participate in this work. If you would like to be considered to participate as a pilot project, please complete & return the Expression of Interest Form, to Wendy-Louise Smith, by Friday 27 March 2009.
It is estimated that the appointed contractors will start this work in mid-April. All projects submitting an expression of interest will be notified by Friday 8 May as to whether they have been selected to participate in this work or not. It is expected that work with the local demonstration projects and the contractor will have started before mid-June.
ScotGov: Another ICT promise, but will it deliver? - A system allowing child protection agencies across Scotland to share information quicker and better ensure safeguards are in place for those at risk is to be developed over the coming year. The £1.5m Vulnerable Person's System (VPS) is intended to help agencies react faster to changes in a child's circumstances in the future, to keep them safe from neglect & abuse.
The VPS - which will also cover vulnerable adults - will initially allow police forces to share secure, accurate and up-to-date information electronically, but will be open to other agencies in due course. The VPS - designed on the existing ViSOR (Violent and Sex Offender Register) system - will go live for police forces throughout 2010-11.
From 2011 the VPS will be incorporated into eCare - the Scottish Government's multi-agency, electronic information sharing framework. At that point, the VPS will enable the police and other bodies, like social work & health, to bring together key information from various agencies' systems.
Newswire – DCSF: Computer systems just record data, actions require adequate numbers of trained & co-ordinated professionals - Lord Laming called for a step change in leadership & practice to help protect children from harm as he published his report into how children’s services have progressed since 2004. His far-reaching report, The Protection of Children in England: A Progress Report, was commissioned by the Children’s Secretary Ed Balls in November 2008 and looks at Children’s Services across England.
The report recognises that Every Child Matters is the right framework for safeguarding children, but that more must now be done to ensure that it is implemented in practice to provide the best quality care & protection for every child at the front door of each of the key services.
Lord Laming called on Government to set explicit priorities for the protection of children & young people and reflect these in the targets for each of the key frontline services, while ensuring sufficient resources are in place to deliver these priorities. He also recommends Government establish a National Safeguarding Delivery Unit to inject greater energy & drive into the implementation of change and to support local improvement.
Industry News: Validate your security functionality - Lumension™ Inc., has announced that it has received CESG Claims Tested Mark (CCTM) accreditation for its Lumension Device Control 4.3.2, which assures UK public bodies of its security functionality. The device enforces organisation-wide usage policies for removable devices, removable media and data. As a CCTM accredited product, it can now be used within the public sector, Central Government and the MoD.
In response to the recent publication by the Cabinet Office of the Data Handling Procedures in Government report, Lumension have published a White Paper, which aims to guide government employees and their partner agencies on how Lumension’s products can assist in meeting these data handling requirements, specifically with regards to the control & visibility of removable media used by government personnel; the auditing of data transferred to and from such media and the encryption of data stored on portable devices.
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WAG: Jocelyn Davies AM, Deputy Minister for Housing, recently met some of the first people to move into new social housing bought with some of the £42m funding, aimed at helping to boost the economy. In December 2008, Ms Davies announced that the Strategic Capital Investment Fund (SCIF) money would be available for Housing Associations to buy unsold homes and plots from private contractors.
The money has been given to Local Authorities to create up to 500 new affordable homes. The funding allows Housing Associations to increase the number of affordable homes and inject liquidity into the construction industry. Cadwyn Housing Association used some of its money to help purchase two properties at Whitworth Square housing estate in Whitchurch, Cardiff from Bellway homes adding to its existing stock on the estate.
Defra: Farmers will have more opportunities to discuss their views, ideas and concerns with Defra staff at this year's Livestock Market roadshow. The UK-wide tour, which began on 13 March 2009 in Hexham and Exeter, will consist of visits to more than 80 markets throughout the year, giving farmers the chance to talk directly to government representatives about areas that affect the industry.
The topics farmers are likely to raise at the markets are as diverse as Bluetongue, electronic identification of sheep, nitrates, bovine TB, Classical Swine Fever; Avian Influenza and the impact of climate change on agriculture.
STFC: Two months before the release of Hollywood’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling science fiction novel ‘Angels and Demons’, hundreds of A-level students have been to see the ‘real’ science from CERN (the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, based in Geneva) where part of the movie was filmed.
The 16-18 year olds came to the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC’s) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) last week for the annual ‘Particle Physics Masterclass’. The sessions, designed to encourage more students to move into a career in science, involve students from as many as 40 schools across the South East. Across the world, as many as 600 schools take part in classes like these.
WAG: Health Minister Edwina Hart last week approved plans to bring ‘hotel services’ staff at Neath Port Talbot Hospital back into NHS employment. The staff, who provide services from cleaning to catering, moved to a private company when the Private Finance Initiative-funded hospital opened in 2002.
The One Wales document commits the Welsh Assembly Government to end competitive tendering for NHS cleaning contracts and eliminate the use of the private sector in the NHS. These 250 support staff at the hospital will now be in line with others at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS Trust providing the same services.
ScotGov: Universities are being invited to bid for funding for a pilot scheme which will provide support for up to 150 part-time post-graduate students in Scotland. The scheme will help PG students undertake courses during the downturn which support the Government's economic priority sectors - the creative industries, energy, financial & business services, food & drink, life sciences and tourism or the 2 public sector priority areas health and education.
In addition, the Scottish Government aims to treble & expand the Career Development Loans (CDLs) scheme in Scotland. This will increase the number of learners able to benefit from CDLs in Scotland from around 1,200 each year to up to 3,600 by 2010-11. It will increase the maximum loan available from £8,000 to £10,000 and enable students to use this to cover up to 100% of their course fees, compared to 80% at present.
Invites for bids will be sent to all Scottish universities in mid March with a submission deadline of the end of April.
NA: More than 100,000 records of overseas births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials of British subjects, including those onboard ships, have been added to the searchable online service at BMDRegisters. These newly added records were previously only viewable on microfilm as the RG 33 series.
Overseas births, marriages and deaths are an often overlooked resource accounting for over a million entries for British subjects. The material relates mostly to the 19th and 20th centuries, but includes some for the 17th century concerning the English congregation at The Hague.
PCS: The PCS union has expressed its deep opposition to Lord Mandelson's decision to outsource the delivery of a new helpline for vulnerable workers experiencing employment rights violations. The unified helpline was a key recommendation of last year’s BERR Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, but the forum did not recommend that the new hotline be outsourced.
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: “I am deeply disappointed that yet again the Government is turning to the private sector to deliver a crucial public function. The most vulnerable workers need real support and advice and this helpline could have been effectively delivered by dedicated public servants."
ScotGov: Remember to re-use your carrier bags: that's the simple message behind a new campaign from the Scottish Government and Scottish retailers. With Scotland using 1bn carrier bags a year and Scottish local authorities spending £385m a year dealing with waste, the campaign aims to help stores halve the amount of bags they hand out.
The Climate Change Bill, which was introduced on 4 December 2009, includes a provision that would allow Scottish Ministers to make legislation requiring retailers to charge for bags.
VSO: As her first public action in office, VSO’s first female Chief Executive Marg Mayne is spearheading the charity’s demand for the UN to establish a new women’s agency. This International Women’s Day (8 March 2009), she called on Gordon Brown to put pressure on leaders of UN member states to establish an agency with the responsibility, authority and resources to end discrimination against women.
The current UN system is failing women because the responsibility for improving their situation is divided across a number of small, poorly-funded and badly-coordinated bodies that lack power or influence and have little operational capacity on the ground.
Next month, the UN Secretariat will present General Assembly members with a paper outlining a number of options for a new agency and will be asked to make a decision in September.
PCS: PCS members working in the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) are specifically & directly affected by the government’s proposed Apprenticeships, skills, children and learning Bill. PCS has particular concerns regarding staff transfer arrangements outlined in Schedule 7 of the Bill as, in its current form it makes no reference to COSOP or TUPE and offers no assurances in relation LSC staff’s continuity of service or protections in relation to terms and conditions on transfer.
PCS is asking people to email their MP urging them to demand that Learning and Skills Council staff receive the protections they deserve.
OS: Ordnance Survey is urging children to take their mums for a walk this Mother’s Day (22 March) following a survey (carried out by OS as part of its work with Fitter Families) showing that family members are the perfect partner for an afternoon walk.
For ideas on where to take your mum for a walk, visit the Ordnance Survey EXPLORE website, where users have created and shared their favourite routes. There are over 400 walks of various lengths & difficulty across the country, so there’s bound to be one to suit every family.
Policy Statements and Initiatives
CLG: The Muslim Women's Advisory group have kicked off a project to get more Muslim women involved in politics. There are at least 800,000 Muslim women living in Britain today but they are under-represented in positions of influence in British civic society including roles such as school governors and local councillors.
The Muslim Women's Advisory Group therefore wants to provide the support to increase the skills, knowledge, and confidence, of Muslim women to enable more to seek positions in civic society and public office.
The project 'Play Your Part - Make Your Mark' will work with women that are already starting to get involved in public life in order to give them the extra support that they need to progress as far as possible; and it will also work with women who have not yet put themselves into the public sphere, but who want to do so.
Defra: Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government have published 'Healthy Bees', a plan to protect & improve the health of honey bees in England and Wales. The 10 year plan was drafted in consultation with beekeeping organisations and aims to sustain honey bee populations by supporting beekeepers to ensure effective biosecurity measures are adopted to minimise risk from pests and disease.
The first stage of the plan will attempt to identify & make contact with perhaps as many as 20,000 amateur beekeepers to make sure that they are aware of the need to alert the National Bee Unit (NBU) to bee health problems and encourage them to register on BeeBase, its beekeepers database. This will help ensure that any new or existing health problems are identified.
The last two years have seen recorded losses of between 10 to 15% in bee numbers although it is possible that real losses are significantly higher due to the number of beekeepers not in contact with the NBU.
DIUS: Plans to improve the numeracy and literacy skills of 1m adults to help them to get & keep jobs have been published by Sion Simon, Minister for Further Education. Skills for Life: Changing lives updates the Government's Skills for Life strategy launched in 2001 and it will be backed up with Government funding of £1bn+ over the coming year. All Skills for Life numeracy and literacy courses are free of charge to adult learners aged 16+ in England.
WAG: The Welsh Assembly Government has announced a new industry backed group to cut carbon emissions from buildings across the country. The ‘Zero Carbon Hub Wales’ is a coalition of key members of the building industry, housing and voluntary sectors who are committed to helping Wales achieve its carbon reduction targets. The new group will also co-ordinate the 53 organisations who have signed up to Wales’s Green Buildings Charter, the first of its kind in the UK.
WAG has an aspiration to achieve ‘zero carbon’ new build by 2011. It is also committed to reducing green house gases in Wales by 3% a year from 2011 in areas of devolved competence.
Cabinet Office: The Government has set out its vision for the future shape of public services. Working Together - Public Services On Your Side details the steps the Government is taking to ‘give people, communities and frontline staff the information and real power they need to personalise public services. Reflecting their local and individual needs will create a richer, fairer and safer society’.
DH: A review to clarify the rules on organ transplants for NHS patients and non-UK EU residents has been announced by Health Secretary Alan Johnson. A number of organs from UK deceased donors are transplanted into non-UK resident EU nationals each year.
To help ensure public confidence in the fairness & transparency of the organ allocation system in the UK Elisabeth Buggins, the chair of the former Organ Donation Taskforce, has been asked to examine policy & practice (within the framework of European law) on the use of organs from UK deceased donors.
CLG: Plans for delivering the new homes, jobs and infrastructure the East Midlands needs up to 2026 have been announced by Communities Minister Sadiq Khan. The East Midlands Regional Plan will ‘support the long-term economic performance in the region by encouraging the provision of new job opportunities and meeting the region's housing needs. It also deals with the key issues of tackling climate change, including flood risks, and protecting the region's natural and historic environment’.
The Plan focuses growth in the three cities of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, where almost half of the region's population live, and Northampton & Lincoln. Significant levels of development should also be concentrated in the Growth Area towns of Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough.
DH: A panel of experts is to carry out an evidence review to determine whether women under the age of 25 should be routinely screened for cervical cancer. Cervical screening currently starts at age 25 years in England, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations and the advice of leading experts in this country, including the independent Advisory Committee on Cervical Screening (ACCS).
Health Minister, Ann Keen, has asked the ACCS to review the latest available evidence relating to the risks & benefits of cervical screening in women under 25 years. The evidence review will be presented to her later this year.
WAG: A new consultation (closes on 19 June 2009) on a plan to strengthen community health services to support the care of individuals in, or close to, their own homes has been launched by Health Minister Edwina Hart. The main recommendation of the Community Nursing Strategy is to introduce new locality based nursing teams that address the needs of patients across the spectrum from ill-health prevention to the management of complex needs.
The proposed strategy, which includes 43 recommendations in total, is based on a report of the Community Nursing Strategy Working Group which was chaired by the Royal College of Nursing and involved a range of stakeholders.
DfT: Passengers' needs are to be put first under new measures designed to improve air passenger experience and the economic regulation of airports. Under the plans published for consultation (closes on 01 June 2009), the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), will be given a new primary duty to promote the interests of passengers. Air passengers will also get a new champion - 'Passenger Focus' - who will represent them as they do for rail and bus users.
The CAA will also be given a new secondary duty to ensure that airports meet their environmental obligations. The CAA will not be asked to develop its own environmental policies but will be tasked with ensuring that the economic regulation of airports is consistent with existing environmental obligations placed on airports.
HO: A cross-Government public consultation (closes 29 May 2009)to tackle violence against women & girls has been launched by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. It includes a review into police powers for dealing with serial perpetrators of domestic violence and a review of the sexualisation of teenage girls.
The Together We Can End Violence Against Women And Girls Strategy consultation sets out action Government has taken to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. It looks at what more can be done to challenge the attitudes that may uphold it in order to help women and girls feel safer. The consultation will include public and stakeholder events in 40 towns and cities across England over the next nine weeks.
IPO: The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has announced a review of its trademark fees & services with a public consultation (closes on 1 June 2009). A range of options, including a reduced fee package and new support services, aims to help businesses register marks more easily & affordably in the UK, potentially saving them over £700,000 per annum.
The review has been prompted by a decrease in demand for patent and trademark applications in the UK, (down 12% in 2008) with other trade mark offices, including the European trade mark office, also seeing reductions.
SABIP: When Minister David Lammy launched a debate about the role of copyright in the digital age in December 2008, he invited the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy (SABIP) to provide complementary advice to the work of the Intellectual Property Office. SABIP has now published a paper laying out priorities for its copyright work programme over the coming months.
In the paper, the independent advisory body has put forward six areas as strategic priorities for its work on copyright: the role of the copyright system in fostering creativity & innovation, the ownership & coverage of copyright, rights management techniques & technologies, the relationship between copyright & contract law, possible simplification of the copyright framework, and the impact of changing attitudes & practices among consumers.
The paper is not a formal consultation document, but SABIP will welcome any comments on the scope of its work programme, which is designed to provide some fundamental analysis of the complex copyright framework.
ScotGov: The Scottish Government has issued a restricted consultation paper (closes on 3 April 2009) to skippers asking how days at sea should be allocated to Scottish fishing vessels. Under the European Union's new cod recovery plan, member states receive national 'pots' of fishing effort and are free to decide how to allocate days to individual vessels. This is a change from previous years, when EU regulations set day limits for each type of fishing vessel.
Because of this important change, the Government has agreed with the fishing industry that it is right to consult individual skippers on how the new system should work. Since the beginning of February 2009 an interim scheme has been operating. This consultation of Skippers finishes on 30 April 2009.
DECC: The Government has launched two consultations (closing on 4 June 2009) on the regulations which will form the basis of the Carbon Reduction Commitment initiative. Participating organisations will have to register with the Environment Agency who will administer the scheme – See ‘Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides’ for further information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
DIUS: Universities Minister, David Lammy, has welcomed the next step of the new ‘university challenge’ with the publication of guidance on submitting proposals for new local university centres by the Higher Education Funding for England (HEFCE).
There have been 27 initial expressions of interest so far. The HEFCE document sets out what those developing proposals need to do next.
CLG: Housing Minister Margaret Beckett has announced that councils are being given more support to help them bring empty homes back in to use in the current economic climate. New guidance is being published with the Empty Homes Agency, setting out the range of strengthened powers local authorities have to deal with the problem of empty homes, including the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs).
Empty homes not only restrict housing supply, poorly maintained empty properties attract vermin, cause damp and other problems for neighbouring properties. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors also estimates that properties adjoining poorly maintained empty properties can be devalued by as much as 18%.
DIUS: Businesses will get a helping hand to ensure they reap the benefits of employing the best people at graduate level, with a new online professional recruitment guide. The guide aims to help employers in the professions look outside of their usual practices in recruiting staff, to make sure they are open & fair and they are reaching the most talented people they can.
The step by step guide shows employers how to:
* Write job adverts & place them where they will have the maximum effect
* Sift applications & screen suitable candidates
* Choose the most appropriate way to assess applicants & enable them to showcase all their talents
* Tell successful candidates they have got the job whilst letting unsuccessful candidates down gently
DECC: A new guide has been published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to provide a helping hand to business to prepare for the introduction of the Carbon Reduction Commitment, which will begin in April 2010. The guide establishes who is covered by the scheme and guides the reader step-by-step through what they need to do to take part in the scheme.
The Government has also launched a consultation (closes on 4 June 2009) on the regulations which will form the basis of the initiative. Participating organisations will have to register with the Environment Agency who will administer the scheme.
TfL: As part of the commitment by Mayor of London to smooth traffic flow in the Capital, Transport for London and 18 London boroughs have begun a consultation (restricted to 500+ organisations) on the proposed new London Permit Scheme, which aims to regulate street works. The scheme should help to ensure that any company that wants to dig up London roads causes as little disruption to Londoners as possible.
It is estimated there are around one million holes dug in London’s roads each year, with little or no regulation. Currently, the more than 100 utilities are only required to give short notice of upcoming works – 90% of works are carried out with less than ten days notice to the highway authority.
BERR: The Government has invited views on the role a 'digital rights agency' should play in protecting & promoting the legal use of copyright content online and how industry, consumer groups & government can work together to create an environment where investment in creativity is rewarded. The concept of a 'digital rights agency' was initially recommended in the Digital Britain Interim report, published at the end of January 2009.
This ideas / discussion paper does not represent the formal consultation on the legislative proposals contained under Action 13 of the DBR. Comments about this paper will help inform a separate consultation on Action 13, to be issued shortly. Comments on the Rights Agency discussion paper should be forwarded to DBR@ipo.gov.uk by 30 March 2009.
QCA: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has published two curriculum planning guides for secondary schools:
* The first guide, entitled Sustainable Development in Action, will help teachers build sustainable development into their pupils' learning experience.
* The second guide focuses on incorporating the seven cross-curriculum dimensions of the new secondary curriculum into everyday school lessons.
MCA: Numbers of diving related incidents remained at low levels during 2008 according to Coastguard diving statistics. During 2008, the UK Coastguard dealt with 166 diving related incidents including cases of decompression illness, medical emergencies and broken down vessels. Sadly eight fatalities were recorded.
The greatest single type of incident is still decompression illness (DCI) which accounts for 65 incidents. A further 33 incidents are attributed to rapid ascent, which may have developed into DCI.
General Reports and Other Publications
ScotGov: The Scottish Environmental Attitudes and Behaviours Survey (SEABS), which questioned over 3,000 people, shows that awareness of environmental issues is high and that some greener behaviours are becoming commonplace. But there is still some way to go to tackle stubborn issues like travel habits and more to do to make people realise that their own behaviour can make the world a greener place.
The aim of the survey was to produce dedicated, sound and up-to-date data to support the development & delivery of environmental policy.
NAO: HM Courts Service has taken practical steps to improve the use of the Crown Court’s existing resources, but a number of risks to value for money remain, the National Audit Office recently reported. The Crown Court operates from around 500 court rooms at almost 100 locations around England and Wales. Some Crown Court locations in London and parts of the South East are running at, or close to, full capacity, which can increase waiting times affecting victims, witnesses and other parties in a court case.
Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, said: "The Service needs to improve its allocation and development of staff, so that it has enough well-trained people in each of its court locations, and tackle weaknesses in IT systems which currently bring operational risks and impair efficiency."
OFT: The Office of Fair Trading has published its report on the impacts of public support for Northern Rock on competition in financial services. The report fulfils a Government commitment given to Parliament during the passage of legislation to nationalise Northern Rock in February 2008, which stated that the OFT would publish an annual report assessing any competitive implications of public support for Northern Rock.
Taking into account the available information, including the constraints placed on Northern Rock by its 'competitive framework', and in the context of severe financial instability in the year to February 2009, the OFT has concluded that public support for Northern Rock did not, during that period, have a significantly adverse impact on competition.
The OFT will consult on a Financial Services Strategy in March 2009, which will lead to a Financial Services Plan later in 2009. The Plan is expected to cover consumer & competition issues across the financial services sector. This would encompass, where appropriate, consideration of competition issues relating to public support to banks, including where relevant, Northern Rock.
Socitm: Few Councils are realising the benefits they could from flexible & mobile working and, as a result, are missing out on potential savings. The problem is not a technical one says the briefing, since most councils now have the required infrastructure. Obstacles are mostly around resistance to change and reluctance to let go of 20th century management thinking which says: ‘If I can’t see my people, how do I know they are working?’
The briefing gives examples of efficiency and other benefits that organisations are realising from mobile & flexible working, centred on four main areas: people, buildings, mobility and the environment. It challenges managers to look at the facts and justify failure to act when there are opportunities to drive productivity up by 40% and simultaneously make dramatic improvements in customer service.
ScotGov: Almost all of the comments of young offenders in HMP Greenock and HMP Perth about their experience were positive. However, almost all of the comments of young offenders in Cornton Vale were negative, according to the latest report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons.
All three locations have established excellent links with community organisations who contribute greatly to the reintegration process. When staff are focused on, and have an interest in, a particular group, then that group is better off - particularly if it is in a smaller unit close to families.
The experience of female young offenders in Cornton Vale is not good. There is very little for them to do and they consistently mix with adult prisoners in various circumstances. A smaller unit, specifically for women under 21 years of age, should be considered.
ESRC: The most ambitious independent policy review in the UK for over a decade was published last week and it makes challenging reading for both Government and Opposition. How has Britain progressed over the last decade? What are the next big choices that face us in the coming one?
These questions are addressed in the review, launched as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science. Drawing on contributions from more than 60 leading experts, the reviewers document the post-97 Government’s successes such as on science and technology policy and health.
The review also documents areas where progress has been weak, such as on housing and planning, transport and the environment.
NAO: An initiative, begun in 2004, by the National Offender Management Service to build a single offender management IT system for the prison & probation services has not delivered value for money. A National Audit Office investigation found the project had been hampered by poor management leading to a 3-year delay, a doubling in project costs and reductions in scope & benefits.
More recently, the National Offender Management Service has made progress in getting the project back on track; but the core aim of the original project of a single shared database of offenders will not be met. The Service has however reduced the number of databases used from 220 to3.
Ofsted: Government investment and better planning in schools have contributed to improvement in the quality of school information & communication technology (ICT) lessons, yet not all pupils are benefiting, according to a report published by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.
The report, The importance of ICT: information and communication technology in primary and secondary schools 2005/8, found that schools are now making the subject a high priority for development. The picture was most positive in primary schools, where achievement & standards rose as the survey progressed.
In secondary schools students were adept at using ICT to present their work and communicate ideas, but standards in using spreadsheets, databases and programming were low. In both primary and secondary schools many higher-attaining pupils were insufficiently challenged. Despite it being a statutory requirement, one in five secondary schools made insufficient provision for students who chose not to take an ICT qualification at Key Stage 4.
NAO: The project to replace the UK’s ageing Anti Air Warfare capability, which is currently provided by the Type 42 destroyer, has suffered significant delays of over two years and costs have escalated to some £6.5bn, up by nearly 30% from initial estimates of £5bn.
More recently, the project has progressed well, with key milestones, such as completion of sea trials, being met, according to a report released by the National Audit Office. The problems arose because of over-optimism about what could be achieved, inappropriate commercial arrangements and, in the early stages, poor project management.
As part of the MOD’s plan to fit a number of equipments incrementally on ships after they have come into service, the full capability of the Type 45 will not be available until the middle of the next decade. These include the final elements of PAAMS, communications equipments and the Co-operative Engagement Capability which provides a clearer picture of the battle space and has a current target date of 2014 for installation.
DCMS: The results of a pilot programme to introduce a new system of self-assessment and peer review for directly sponsored museums has been published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The pilots were carried out at the National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum and Tyne & WearMuseums.
Each museum was asked to detail its vision, its successes and its challenges. In each case the peer review was then conducted by a panel of three individuals, from both the UK & abroad and from a range of professional backgrounds.
The peer reviews took place over three days and the panel reports include a critique of the self-assessment, an over-arching appraisal of the excellence across the museums functions and a set of recommendations for each museum to consider. Each museum was also asked to provide a management response to the peer review.
ACE: Arts Council England has published an independent evaluation of a proposal from the Royal Opera House (ROH) and Manchester City Council (MCC) to open a new opera and ballet producing theatre in the rebuilt Palace Theatre, Manchester.
Leading arts consultant Graham Marchant was commissioned in October 2008 to conduct the evaluation, which examined the potential of the plans to expand opera and dance provision, develop new audiences and provide more training & skills development to the sector. The evaluation also looked at the plans’ possible impact on other cultural organisations, including those producing and touring this type of work in the north of England and across the country.
HC: The Healthcare Commission (HC) has published a report detailing progress by 154 NHS acute trusts since it reviewed services for children in hospital in 2005/06. The review showed that services were generally good when children were inpatients in specialist paediatric services. But there was a need for significant improvement in the care of children being treated in other settings.
This latest report focuses on emergency & day case settings, looking at the areas that the HC had previously highlighted as particular concerns. Results for each trust across 19 indicators of performance are published alongside the report. The HC said that although some trusts had improved, overall progress was mixed.
Legislation / Legal
EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.
DCMS: Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, has announced how he intends to proceed on some key broadcasting policies set out under the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. He has called for the video-on-demand industry to work together to help form a co-regulatory body that will maintain ‘standards of content’.
He also intends to maintain the current rules preventing product placement in programmes made for British television, but that it will review the position in 2011/12. The plans put forward are part of the 's obligation to implement the EU Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive, and follow a 3 month consultation.
Under the Directive, the and other member states have until December 2009 to implement the compulsory elements which are expected to lead to new legislation. The 3 areas in which work now has to go forward are:
* introducing a system for regulating video-on-demand services in the UK
* controls over the content of non-EU satellite channels which are up-linked from a ground station in the UK
* product placement in television and video-on-demand services
Press release ~ EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive ~ Closed Consultation
Defra: Minimum energy efficiency standards for industrial electric motors have been unanimously agreed by the European Commission. Electric motors are used widely in industry for processes such as pumping, ventilation, and in lifts and conveyor belts. They currently contribute significantly to non-domestic electricity consumption in the and account for around 70% of the electricity used in industry.
New regulations will set minimum energy standards in motors and are expected to provide net benefits to industry and businesses of around £200m and to save at least 1m tonnes of CO2 each year. Efficiency levels will be phased in from 2011-2017.
Press release ~ Eco-design for Energy Using Products Framework Directive ~ Enhanced Capital Allowance ~ Buy Sustainable - Quick Wins
Charity and Voluntary Sector
ScotGov: The final piece of legislation to protect the charitable status of Scotland's colleges came into force last week. The order addresses the power of Ministers to require a college to hand over the proceeds of a sale of its assets.
In the very unlikely event that, should in the future Ministers choose to exercise this power, the proceeds will now go to an educational charity nominated by Ministers, rather than directly to Ministers. This avoids possible conflict with charity law which requires that charity assets must always be used for a charitable purpose.
The order addresses the second of two separate concerns raised by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). Last June the Parliament exempted colleges from the standard requirement that a charity must operate free from Ministerial control.
BIG: Organisations who are helping to prevent new HIV/AIDS infections, care for people living with HIV/AIDS and mitigate the impact of the epidemic are sharing in over £11.6m from the Big Lottery Fund. Six UK-based organisations have been awarded grants from BIG’s International Programme, which supports projects that help marginalised & impoverished overseas communities to improve their life chances. Of the 6 grants, four are going to projects that will work with people living with HIV/AIDS.
Business and Other Briefings
HMRC: Jersey is to join other Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories as a signatory to a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the UK. TIEAs play a vital role in HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) drive against offshore avoidance and evasion.
HMRC: Two new e-learning packages to help agents & taxpayers understand the new framework for compliance checks & penalties that come into effect in April 2009, are now available:
The e-learning modules are based on the training given to HMRC staff and have been developed with the help of practising agents. They take less than half an hour to complete.
HMRC: Revenue & Customs Brief 05/09This Brief provides guidance about the House of Lords Judgment Marks & Spencer Plc -v- CRC 2009 UKHL 8, which relates to VAT claims made before 26 May 2005 no longer being subject to unjust enrichment.
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