In the News
WAG: Tackling Fuel Poverty in Wales - A major shake-up in the way the Welsh Assembly Government provides support for those in fuel poverty has been announced. The National Energy Efficiency & Savings Plan aims to reduce Wales’s greenhouse gas emissions by making all parts of Welsh society more energy efficient.
The plan includes:
* New rules for the home energy efficiency scheme
* Better, joined up, advice for members of the public on where to get help
* Support for small businesses to become more energy efficient
* Helping credit unions provide low cost loans for energy efficiency
* No more public investment in high carbon home heating
A key part of the policy is changes to the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) so that it helps the people who need it most. The scheme currently only provides grants for heating and insulation improvements.
The Assembly Government is proposing to direct more help to people who are on a means tested benefit and live in a property that doesn’t have very good energy efficiency at the moment. There are also proposals for closer work with credit unions to help them offer low interest loans specifically for energy efficiency measures.
DH: Pass Plus scheme for Social Workers - Newly qualified adult social workers will soon be offered more support throughout their first year of practice, with a £4m injection of funding which will pay for a framework of support including:
* An opportunity for councils to apply for £1,000 to support each newly qualified social worker they employ in their first year, plus £1,000 for their supervisor for that year
* A personal development planning tool, outcome statements, a toolkit to support induction, a good practice checklist, tools to record & evaluate continuous professional development and post-registration training as well as completed examples of these
Adult social work departments are invited to apply to Skills For Care for their share of the funding, by completing a 'statement of intent' setting out how they will use the money by 31 March 2009. Email NQSWproject@skillsforcare.org.uk for Funding forms .
DH: Hopefully a change for the better - A new agency to ensure national mental health policies bring about improvements for patients & carers will start work on 1 April 2009. The new agency - the National Mental Health Development Unit - will succeed the current National Institute for Mental Health in England.
The change follows a review of mental health service delivery, taking into account Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review and the need for more personalised services. From April, the ten strategic health authorities will oversee much of the regional & local delivery of new mental health policies, with support from the new Development Unit.
The Development Unit will continue the momentum in co-ordinating support for key mental health projects such as:
* improving access to talking therapies
* promoting equalities in mental health services for different groups, based on race, gender and age
* promoting social inclusion and social justice for people with mental health problems
* promoting well-being & mental health for the whole population
* supporting effective mental health commissioning
HC: Less able to negotiate the care system - The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), the Healthcare Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC), have published a joint report reviewing how councils & PCTs commission services on behalf of people with a learning disability.
The watchdogs conducted the review following a series of reports over the past decade that point to poor care for people with a learning disability, particularly those with complex needs. This is the first review to focus specifically on how councils and PCTs commission services.
The watchdogs said that while improvements have been made to the way services are commissioned, the pace of change was ‘too slow’ and ‘uneven’. They highlighted several concerns in the 9 areas reviewed including:
* Councils & PCTs do not adequately assess the needs of people with a learning disability, their families and their carers living in their local areas in order to properly plan services
* Under current guidance, all people with a learning disability should have a person-centred plan that involves them in decisions about their care. However, only a minority of services users have such a plan. Where they do exist, they are often poor.
* People with learning disabilities and complex needs experience problems in accessing health services
* Service users, families and carers say they feel their views are not always asked for, or listened to
* There is variable access to advocacy to support those people who are less able to speak for themselves
HC/Monitor/DH: Should Health Management be returned to Clinical Staff? - The Healthcare Commission has published an investigation report criticising Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust for significant failings in emergency healthcare, leadership and management. The report states that there were deficiencies at ‘virtually every stage’ in the care of people admitted as emergencies.
Problems identified by the Commission included low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong. It launched its investigation at the trust in March 2008 in response to concerns from local people and when it became clear that the trust stood out statistically in terms of the high death rates of patients admitted as emergencies.
Sir Ian Kennedy, the Healthcare Commission's Chairman, said: "When we expressed our concerns to the trust formally in May 2008, it responded positively and began to take action. Our unannounced inspection of the A&E department in the last few weeks assured us that the service has improved. Our visit raised no immediate concerns about the safety of patients”.
Monitor, the Independent Regulator of NHS foundation trusts, following use of its formal powers to appoint a new interim chair & interim chief executive, has required the Board of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust to take rapid & effective action which addresses all issues highlighted by the Healthcare Commission’s report.
ScotGov: Keep them occupied and out of trouble - The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have jointly published their shared vision for how antisocial behaviour should be tackled. The Framework has been drawn together following a lengthy review of national antisocial behaviour policy and recognises that prevention and early & effective intervention should be at its heart.
The 4 pillars of the Framework are prevention, integration, engagement and communication.
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CIOB: In response to the Government’s discussion paper on the proposed Chief Construction Officer (CCO) role, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called for the position to have a greater focus. It has also called for the timeframe in securing the appointment to be bought forward to 2009.
Given the importance of the industry to the UK economy the CIOB believes the role should be located within a highly influential government department; probably the Cabinet Office, with excellent links into the Treasury, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR).
OGC: OGCbuying.solutions has announced the award of a framework agreement for Natural Gas and Associated services. The framework agreement, awarded to Corona Energy, is available from 1 April 2009, with the first supply period commencing on 1 October 2009.
CIOB: In response to the Government’s consultation for a ‘Definition of Zero Carbon Homes and Non-Domestic Buildings’, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has called for an all encompassing single national reference point for new buildings to create a level playing field across the UK.
In a submission to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the CIOB has stated that a clear set of requirements from the Government is needed and joined-up thinking, inclusion of current industry knowledge and simplification across the industry to address the carbon footprint of new build and non-domestic existing buildings should be encouraged.
The CIOB is disappointed that the consultation does not consider the issue of embodied energy and believes that the UK Government should be taking a lead in developing national standards in that area. Transport, future maintenance & lifetime carbon costs were not considered within this consultation and the CIOB’s submission has stressed that the link between these factors and the newly built environment cannot be ignored.
NSG: A new series of skills programmes for public servants working in the north of England has been launched to help improve the delivery of cost effective public services. The selection of flagship programmes will support managers, leaders & professionals looking to develop their core skills or to explore fresh approaches to their work. These include:
* Northern Lights Leadership Programme designed to help strike a balance between day to day delivery and dealing with longer term strategic issues
* Aspiring to the Senior Civil Service (SCS) to prepare senior managers for the step up to the SCS
* Unlocking Your Leadership provides practical approaches for emerging leaders to acquire the skills needed to lead effectively
* Professional Skills for Government framework that sets out the mix of skills & experience civil servants at all grades need to excel in their jobs
DH: UK residents visiting the Channel Islands must ensure they have adequate travel insurance from 1 April 2009. The current agreement, which allowed UK travellers to get a limited number of medical treatments in the Channel Islands free of charge, will end on March 31 2009.
Anyone travelling to the Islands, which include Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm, will be required to pay for medical treatment should they become ill or injured there after this date. Visitors should therefore take out adequate insurance before they travel. Visitors from the Channel Islands to the UK will also now be liable for charges for medical treatment when visiting the UK, so they should also have health insurance cover.
PCS: The PCS union heavily criticised the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently, for ploughing on with plans to axe its Manchester based helpline and restructure the remaining helplines based in Cardiff, Birmingham and Glasgow. Despite repeated representations from the union, the EHRC plans to close the Manchester helpline which handled over 50,000 enquiries last year.
The move by the EHRC, at a cost of 50 posts, comes at a time when call volumes to the helpline are increasing due to the recession and the EHRC ‘Your Right to Fly’ campaign, which targets travellers with disabilities. Call volumes have tripled since the start of the campaign two weeks ago.
HO: A new immigration removal centre has been opened by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The new 426-bed detention centre, built next to Gatwick Airport, will help ensure the UK Border Agency can remove foreign lawbreakers from the UK. Brook House, the biggest secure unit of its kind in the country, will house male illegal migrants & foreign criminals, and increases the country's detention capacity to nearly 3,000 bed spaces.
A new 370-bed wing will be added to Harmondsworth Removal Centre, near Heathrow Airport, by 2010. In addition, the Home Office has submitted two planning applications for centres at Bullingdon in Oxfordshire and Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities believes that the Post Bank could help people in rural communities access banking services and they welcome the Post Bank Coalition's call for developments for Post Offices to provide banking services.
This is particularly important for rural areas in England where an estimated 300,000 people do not have a bank account. Access to cash is a significant problem, especially for elderly and more vulnerable people, or where there is more limited access to transport.
A Post Bank would build on the welcome decision by the Government to award the Post Office a further contract until 2015 for the Post Office Card Account, which already provides for the payment in cash of pensions and other benefits.
MoD: Defence Secretary John Hutton has announced the decision to purchase 3 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) test aircraft - the UK's next generation of supersonic stealth fast jets. Acquisition of JSF will provide the UK with a ‘fifth-generation’ tactical air system, designed with stealth characteristics & advanced sensors and will afford the UK a 'step change' in capability. UK military personnel will work alongside their US counterparts in an initial operational test & evaluation programme for the aircraft.
JSF is the aircraft of choice to fulfil MoD's Joint Combat Aircraft requirement and will fly off the two new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. The purchase of three test aircraft will enable MOD to move forward in developing the Carrier Strike capability.
Defra: The first vaccine against bovine tuberculosis in badgers will be used in the field in England next year. The vaccine will be used in 6 areas of up to 100km2 where there is a high incidence of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Vaccination will start in 2010 and continue for at least 5 years.
The deployment project will focus on developing practical approaches for use rather than developing further evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine, although Defra will be looking at the number of cattle herd TB breakdowns in the areas for any changes in cattle disease trends.
ACE: Artists taking the lead is an ambitious & wide ranging art prize that will showcase UK creativity to the world, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. 12 commissions of up to £500,000 will be awarded to create 12 new works of art across the country (one in each of the 9 English regions) and in the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The project (which is the first of 10 major projects of the Cultural Olympiad) provides artists across the country with an unparalleled opportunity to create work that celebrates the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and reflects the rich cultural diversity of the UK. Artists have until Friday 29 May 2009 to submit their ideas for the commissions.
Arts Council England expects to announce the shortlisted artists in July 2009 and the final 12 commissions in October 2009. The successful commissions will be developed across 2010 and 2011 and all 12 will take part in a final unifying celebration before the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
WAG: A consortium led by the Wales Co-operative Centre has been awarded the contract to deliver Communities 2.0, a new initiative to tackle digital exclusion in Wales. The Wales Co-operative Centre will work in partnership with the University of Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire County Council, Novas Scarman, and the Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services to deliver the six year project from 1 April 2009.
The programme, which will build on the Welsh Assembly Government’s successful Communities @One initiative, will provide community groups, social enterprises & individuals with support to use technologies and to help people in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales engage with new technology in ways that are directly relevant to their lives.
STFC: Scientists have detected giant twisting waves in the lower atmosphere of the Sun, shedding light on the mystery of the Sun’s corona (the region around the Sun, extending more than 1m kilometres from its surface) having a vastly higher temperature than its surface.
The increase in solar temperature from approximately 6,000 degrees on the visible surface of the Sun (photosphere) to well over a million degrees in the higher overlaying solar corona, has remained at the forefront of astrophysical research for over half a century.
The new observations reveal the process behind this phenomenon, whereby these unique magnetic oscillations spread upward from the solar surface to the Sun’s corona with an average speed of over 20km per second, carrying enough energy to heat the plasma to well over a few million degrees.
TfL: Transport for London (TfL) is calling all Londoners and organisations that are passionate about cycling in the Capital to submit applications for grants of up to £5,000 to help them promote cycling activities in their communities. There are now less than two weeks left to apply, with the deadline coming on 3 April 2009.
The fund, administered by the London Cycle Campaign (LCC) is to assist the development of events & projects which encourage people to cycle and to make cycling an activity that is open to all Londoners. It seeks to support those projects that build the confidence of infrequent or new cyclist from all types of backgrounds – especially groups such as women, children and young people.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has called for action to address concerns about the quality of some specialist care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (BCH). The HC has published a report of the Trust’s services, carried out at the request of Health Secretary Alan Johnson in response to an article in The Observer newspaper in November.
The watchdog’s report looked at paediatric tertiary care services in the speciality areas of renal transplant, liver transplant, craniofacial surgery, neurosurgery, interventional radiology and cardiac services. The HC found that the Trust was struggling to meet rising demands. This has resulted in delays in treatment, less than optimum care, and children being redirected to other services.
LSN: A new Skills for Life core curriculum is set to make a difference to the lives of trainers & teachers who support adult learners. Developed by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service and available via the Excellence Gateway - LSIS’s online portal for the FE sector - the revised adult core curriculum is now online and will provide guidance to practitioners at a click of the mouse, giving instant access to adult literacy, language and numeracy resources.
The new core curriculum also includes improvements to the existing adult literacy, ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) and numeracy curricula, as well as an interactive service for teachers of the adult pre-entry curriculum. The Excellence Gateway incorporates some 50 education websites and a resource bank comprising more than 75,000 pages, and 12,000 separate pieces of content.
ScotGov: Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, has welcomed the launch of a professional body representing the interests of Scotland's Chartered Teachers. There are currently 750 fully qualified Chartered Teachers in Scotland.
The Chartered Teacher programme is open to all teachers at the top of the main grade who have maintained a Continuing Professional Development portfolio. There is no cap on the number of teachers who can embark on the programme. Chartered teachers receive a £6,500 increase to their annual salary.
Press release ~ Chartered Teacher programme - Scotland ~ 'A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century' agreement ~ ScotGov – Education and Training
Policy Statements and Initiatives
HO: At least ten children have been protected from potential abuse by sex offenders in the first six months of the Government's Child Sexual Offender Disclosure Pilot, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has claimed. This early ‘success’ has led to the decision to extend the scheme within the police forces involved and the pilot will be extended force-wide in Cleveland, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight). The fourth pilot site, Warwickshire, is already force-wide.
Under the terms of the pilot, launched in September 2008, a parent, carer or guardian can request that an individual (who has access to their child or children) is checked out for a record of child sexual offences. So far here have been a total of 153 enquiries & 79 applications from parents, carers and guardians. 10 disclosures have taken place.
If this individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children and poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child or children concerned, then this information may be disclosed to the person best placed to protect the child - usually the parent, carer or guardian.
ScotGov: 2 new schemes to help home owners struggling to keep up with mortgage payments have started:
* A new Mortgage to Shared Equity scheme involves the Scottish Government taking a financial stake in the home of an owner who is in danger of being made homeless
*A new, improved Mortgage to Rent scheme helps people facing repossession to stay in their home as tenants of a social landlord
The £35m Home Owners' Support Fund will fund both schemes over the next two years.
HO: New funding of £250,000 has been made available to help police more swiftly identify stolen mobile phones. The scheme will see the Police National Computer (PNC) linked to the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR), enabling frontline officers to quickly & easily check if a phone has been registered as stolen from its rightful owner.
The Home Office and National Mobile Phone Crime Unit have also been working with industry to build safeguards into new developments in M-Commerce - which will see mobile phones being used like debit cards. They are developing a charter to ensure the roll-out of M-Commerce takes crime prevention into consideration.
WAG: All girls & young women in Wales born between1 September 1991 and 31 August 1995 will be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine during school year 2009-10.
Health Minister, Edwina Hart said: “We must remember that vaccination will not protect against all HPV infections so it is important that everyone attends cervical cancer screening when they are called. Guidance will be issued to the NHS in the coming weeks so that they can undertake the planning necessary to implement the catch-up campaign from September this year”.
DIUS: Skills Secretary John Denham has pledged to help apprentices go to university and to ensure higher education meets the needs of students who have come up through a vocational route. A report published by the Skills Commission - Progression into Apprenticeships - praises the Government's progress in expanding apprenticeships and calls for a greater proportion of apprentices progressing to higher levels of learning.
The Government has affirmed its commitment to incorporating Apprenticeship frameworks into the UCAS tariff to make it simpler to go to university after an apprenticeship in its New Opportunities white paper, published in January 2009.
The Skills Commission report also recommends clearer mapping between diplomas & apprenticeships, so that people studying diplomas know precisely when and where they have acquired a qualification that is also part of an apprenticeship and what further qualifications they would need to complete the apprenticeship. The Government's higher level skills strategy will be published in April 2009.
ScotGov: Parents are being urged to take the time to discuss drugs with their children - and so ensure they have the facts to hand if given the wrong information from others. The new 'Know the Score' campaign was launched by Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing and backed by the parents of Emma Caldwell, whose high-profile murder followed her descent into drug addiction.
The new KTS advertisements show two scenarios - one in a play park and the second on a bus - as examples of where children can be given inaccurate facts about drugs. The integrated marketing campaign, including television, radio and online advertising, will run until the end of April and aims to help parents improve their knowledge & confidence about drugs and so encourage them to discuss the issue with their children.
Defra: Pig farmers, meat processors, retailers, and the Government have agreed to work on areas of common concern for the benefit of consumers and the industry itself. The 17 members of the new Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force, set up to identify the biggest challenges faced by the industry and suggest solutions, met for the first time last week. The group is working to improve the resilience of the supply chain and will carry out its work over the next 12 months. There will then be a review to determine whether it should continue.
DH: Delivering the best possible care for patients will be at the heart of changes to the GP quality incentive scheme, the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), Health Minister Ben Bradshaw has claimed. From 1 April 2009 the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) will oversee the annual process of reviewing the clinical indicators included in QOF.
The QOF rewards GP practices for managing some of the most common chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart failure; improving health; organising practices well; how patients view their experience at the surgery and the quality of extra services offered such as child health and maternity services.
WAG: First Minister Rhodri Morgan has issued a statement following the publication of the independent E.coli Public Inquiry report.
DIUS: 'TV Dragon' Peter Jones is going to carry out a review into the support that people, who want to start their own business, get from universities & colleges. More people are considering starting their own business as a response to the recession, anecdotal evidence suggests.
Many colleges and universities already provide training and support for budding entrepreneurs, ranging from the ‘Flying Start’ programme which helps graduates set up their own businesses, to training in tax law, employment law, bookkeeping and accounts for small businesses.
BERR: The Government has begun a consultation (closes on 11 June 2009) designed to crack down on entertainment & modelling agencies that exploit aspiring actors and models. One proposal being examined is a ban on allowing agencies to charge up-front fees to people who think they might be the next big thing. There is a concern that some agencies are charging exorbitant amounts without any likelihood of securing castings or work for the aspiring performer.
A cooling-off period for up-front fees charged by agencies in the modelling & entertainment sector came into force on 6 April 2008.
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published a consultation paper which formally consults on whether to incorporate its Code of practice on remuneration into the Handbook and its application to large banks and broker dealers.
The Code has a general requirement that ‘a firm must establish, implement and maintain remuneration policies, procedures and practices that are consistent with and promote effective risk management’. This would become a Handbook rule. The CP will also propose that the Code’s remaining 10 principles are put into the Handbook to help guide firms on the evidence the FSA will focus on when assessing compliance.
The CP is also inviting discussion on the idea that the Code should be applied to all other FSA-authorised firms.
The consulting period on implementation of the Code for larger banks and broker dealers will run for two months, until 18 May 2009. The period for discussion and feedback on the idea of extending the Code to other firms regulated by the FSA will run until 18 June 2009.
NA: The National Archives are asking for feedback to help with their ongoing website development. Please take a few minutes to have your say in their customer satisfaction survey. It is completely anonymous and you will not be asked for any contact details.
DH: Measurements to improve the regulation & governance of healthcare professionals have been set out in two reports published by the Department of Health.
These two reports are the result of external working groups taking forward the implementation of the reforms announced in the White Paper - Trust, Assurance, Safety: the Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century - over the last 18 months. The Office of the Health professions Adjudicator is expected to be fully operational in 2011.
FSA: Published alongside the Financial Services Authority’s (FSA) Turner Review of global banking regulation, a FSA discussion paper (closes for comments on 18 June 2009) sets out more detail on specific policy proposals. As the current crisis arose in the banking, investment banking and ‘shadow banking’ sectors, most of these proposals focus on these sectors. Possible implications for some other sectors are however identified - See ‘Business and other Briefings’ for more information.
Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides
ScotGov: A constructive way of avoiding & minimising planning disputes is to be encouraged by the Scottish Government. Ministers believe the use of mediation will result in quicker decisions and a more efficient planning system to support increasing sustainable economic growth.
The 'Guide to the Use of Mediation in the Planning System' is designed to help planning authorities, developers, statutory consultees, communities & third parties understand how mediation can be used to build consensus on difficult issues and enhance the planning process.
LSN: Generator, the technology improvement leadership tool for FE & Skills has been launched and is available to all colleges & learning providers in the FE and skills sector. It offers providers the opportunity to identify where they can make improvements in their use of technology and should help them to maximise their investment in technology for the benefit of learners.
Defra: Fifteen local authorities taking part in the 2008 Chewing Gum Action Group campaign have successfully reduced chewing gum litter in their areas by 43%. To build on this success and to continue tackling chewing gum litter, the group is calling for new partners to come forward for the next campaign.
Anyone interested can apply to take part in the campaign by visiting a new dedicated website, which provides information on how to tackle gum litter effectively.
Defra: Minister for Sustainable Development and Innovation, Lord Hunt, has called for the public & local authorities to step up the fight against litter as the latest Local Environment Quality Survey shows that streets around the country are still in an unsatisfactory condition.
This annual report surveys 19,000 sites across England looking at environmental problems like litter, fly-posting and graffiti. It aims to give an objective & independent analysis of the cleanliness of our streets & neighbourhoods and identify key trends.
HEFCE: The first national analysis of the Aimhigher summer school programme was launched recently at the Action on Access Summer Schools Conference in Birmingham. These summer schools aim to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds a real taste of what life in higher education might be like.
The HEFCE report found that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are around twice as likely as other groups to attend an Aimhigher summer school.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has published its report on the impact of NHS regulation on healthcare and identified areas where lessons can be learned. The report considers how independent regulation has contributed to better outcomes and quality of care for people since 2004, as well as highlighting lessons for both regulation and the healthcare system as a whole.
A new integrated regulator of health, mental health and adult social care, the Care Quality Commission, will take over from the HC on 1 April 2009.
HA: The Highways Agency has published its annual Business Plan for 2009-10, describing in detail how it plans to continue to improve England's strategic road network. This financial year the Agency aims to start construction work on six major road schemes: M25 widening junctions 16-23 and also junctions 27-30, Hard Shoulder Running on M6 junction 8-10a, A14 Felixstowe to M1 traffic management technology improvements, Hard Shoulder Running on M1 junction 10-13, and also on M4 junction 19-10 and M5 junction 15-17.
Recently, the Agency announced the Midnight Switch-Off lighting strategy to reduce carbon emissions by up to 40% on six motorway stretches as part of the Sustainable Development Action Plan. This year's Business Plan includes the Agency's first carbon reduction targets, which have been set using data gathered during 2008-09.
General Reports and Other Publications
ESRC: The Economic and Social research Council produces multimedia briefings which include podcast interviews giving background information and specific research examples for topical issues facing UK and the world today. The latest of these briefing is on the global financial crisis and will be updated with information from ESRC funded events and investments.
A series of public lectures are also underway looking at issues such as how recession affects our mental health & happiness, what the impact of recession will be on global poverty and whether it is a threat or an opportunity for the green economy.
CRC: The Commission for Rural Communities has responded to DCSF's consultation ‘Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen’ on legislative proposals prior to the introduction of a child poverty Bill in 2009. While progress has been made in ending child poverty by 2020, 2.9m children remain in poverty and the CRC have highlighted some of the rural issues surrounding child poverty in their response.
NAO: A National Audit Office report has found that the condition of 90% of the Service Families Accommodation in Britain is at the two highest of four standards (1st - 57% and 2nd - 33%). However a specially-conducted survey has however revealed that, while 52% of Service families feel their MoD accommodation is in a good condition, 31% are dissatisfied with the condition of their property.
The MoD is currently undertaking a programme to upgrade all Service family accommodation to the highest condition. At the current rate of upgrade, it would take some 20 years before all properties reached condition 1 (the highest), subject to future levels of funding and the future size of the estate. Many houses within Condition 2 are also at a good standard overall, though it is a broad band and other houses in it have serviceable but outdated kitchens and bathrooms.
Sport England: Active England, a £95m programme funded by the National Lottery, was successful in getting nearly 1.5m people participating in sport and left a sustainable legacy, a report reveals. The programme, funded & managed by Sport England and the Big Lottery Fund, helped hundreds of thousands of people from traditionally hard to reach communities to take up sport and physical activity.
The report evaluates the impact of the 241 projects and sets out a number of key learning points that will benefit all those delivering grassroots sport such as national governing bodies of sport (NGBs), local councils and smaller community sports groups.
NE: The results of a unique study into the desirability & feasibility of re-introducing the European beaver to the English countryside have been published by Natural England and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Beavers were once a common feature in the British countryside but were driven to extinction in England 400 years ago.
Recently there has been considerable interest in the potential for their reintroduction, recognising the contribution that beavers make to river & wetland management and to restoring lost biodiversity. The Habitats & Species Directive’s requirement for EU member states to consider the reintroduction of certain regionally-extinct native species has given the issue added weight in recent years.
NAO: The BBC Trust has published an independent report it had commissioned from the National Audit Office on the BBC’s management of its strategic contracts with the private sector. The report has identified a series of recommendations to improve the management of strategic contracts at the BBC.
The NAO review looked at whether the BBC is securing the service & financial objectives the Corporation outlined when it entered into high value, individual strategic contracts and whether adequate steps have been taken to maximise the value for money of its portfolio of strategic contracts.
NAO: The National Audit Office has reported that the nationalisation of Northern Rock in early 2008 offered the best prospect of protecting the taxpayers’ interests and was based on a sufficiently robust analysis of the options available. However, the Treasury was stretched to deal with a crisis of this nature and there were lessons to be learned.
At the time of the initial run on deposits at Northern Rock, the Treasury put in place guarantee arrangements for retail depositors and wholesale creditors ………. but the company still went on writing high-risk loans up to 125% of a property’s value.
DH: Myth-busting new research for the Condom Essential Wear campaign by ICM reveals that women who take control in the bedroom by demanding safe sex are more attractive to English men. Men no longer have the monopoly on carrying the condoms. The vast majority (81%) of men think women should feel comfortable carrying condoms. Women have responded to these changing roles and are far less likely to rely on a man to provide the condom than they were in previous generations (87%).
However, there is another side to more liberal attitudes and greater levels of sexual activity. The UK has some of the highest rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) amongst young people in Europe. One in twelve people under 25 who are tested by the National Chlamydia Screening Programme are found to have Chlamydia which often lacks visible symptoms and can have serious consequences such as ectopic pregnancy and infertility.
NA: In honour of this month's celebration of International Women's Day, the National Archives highlights the records held on women in the army during the two world wars & beyond.
QCA: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has published a report recently on marking quality in national curriculum tests. The report draws upon a number of studies, including an analysis of 2008 quality assurance data carried out by independent researchers.
The independent analysis from 2008 does not give a direct indication of the quality of test marking nationally as it was based on a small sample of papers marked as part of the quality assurance process rather than part of the live marking process, or a specifically designed study. However, it concluded that the findings did not give particular cause for concern in relation to marking quality in national curriculum tests in 2008.
Legislation / Legal
MoJ: Plans for a new code regulating the activities of bailiffs have been announced by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice. To provide clarity for debtors and certainty for creditors, the following measures will be implemented in advance of full independent regulation:
* an on-line certificated bailiff register allowing debtors to check bailiffs' certification status
* an extension to the certification process to ensure that all bailiffs provide a CRB check with their application
* minimum training requirements & competences for inclusion in the certification process
These measures, which will commence later in the year, will contribute to the development of the more permanent solution of independent regulation in 2012.
However, following a comprehensive re-assessment of the provisions in the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 ordered by the Secretary of State for Justice, the Government will not be extending bailiffs' powers of entry and the use of force by enforcement agents, and will not be commencing Charging Order reforms.
MoJ: Strengthened proposals for non-jury inquests that allow for more judicial involvement & discretion have been announced by the Government. The Coroners and Justice Bill (Clauses 11 to 13), currently before Parliament, contains proposals for non-jury inquests in exceptional circumstances where highly sensitive material which may be relevant to a coroner's investigation cannot be made public.
Inquests are only conducted with juries in 2% of cases and the Government expects these new provisions to be used very rarely, but without these plans the occasional inquest might be stalled - as happens now.
The government claims that the proposed revisions to the Bill are a considerable strengthening of the current plans as they narrow the range of circumstances where an inquest could be certified; increase judicial involvement and discretion, and offer more checks and balances.
MoJ: Families of Scottish service personnel killed abroad will no longer have to travel to England to attend their loved one's inquests under proposed amendments to the coroners system. The Coroners and Justice Bill is currently before Parliament and is expected to receive Royal Assent towards the end of 2009. These changes will come into effect as soon as possible after that.
Currently, the bodies of Scotland based service personnel killed abroad are returned to England so that a coroner can investigate the circumstances surrounding the death. This is because there is currently no legislative basis under Scottish law for the Lord Advocate to investigate deaths outside of Scotland and requires the bereaved families to travel to England for inquests.
Charity and Voluntary Sector
BIG: The People’s Millions TV contest returns to our TV screens as community groups across the UK are once again being invited to apply to win a slice of Lottery cash to improve their local area. This year the contest will make 69 awards of up to £50,000 across the 14 ITV regions to community projects that will enhance local facilities or help people to enjoy their local area.
A shortlist of projects in each region will be showcased on ITV’s local news programmes in the autumn where they will have to convince ITV viewers that they deserve the cash. It will then be up to the public to use their vote each night to decide which groups win the funding.
Entry packs for The People’s Millions are available by calling the hotline: 08450 10 11 12 or by visiting the website. The deadline for applications is 15 May 2009.
BIG: A scheme working across three English regions supporting disabled victims of crime is amongst 20 projects sharing in £5.5m from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities programme. The Voice UK project is joined by The Leeds Animation Workshop, which has also been awarded funding to produce a DVD to raise awareness on relationships and sexual health amongst people with learning difficulties.
Voice UK has been awarded £180,258 for its Regional Vulnerable Victim Support and Safety Awareness project. Working in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Devon and Cornwall, the two-year project will help equip disabled people with skills to cope with bullying and the support to work through the criminal justice system where they are often not treated as credible witnesses.
Business and Other Briefings
FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has published the Turner Review of global banking regulation. Lord Turner, chairman of the FSA, was asked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the events that led to the financial crisis and to recommend reforms.
The Review identifies three underlying causes of the crisis – macro-economic imbalances, financial innovation of little social value and important deficiencies in key bank capital & liquidity regulations. These were underpinned by an exaggerated faith in rational and self-correcting markets. It stresses the importance of regulation & supervision being based on a system-wide ‘macro-prudential’ approach rather than focussing solely on specific firms.
The Turner Review distinguishes between those areas where the FSA has already taken action, those where the FSA can proceed nationally, and those where international agreement needs to be achieved. It also recognises that there may be alternative specific ways to achieve the essential objectives of effective regulation.
Published alongside the Review is an FSA discussion paper (DP) (closes for comments on 18 June 2009) which sets out more detail on specific policy proposals. As the current crisis arose in the banking, investment banking and ‘shadow banking’ sectors, most of these proposals focus on these sectors. Possible implications for some other sectors are however identified.
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) has published its final decisions in the BAA market inquiry – it will require BAA to sell both Gatwick and Stansted as well as either Edinburgh or Glasgow, within two years. They are to be sold in sequence, beginning with Gatwick, then Stansted, followed by either Edinburgh or Glasgow.
The CC is also requiring BAA at Aberdeen to improve consultation with airlines as well as publish certain financial and other information. In addition, the CC is recommending to the airports' regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), that it should take certain specified action at Heathrow, the UK's only hub airport, where BAA will continue to have substantial market power even after the sale of Gatwick and Stansted.
Guidance on the VAT treatment of unlimited access to all-inclusive leisure facilities.
An explanation of the effect of Finance Act 2008 changes to Capital Gains Tax - for partnerships with assets held since 31 March 1982.
The Information Sheet describes the background to the withdrawal of the Staff Hire Concession on 1 April 2009 and sets out the VAT treatment that should be applied from that date.
Socitm: Credit crunch, avoidable contact, re-use of public information and digital inclusion feature in packed agenda for Socitm National Conference 23 April 2009.
Session titles include:
* Implications of the Credit Crunch
* Unlocking the Power of Local Information
* Building the IT profession in the public sector - the role of Socitm membership
* Using the concept of ‘avoidable contact’ to reinvigorate transformation
* Avoidable contact and transformation - case study from LB Hillingdon
* Digital inclusion, local authorities, and the third sector
CIOB: The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) will be hosting a FREE interactive advice seminar designed to help members who are in the position of having to make redundancies. Redundancy is an unfortunate situation that is reflective of the current market conditions. It is difficult not just for the individual being made redundant but also for the manager having to break the news of redundancy to an employee.
This seminar will examine best practice to answer how business managers and HR functions prepare for managing people during this difficult time, and what skills are needed to deliver challenging & sensitive messages.
It will take place at the CIOB’s headquarters in Ascot on Tuesday 7 April 2009 at 1.30pm. The event is free of charge for CIOB members, and places are limited. If you would like to attend, please contact Sue Smith on tel: 01344 630 758 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting your CIOB membership number.
ScotGov: The date of Scotland's first ever Apprenticeship Summit has been set for Tuesday April 28 2009, the Alliance of Sector Skills Employer conference was told recently. Employers & stakeholders from all across Scotland will be invited to the event at the Signet Library in Edinburgh, which will focus on the Modern Apprenticeship programme and how it can deliver in the current economic climate.
Key themes expected to be discussed are:
* engagement with employers
* the threat of redundancy
* how Government can best support employers to develop the skills & jobs needed during the economic downturn and support employment opportunities in the recovery period
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