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In the News

Newswire – JRRT‘1984’ Late & over budget like all state ICT projects, but is it slowly being implemented? - The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust first has published a comprehensive map of Britain’s database state which reveals how the database obsession of government has left officials struggling to control billions of records of our most personal details.

Database State examines every major public sector database in the UK and demonstrates how many multi-million pound IT projects either don’t work, or have such serious safety or privacy problems that they are alienating the public and harming the vulnerable groups they are meant to support.  It claims that some of the government’s flagship databases, such as the DNA database and ContactPoint, are so flawed they should be scrapped immediately.

Database State finds:
* A quarter of all major public sector databases are fundamentally flawed & almost certainly illegal
* The database state is victimising minority groups & vulnerable people
* Children are amongst the ‘most at risk’ from Britain’s Database State
* Data sharing is a barrier to socially responsible activities
* Only 15% of major public sector databases are effective, proportionate & necessary (See DP Act Principles)
* We spend £16bn a year on public sector IT and a further £105bn spending is planned for the next 5 years – but only 30% of public-sector IT projects succeed
Ofgem Finally the least able to pay might get a fairer deal on energy - Energy regulator Ofgem has unveiled a package of new rules for energy suppliers that will hopefully give consumers more power and help to seal the flaws in the retail market, identified in the regulator’s market probe.

The regulator is proposing an approach on two flanks:
* a prohibition of unjustified price differences to close off any recurrence of poor deals for customers
* a set of remedies to address specific retail market issues

Following a decision by the regulator’s governing authority Ofgem will consult on the detail of the ban on unjustified pricing and on the retail remedies package.  If there is no industry agreement on the package of proposals, Ofgem retains the option to take the matter to the Competition Commission.

Ofgem will, in April 2009, publish a consultation on the drafting of the licence condition and related guidance on the prohibition of undue discrimination.  They will also publish, in April, a consultation on the detail of the package of retail market remedies.  Based on responses to these consultations, the Authority is aiming to decide on the final package by July 2009 so that the new measures can be implemented before winter 2009.
Newswire - OfqualMust try harder - Ofqual has published regulatory reports on standards & qualifications covering science, mathematics and English subjects.  The mathematics & English literature reports were reassuring, concluding that standards had generally been maintained.  However, the results of their monitoring of the new GCSE science specifications in 2007 & 2008 and the review of standards in GCSE physics in 2007 raised significant causes for concern.

They are therefore requiring immediate action from the awarding bodies and their Chief Examiners to address their concerns about assessment so that students, their parents, teachers, government and the wider public can continue to have confidence in the quality of assessment and the grades awarded.

Awarding bodies have already taken steps to address the problems about the quality of the tasks set for candidates identified in the Science report.  Changes are being made which will impact on the 2009 examinations & beyond. In addition, the QCA is revising the GCSE science criteria and new specifications will be developed for first teaching in 2011.

Ofqual is also reviewing future question papers for units that were of particular concern to ensure that they are valid & reliable assessments.  This review will particularly consider the opportunities provided for more able candidates to show what they know, understand and can do.
Newswire – HSO/LGOSadly yet more proof that those less able to put their own case are ‘discriminated’ against - An independent report - Six Lives: the provision of public services to people with learning disabilities - published by the Health Service Ombudsman (Ann Abraham) and the Local Government Ombudsman (Jerry White) calls for the urgent review of health & social care for people with learning disabilities. The report reveals:
* Significant & distressing failures in service across health & social care
* At least one person died as a consequence of public service failure & failure to achieve relevant standards
* People with learning disabilities experienced prolonged suffering & poor care
* Some public bodies failed to live up to human rights principles, especially those of dignity & equality
* Many organisations responded inadequately to the complaints made against them

The Ombudsmen recommend that NHS bodies and councils urgently confront whether they have the correct systems & culture in place to protect individuals with learning disabilities from discrimination, in line with existing laws & guidance.

The report responds to complaints brought by the charity Mencap on behalf of the families of 6 people with learning disabilities, who died whilst in NHS or local authority care between 2003 and 2005.  The cases were brought to public attention in Mencap’s 2007 report Death by Indifference.

The investigations found maladministration, service failure and un-remedied injustice in a number, but not all, of the 20 bodies investigated (3 Councils, 16 NHS bodies & the Healthcare Commission).  The Ombudsmen found that many organisations compounded their failures by poor handling of the complaints made against them and by a reluctance to offer apologies.  The Care Quality Commission takes up its responsibilities for the quality of health & adult social care on 1 April 2009.
DstlGetting kids excited about science - The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are teaming up with the BLOODHOUND Project team to invite youngsters up & down the country to get their creative thinking-caps on.

Dstl’s competition is based around the principles of aerodynamics and students are asked to use the theory of aerodynamics to come up with a design for the fastest bike in the world.  Students’ designs may include drawings, computer-generated images, models or even photographs of modified bicycles!

The prize up for grabs is Gold Membership to the BLOODHOUND SSC 1K Club, which includes a visit to the BLOODHOUND development site to see the Super Sonic Car being built & tested, regular BLOODHOUND newsletters and invitations to 1K Club events.  There will be separate categories for primary & secondary school students and a winner will be selected from each. Closing date for entries is Friday 25 July 2009.
Press release ~ Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – competition details ~ BLOODHOUND Project

Industry NewsTimely warning – Last week saw Wired-gov publish a sponsor’s message with requested press releases about the dangers of the Conficker worm.  The message highlighted the fact that, in addition to an estimated 9m home PC infections, the worm has found its way into hospital computers in Sheffield & Scotland, schools in Norfolk, onto ships in the UK's Royal Navy, shutdown multiple planes in the French Air Force and wormed its way into countless other networks across both public & private sectors.

Conficker's latest update greatly raises the amount of domains the worm will contact on a compromised computer.  Previously, Conficker would contact 250 domains a day.  But now Conficker 2.0 is capable of connecting with 50,000 pseudo-random domains a day and industry experts believe the next Conficker worm attack is scheduled for Wednesday 1 April 2009, but it appears that some attacks have already happened

Lumension Security are currently offering a FREE in-depth vulnerability scan across your entire network. By identifying if any windows end-points are vulnerable and applying the associated Microsoft patch MS08-067, then the threat can be mitigated. To find out more & perform your free vulnerability scan click HERE.
For Industry News please click HERE

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

General News

CIOB: In a submission to the Government’s Panel on Fair Access to the Professions the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has suggested that what currently constitutes a profession, or more broadly professionalism is outdated. The CIOB has highlighted a number of areas where increased Government funding should be considered and barriers that need to be removed if access to the professions is to be improved.  
In particular, barriers that prevent people from retraining & moving in to a new profession must be addressed by government. The lack of career advice to young people has also been identified as a major issue and the CIOB recommends that funding be provided to support the training of career advisors.
ScotGov: The Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS)will receive £25.5m over the next 3 years to buy more than 700 new vehicles. They will include traditional ambulances and paramedic response units, plus patient transport vehicles and support vehicles.
Every 3 years the SAS is required to submit a business case to the Scottish Government Health Directorates for funds to continue the programmed replacement of its vehicles.  ScotGov has agreed to provide the necessary funds requested by the Service in full.
ScotGov: New figures published by business advisory service Envirowise show that Scottish businesses saved more than £29m in 2007 (up 100% on 2006) by taking steps to reduce their waste.
ScotGov: Skiers flocked to Scottish ski resorts during the month of February to take advantage of ideal weather conditions, according to new figures, which saw visitor numbers doubling or even trebling.
MCAFewer than 2.5% of shore anglers wear lifejackets when fishing according to research carried out by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency.  The agency is advising all anglers, whether they practice their sport from the sea, on rocks or shore, to carry and wear a lifejacket when near the sea.
LDA: The London Development Agency and Sport England are running a skills development programme for people aged 16 and over who want to support grass roots sport as a volunteer in one of 17 Olympic or Paralympic disciplines.

‘Official Sports London’ works with National Governing Bodies of those sports to help people gain a recognised qualification and 15 hours officiating experience in roles including being a referee, umpire, line judge, scorer and timekeeper.  Those with appropriate national experience may be given the chance to improve their skills to the level that they might be eligible for a role at the 2012 Games.
UKOC: Informal adult learning should target the socially excluded, and make the most of new technologies to level the learning playing field.  The message comes from UK online centres, who have welcomed John Denham’s White Paper, which puts informal learning & widening participation back on the adult skills agenda. 
The UK online centres network is seen as central to the Learning Revolution being instigated across the country and a clear role is outlined for centres to champion both digital inclusion and informal learning.  For more on White Paper, see ‘In the News’ section.
HC: The Healthcare Commission has recently published a report it commissioned from the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, which looks at the data currently available to support NHS trusts being assessed for carbon reduction monitoring by the regulator.
MoD: A former Royal Air Force Corporal's dying wish to make Christmas fun for an Army sniffer dog finally came true this week for Jamie the Springer spaniel based in Afghanistan, thanks to the charity uk4u Thanks!
On hearing a report on the radio that Jamie would be out in Afghanistan at Christmas without any toys John Evans decided to approach the Forces Christmas charity uk4u Thanks to send Jamie a Christmas box of his own.  Sadly, John was seriously ill with pneumonia at the time and died a few days after sending the parcel.
STFC: To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, the world’s first Dark Sky Discovery Sites were unveiled last week at Newbattle Abbey College in Dalkeith. The Dark Sky Scotland partnership named the two sites as Newbattle Abbey College and Highland Council’s Glen Nevis Visitor Centre grounds, near Fort William.
The 2 sites, which are relatively free of light pollution, tall buildings and are safe & accessible, were chosen following a winter of community astronomy activities led by the John Muir Trust, the Highland Council Countryside Rangers and the Forestry Commission Scotland.
Directgov:  Directgov, the government's flagship website, is working with Microsoft to make it easier for Internet Explorer users to find helpful information by using new web tools. Microsoft's new browser Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) includes new 'accelerators': tools which help the user perform simple every day tasks without having to leave the website they are on.
The accelerator will mean that the user will be able to right click on text in any page on the internet and quickly search for that term across the Directgov site.
MoD: The Royal Engineers are getting 60 air-portable TERRIER vehicles which will support infantry by removing obstacles & opening routes, providing vital assistance on operations including peace-keeping and humanitarian missions.
Most tasks can also be conducted by remote control from over 1km away with onboard camera systems providing the operator a close up view.  The vehicle is equipped with advanced diagnostic analysis software enabling the crew to keep the vehicle working to its optimum capacity.
NA: The latest Cabinet Secretary's notebook to be released for viewing in the National Archives covers the resignation of PM Sir Anthony Eden due to ill health, military co-operation with Europe and proposals for a Channel rail tunnel.  
The notebook is the 16th to be released, covering the period from 8 January to 21 November 1957 and contains the handwritten notes made by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman, Brook at Cabinet meetings.  They differ from the official minutes in attributing views to individual ministers and often include incidental discussion, giving more of a flavour of ministers' personalities.  
PCS: The PCS union reports that the takeover of EDS by HP has brought renewed threats to PCS members.  
Despite the EDS arm of the new HP set up being profitable, staff are being asked to take a pay cut on the back of a wide scale campaign of redundancies.  Pensions and a range of other entitlements are also under threat.
WAG: First Minister, Rhodri Morgan began the creation of a new woodland near Tredegar last week when he planted the first tree at the latest site for the Welsh Assembly Government's Plant! project.  The project, which will help to create a WelshNational Forest of native trees, was launched in December 2007 and aims to plant a tree for every new baby and adopted child in Wales from 1 January, 2008.
Parents will receive a certificate stating that their tree has been planted for them, thereby forging a link between children and their environment. Already, 35,000 mixed native broadleaf trees have been planted at the first Plant! site at Cefn Ila, near Usk, and nearly 9,000 certificates have been issued for the second site at Ysgybor Wen, Llanegryn, near Tywyn.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DIUS: People who want to organise their own groups & classes will be supported by a new national campaign for learning, the Government has announced.  Public & private buildings all over the country will be open to learners in the evening & weekends, including pubs, shops, cafes, churches, libraries and galleries.
The buildings will be identified by the new ‘Learning Revolution’ logo and at least 7,000 rooms will be available, with the number expected to grow. The campaign is backed by organisations such as the Women's Institute, the Church of England and the National Trust who have all pledged to support this movement and where possible, to open their doors so that groups of adults engage in learning to expand their horizons.
The Government has published its White Paper, The Learning Revolution, which aims to bring to life a new 21st century vision to help adults learn for pleasure and personal and community development.  The White Paper outlines what the Government can do to support learning for pleasure, including funding innovative new ideas & projects, helping to broker access to learning (especially for disadvantaged groups and older people) and building a culture of learning across society.
Defra: A new taskforce has been launched to help the government and the not-for-profit sector tackle climate change & environmental issues. The group aims to identify specific actions that Government and the third sector can take together to tackle climate change, environmental problems and sustainable development.
Applications for membership of the taskforce are now invited from third sector organisations.  Specialist contributors will also be invited to participate on an ad hoc basis as required.  The recruitment process is being coordinated by Green Alliance and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) who will provide the secretariat for the taskforce.
ScotGov: A 13-week pilot awareness raising campaign was launched in Dundee last week to signpost people who are worried about significant changes to their memory, to seek help & advice by ringing the dedicated 24-hour dementia helpline.  The campaign adverts will feature bright Post-it notes stuck to fridges, with the words 'Worried About Your Memory?', alongside the dementia helpline number - 0808 808 3000.
As well as a listening ear & emotional support, the dementia helpline staff will offer information on treatments, tips on things to do to manage memory problems, how to get help locally, maintaining independence and rights & entitlements. New research undertaken while developing the campaign found that dementia and Alzheimer's disease are among the most feared conditions within society.
HO: The Home Secretary has announced a new strategy for countering international terrorism. The Government's ‘CONTEST’ strategy ‘builds on the existing policy and provides the basis for a co-ordinated approach to counter terrorism’.
The new strategy retains the framework of the old - four main areas of work entitled Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.  But each of these areas has been updated and the document provides more detail about specific objectives & programmes.
ScotGov: Scotland has a proud history as a world leader in the battle against tuberculosis - and now an action plan is being launched to take this into the 21st century. Until the 1950s, TB was a major killer in Scotland, spreading like wildfire through the crowded, damp tenements of the major cities and ruining the lives of victims and their families.
During that decade it was a Scottish-based doctor, Sir John Crofton, who led the fight against the highly contagious disease with his revolutionary 'Edinburgh Method' - a combination of the drugs then available to treat TB, which cured even those whose disease had developed a resistance to the individual medicines.
While now very rare, TB is still with us.  So the Scottish Government marked World TB Day by starting work on an Action Plan for tuberculosis. A group bringing together experts in the field, including specialist TB doctors & nurses and representatives from Health Protection Scotland and the UK-wide Health Protection Agency, will now get to work on preparing a draft plan by the end of this year.
CLG: A football match involving people from different faiths is just one of the activities that could take place in England's first-ever 'Inter Faith Week'. The possibility of the Week being marked in Wales as well as in England is under consideration.  An annual 'Inter Faith Week' already takes place in Scotland.
'Inter Faith Week' will run from 15 to 21 November 2009 with a launch the preceding week.  Its aims are to:
* strengthen good inter faith relations at all levels
* increase awareness of the different & distinct faith communities in the UK
* increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious belief
Over 75% of people who answered a question about religion in the 2001 Census said they belonged to a particular religious tradition: Christian - 41,014,811 # Muslim - 1,588,890 # Hindu - 558,342 # Sikh - 336,179 #  Jewish - 267,373 # Buddhist - 149,157 #  Any other religion - 159,167
CLG/CRC: Responding to Matthew Taylor MP's 2008 Review into issues facing rural communities, the government has set out its proposals to help create strong & diverse rural communities which are able to tackle their own unique challenges at a local level. The Government claims that it will give Local Authorities more flexibility to tackle the issues their communities face.  
To help underline the important role rural areas can play in delivering economic prosperity, a new single policy statement will be published combining existing planning guidance aimed at delivering sustainable economic development in urban and rural areas and town centres.  This new single Planning Policy Statement will be published for consultation soon.
While the Government has accepted almost all of the 48 recommendations of the Taylor Review, they have decided against the proposal of a trial limiting second homes in National Parks, due to issues of practicality.
Commenting on Government’s formal response, Dr. Stuart Burgess Chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) and the Government’s Rural Advocate said: “We welcome the Government’s positive response and the hope this will be turned into practical action, resulting in more affordable homes and a welcome boost to rural employment.  Maintaining the status quo will not preserve rural life, it will compromise its future”.
Defra: Defra is bringing together a range of bodies under WRAP's leadership to provide a one-stop-shop to help businesses, organisations & households become more resource efficient. The decision arises from the 2008 Delivery Landscape Review set up to examine the 7 organisations funded by Defra, which currently work on resource efficiency.  
ScotGov: The most comprehensive hand washing awareness campaign ever run in Scottish hospitals has been launched. For the first time, the campaign targets all employees - not just clinical staff - recognising the importance of engaging staff such as porters & cleaners in the bid to stop the spread of bugs.
Another new feature will see posters promoting handwashing feature in shops & businesses near hospitals to ensure staff get the message about the importance of regular handwashing before, during and after their shifts. It will also reinforce the hand washing message for patients and visitors.
Materials will be strategically placed in hospitals to target people from the moment they arrive and throughout the day.  The numerous locations to be used will include: above beds, in staff changing rooms, in surgical areas, in toilets and public areas.
ScotGov: New measures to improve support for disabled students, including procedures for those who do not fall within the existing criteria for the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) but may benefit from this help, have been announced by Ministers.
The moves - following the first review of the DSA since it was introduced in the 1970s - will mean that disabled students in Scotland will become the first in the UK to benefit from the introduction of formal procedures for exceptional cases. This will hopefully ensure that if they do not meet the existing criteria for help, but their application is supported by their institution, their case is reviewed as quickly as possible by an expert group.
The Scottish Government also confirmed that Partnership Matters: A Guide to Local Authorities, NHS Boards and Voluntary Organisations on Supporting Students with Additional Needs in College - is to be extended to ensure it also covers universities.
DCMS: Nine more seaside towns will benefit in the latest round of funding from the Government's Sea Change programme, which is reinvigorating England's coastal resorts through investment in culture and heritage.  From the northern borders to the south coast nearly £2.7m will be handed out across four different regions.
Wave 3 of the open programme commenced in January 2009.  For further details and how to apply for the open application grants please visit the CABE website.
DCMS: As part of British Tourism Week Ms Follett attended the 'Best of Britain and Ireland Show' where she officially launched the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's new sustainable tourism framework for England.  This sets out 6 key challenges for the tourism sector and honours the commitment made in the Government's tourism strategy for 2012.
DIUS: The Government has announced a renewed commitment to the further development of the national Science and Innovation Campus at Daresbury and announced a stronger leadership structure to deliver it. This commitment was made in the Government's response to the newly published Manchester Independent Economic Review (MIER) on Daresbury.
In keeping with the Government's strategic 'vision' for Daresbury, published as part of the response to the MIER Review, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham has launched the Knowledge Centre for Material Chemistry.
CLG: £170m of funding has been allocated to 29 transport projects that will support the development of new housing. The 29 projects, paid for from the Community Infrastructure Fund, will deliver a range of new transport projects across the regions such as rapid bus routes, pedestrian & cycle bridges and improvements to road junctions.
The government claims that they will also protect & create 2,200 jobs and directly support 40,000 new homes to be built over the next decade, which in turn will further support employment, as part of the Government's fiscal stimulus to support the economy in the current climate.
ScotGov: Washroom ads, on-line gaming ads, internet virals, posters, leaflets and a dedicated website will be used in a hard hitting campaign to warn Scots about the dangers & consequences using of air & replica guns. The adverts spell out the punishments (a fine or jail sentence) and highlight the potential consequences such as injuring or killing a person or animal or being challenged by a police armed response unit.
The campaign follows the refusal by the Home Office to review & update the Firearms legislation, devolve the powers to the Scottish Government, or allow Scotland to pilot a simple licensing system for airguns.
WAG: Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones has launched the Welsh Assembly Government's revised strategy for trees & woodlands - Woodlands for Wales. The strategy envisages increasing the woodland cover of Wales and making the woodlands more diverse by planting a wider range of tree species which will be more resilient to the changing climate.
WAG: Social Justice Minister Dr Brian Gibbons has launched a joint agreement on child poverty and called on public & voluntary sector organisations in Wales to sign up.  It sets out the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to reducing child poverty and outlines ways in which other organisations can make their own contributions.
It supports the proposed Children and Families Measure which was laid before the National Assembly on 2 March 2009.  If passed, it will place a duty on specific Welsh public bodies to identify and take action to assist in the goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020.


Ofgem: The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Ofgem have announced a final opportunity to comment (by 6 May 2009) on the new regulatory framework to connect offshore renewable projects to the onshore grid.  The regime will ensure offshore cable connections are delivered on time and at reasonable cost to maintain an effective and secure grid.  Tenders for the new regime are due to be launched in the summer.
MoJ: A national debate has been launched to explore whether a clearer common understanding of our rights & responsibilities might be built by articulating them in a single text - a Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. A Green Paper - Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework - lists some of the responsibilities we have and asks if some should be explicitly stated in a single document, including:
* Obeying the law, reporting crimes and co-operating with prosecution agencies
* Paying taxes
* Participating in civic society through voting & jury service
* Treating NHS & other public sector staff with respect
* Safeguarding & promoting the wellbeing of children in our care
* Living within our environmental limits
MoJ: Confidence for consumers of legal services is the aim behind the Legal Services Board (LSB)’s consultation on regulatory independence. The separation of regulation from representation was a key plank of the reforms made possible by the Legal Services Act 2007.  The LSB was created in large degree to address lack of trust in the current regulatory framework identified by the Clementi Review, the White Paper and the Parliamentary debates on Bill prior to enactment.
The consultation paper sets out proposals for rules that would require the separation of regulatory work from any representative work within the 8 approved regulators designated under statute.  It also deals with rules necessary to approve the level of practising fees - charged by the approved regulators and paid by lawyers as a condition of being authorised to practise.
The consultation exercise will run until 26 June 2009.  Following the consultation, it is envisaged that rules will be made in the autumn, coming into force early in 2010.
Defra: Horse owners could benefit from cheaper insurance premiums under plans to clarify owners' liability. The proposals, published for consultation (closes on 19 June 2009), would amend the Animals Act 1971; section 2(2(b) to clarify owners' liability should their animals cause damage.
The law in its current form lacks clarity and means that animal keepers face the prospect of being held strictly liable for damage or injury regardless of any actions they may have taken to prevent an incident from occurring. 
The amendment would introduce new & clearer criteria for the application of strict, no fault, liability in cases where the accidents could not have been predicted.
Defra: A consultation (closes on 19 June 2009) on the seed certification rates for 2009/10 has been published by Defra which is seeking the views of all applicants for seed certification in England & Wales on the proposed 5% increase in fees.  Revised fee rates would then be implemented from 6 July 2009.
Without an increase in fees, Defra will no longer be able to operate the system at its current level, which could lead to a reduction in the standard of seed marketed in the UK and ultimately impact on farmers. The 5% increase will ensure Defra fulfils its legislative duty to recover all seed certification costs after a shortfall in revenue in the 2007/2008 financial year.
Ofgem: Ofgem has demanded significant improvements from energy suppliers in the way they manage monthly direct debit payments and is consulting (closes 8 May 2009) on the need for changes to supply licences to secure improvements.
Ofgem’s action results from a review the regulator has conducted into the direct debit arrangements of the six major energy suppliers, following complaints by customers late last year about significant increases in amounts they were being asked to pay. 
The review found no evidence that suppliers were over-recovering, or of systematic errors in the payments they are requesting.  But Ofgem has criticised a lack of transparency and poor communication by suppliers which has left customers struggling to understand why they are being asked to pay more, especially when they may already be well in credit on their account.  The regulator is also concerned about refund policies.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DCMS: The Government and the Church of England has published 'Churches and FaithBuildings: Realising the Potential', to help churches and other faith groups find resources to make their buildings more sustainable by enhancing the facilities & services they offer to local communities.  The paper announces no new funding.  Rather, it outlines some existing or planned sources of funding that faith groups could access.
The paper proposes a range of actions to help faith groups engage effectively in local and regional agendas, it outlines some resources that might help to make church & faith buildings more user-friendly as part of wider community activities and it proposes ways in which providers of funding & policy makers might better understand what faith groups bring to community.
WAG: A new guide, called - ‘Support when you need it’ - has been launched to help people & families deal with the impacts of the recession. The bilingual leaflet is available online on the Welsh Assembly Government website as part of the ‘Leading Wales Out of Recession’ campaign.  
The guide provides details of organisations offering support and other initiatives on money, work, health & well being, and lifestyle. Among other things it covers information about credit unions, benefits, the ReAct programme, mental health, free swimming and volunteering.
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued final guidance recommending the use of sunitinib as a first-line treatment option for people with advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma, who are suitable for immunotherapy and who are well enough to tolerate the treatment.
The guidance has been developed on the understanding that the currently available treatment for advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma is immunotherapy (namely interferon-alfa and interleukin).
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance on managing long-term sickness absence and incapacity for work.  It is estimated that in Britain the annual costs of sickness absence and worklessness associated with ill health is over £100bn.
The recommendations in the guidance are aimed at all those who have a role in managing long-term sickness absence & incapacity.  This includes all employers, employees, managers, workplace representatives, trade unions & professionals, as well as the health service,
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued updated guidance on the best way to treat & manage adults with schizophrenia in primary and secondary care.  New recommendations include treatment with arts therapy and tailoring treatment for disadvantaged groups.
The guideline also updates NICE guidance on the use of newer (atypical) antipsychotic drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia.  NICE technology appraisal guidance 43 (2002).
NICE: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance that sets out to improve the quality of care patients receive during their recovery & rehabilitation after critical illness.  Approximately 110,000 people spend time in critical care units in England & Wales each year, the majority survive to be discharged home.
For many patients recovery after critical illness is relatively straightforward but, for others, discharge from critical care is the start of an uncertain journey to recovery characterised by problems such as, weakness, loss of energy & physical difficulties, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress (PTS) phenomena and, for some, a loss of mental faculty.
Family members become informal caregivers, and this itself can exert an additional toll of ill-health and a strain on family relationships & financial security.
This guideline outlines the assessments & care patients should receive in hospital following a critical illness and the rehabilitation goals that will help patients recover to take part in usual daily activities as much and as rapidly as possible following discharge.
Ofsted: Ofsted has published 2 good practice reports for college courses, which take a look at good practice in colleges in hospitality & catering and hairdressing & beauty therapy. The surveys focus on effective teaching and the celebration of learners’ success.  The role of college commercial premises in honing students’ technical & client care skills in a business environment is also highlighted.
ScotGov: A working group reviewing the national guidance for child protection practitioners - with representative from CoSLA, ADSW, ADES, ACPOS, SCRA, HMIE, SWIA, NHS and Child Protection Committees - first met last month.  It will report regularly to Ministers over 2009.

Annual Reports

HC: Many more NHS staff say they are trained in infection control and that hand-washing materials are always available when they need them, the Healthcare Commission reported in its sixth annual survey of NHS staff. Findings also show a decline in the number of workers who say they experienced bullying, harassment or abuse by patients or their relatives and that 9 out of 10 feel they make a difference for patients.

The Commission said the results highlight some real & significant progress that is to be celebrated.  However, it said the results also indicate a need to improve the way that leaders in the NHS communicate their vision for the service and how managers act on feedback from staff.  The findings also point to a need to improve the structure of teams and to clarify teams’ objectives.
OFT: The OFT has published its Annual Plan 2009-10, setting out its priorities for the year ahead. The plan promises a ‘responsive approach in a fast-changing economic climate - with the OFT geared up to anticipate & rapidly address developments that could jeopardise consumer welfare or threaten competitive markets’.  Consumer credit and the financial services are highlighted as areas likely to require particularly close attention.
DECC: The Dept. of Energy and Climate Change has published provisional 2008 estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Also published is the breakdown of 2007 greenhouse gas emissions by end-user.
MoJ: The Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody has published its second annual report.  The Forum, an independently chaired body comprised of key government and non-government stakeholders, exists to learn lessons from deaths in custody across the various custodial settings and to prevent the recurrence of such deaths.
The Forum's report summarises its work over the past year and suggests a number of issues it considers warrant further work by the Independent Advisory Panel, which forms part of the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody and will replace the Forum in April 2009

General Reports and Other Publications

ScotGov: The Belgian region of Flanders has been highlighted as an excellent example of how to deal with waste by Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead, who said: “They have a recycling rate of 70%, excellent waste prevention plans and a strong network of centres to ensure goods can be re-used”.
NA: The Local Government Association and leading archive ambassadors, including The National Archives, the National Council on Archives and the Society of Archivists, have launched a new publication - Our past, your future - a guide to local government archives.
The guide highlights how archives can enrich people's lives & support local communities and is aimed at local councillors and senior officers in local authorities in England.
OFT: The time it takes for electronic bank payments & cheques to clear for consumers has speeded up but further improvements are needed, the OFT has announced in its Review of the Payments Council. The OFT found that there is much more effective strategic direction of the industry since the Payments Council was set up in 2006.
Key improvements the Council has overseen include the speeding up of slow cheque clearers as well as the implementation of the Faster Payments Service, which allows consumers to make & receive payments within a matter of hours rather than, as previously, having to wait for up to 3 working days.
However, the OFT also found that the Council's progress has been disappointing in some areas.  It is still too slow in driving improved payments for customers and it should also be more proactive in establishing where improvements are necessary, rather than reacting to external pressures.
ScotGov: Scottish police forces can benefit from improving the way they seek the views of the public when setting their priorities, according to a new report - Strategic Priority Setting in Scottish forces: consulting the public - from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland.
It recommends that:
* All forces should develop a consultation strategy, or review their existing strategy
* Each force should have a central database to maintain the details of consultation activities
* All consultation exercises should be evaluated & guidance on evaluation should be provided
* Forces should move away from postal surveys to face to face consultation in communities
Ofsted: Ofsted have published a report on engaging young people. It draws upon evidence from local authority youth services inspections which took place as part of Ofsted’s joint area reviews of children’s and young people’s services from 2005 to 2008.  It reports on the quality & impact of youth work and tracks recent (but early) developments in the introduction of integrated youth support.
DH: A new survey released by the Department of Health reveals that while almost 50% of British travellers have become ill or injured on holiday, 35% of these have delayed (often essential) medical treatment until they return home.  The main reasons given for not seeking treatment abroad are concerns about the potential cost and lack of travel insurance.
However, British travellers could be putting themselves needlessly at risk as a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle them to reduced cost or free healthcare in most European countries.  The research showed that nearly three in five people claim to have an EHIC, but 68% of these don't know when it expires.
Almost 3.3 million EHICs will have expired by the end of March 2009.  Travellers with out-of-date EHICs who require medical treatment will have to cover the cost themselves or claim on their travel insurance. To renew, or obtain an EHIC, call 0845 606 2030 or log on HERE.
CLG: More lives have been saved & fires prevented thanks to the success of firefighters carrying out Home Fire Risk Safety Checks according to a new independent report.  During a HFRS check a firefighter visits a person's home to discuss fire safety and to alert them to the risks of a potential fire. They will also check if the person has a working smoke alarm and, if not, fit one free of charge.
The report 'Evaluation of the Home Fire Risk Check and Fire Prevention Grant Programmes' shows that 4 years since the Government's £36m grants to Fire & Rescue Services (FRS) for fire safety, home fire risks safety checks each year have:
* saved 53 lives - a fall of 57% in lives lost through fires
* reduced the number of people injured by fire in the home by 888
* reduced the incidents of fires in people's homes by 13,670
HEFCE:  The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has published 'Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology - a revised approach to HEFCE's strategy for e-learning'.  This revised approach follows an independent review of the strategy and is designed to provide further support to higher education institutions as they develop their own e-learning strategies.
The new approach is intended to support institutions in considering where they may wish to prioritise their technology-related investment over the next few years and to develop appropriate institutional learning & teaching strategies.  Support & guidance is available from the Higher Education Academy and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).
In order to assist institutions in achieving their strategic aims for enhancing learning & teaching through technology, the document suggests a framework focusing on: pedagogy, curriculum design & development; learning resources & environments; quality; and research & evaluation.
Newswire - AS: An Audit Scotland report - Drug and alcohol services in Scotland - provides further evidence of Scotland’s growing problem with drug & alcohol misuse.  Drug & alcohol-related death rates are among the highest in Europe and have doubled in the past 15 years.
Alcohol misuse is an even bigger problem than drug misuse.  Alcohol problems affect many more people and cause three times the number of deaths compared with drug misuse. The impact is felt across the country and throughout local communities, but deprived areas are worst affected.
The Audit Scotland report says a coordinated effort is needed across the public sector to deliver services that meet the needs of people with misuse problems and of communities.  The report says the Scottish Government needs to work with the NHS, councils and other partners to ensure all public bodies are clear about their collective responsibilities.
NAO: Government faces increasing pressure to do more with fewer financial resources and, with challenges such as climate change and an ageing population, will require innovation in public services.  Since 2006, when the National Audit Office last reported to Parliament on innovation in central government, departments have started to implement some of the report’s recommendations and improve innovation.
However, departments are still not maximising the opportunities to innovate and there are often barriers preventing public servants from developing innovations through to implementation. Barriers to innovation from public servants include risk averse attitudes within departments and a concentration on targets, budgets and high-profile national initiatives.
Newswire - AC: The Audit Commission report - Risk and Return, the first in-depth examination of English local authorities' deposits in the Icelandic banks - has been published.  The Commission finds that the majority of councils acted properly in managing their investments and were alert to the risks.  However, the report also identifies some examples of negligence during the days leading up to the collapse of the Icelandic banks on 7 October 2008.
The common denominator for those that were less cautious was an over reliance on credit ratings agencies and external advisers, to the exclusion of other information.  Seven local authorities breached guidance issued by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) and their own treasury management protocols, by investing £32.8m in Icelandic banks in October 2008.
The breaches included one council that failed to open an email warning of a ratings change; one using out of date information and another exceeding its own limit for deposits in a single bank.  The majority of local authorities heeded warning signs in April 2008, and the total value of deposits in Iceland halved between April and September.  Even so, new deposits exceeding £500m were made in that period.
On 16 October 2008 the Audit Commission confirmed its own exposure to the Icelandic bank collapse.  In December it published a review of its £10m deposits.
NSG: The re-invention of policy making to ensure delivery of cost effective & efficient services responsive to people’s needs is proposed by the National School of Government’s Sunningdale Institute in a new report - Engagement and Aspiration: Reconnecting Policy Making with Front-Line Professionals - commissioned by the Cabinet Office.
The report looks at how to develop better links between Whitehall policy makers and front-line professionals to drive forward public service reform.  It calls for more engagement with front-line professionals in policy-making in order to create policies that are as effective as they can possibly be.
To achieve reconnection the report describes a new concept of modern policy coined the ‘Apogee Approach: Aspiring to Policy that is Grounded in Evidence and Experience’.  This is about policy makers becoming expert at accessing both evidence & experience and taking a pro-active networking & facilitative approach to policy-making.
NAORed Dragon – a project by the Ministry of Defence (MOD), Welsh Assembly Government and the then Welsh Development Agency (the Welsh Authorities) to provide modern aviation repair facilities at St Athan, South Wales – has cost the taxpayer around £113m, although it was meant to have saved MOD money and protected jobs in the area, according to a joint report released by the National Audit Office and the Wales Audit Office.
The project was established in 2000 and involved the modernisation of ageing MOD facilities, the construction of a super-hangar for fast jet repair and an aerospace business park promoted by the Welsh Authorities.  DARA – the Defence Aviation Repair Agency – was the intended main tenant, with most of its work on RAF fast jets being moved into a purpose built facility.
However, the MOD announced in 2005 that DARA would close its fast jet business at St Athan, leaving the site without its anchor tenant by April 2007.  Over £1bn of cost savings have separately been made through transferring repair to main Royal Air Force operating bases.
NAO: A report from the National Audit Office summarises the results of the European Court of Auditors’ examination of the European Union’s accounts for 2007 and progress on the range of initiatives taken forward by the Commission & Member States.
For the first time the Court provided a positive Statement of Assurance, without qualification, on the reliability of the Commission’s accounts, in effect confirming that they give a true & fair view.  But for the 14th successive year the Court did not provide a positive Statement of Assurance on whether the underlying transactions conformed to applicable laws & regulations.
Cohesion Policy funds which are designed to reduce disparities in the level of development between regions and Member States (for example by supporting major infrastructure projects) remain the most challenging component.  Based on its audit work, the Court estimates that, for expenditure on Cohesion projects, at least 11% should not have been reimbursed by the Commission in 2007.
HC: A Healthcare Commission study into public & patient involvement in healthcare brings together the views of hundreds of patients and members of the public and 139 healthcare providers.  The report includes some examples of healthcare providers ‘listening & responding’ to patients.

But many patients & service users involved in the study said they felt their views were not listened to or properly acted upon.  Few trusts involved in the study could demonstrate that they routinely took account of people’s views in their decision-making.
CompC: The Competition Commission (CC) and Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have published an independent study of their decisions in past merger cases. Deloitte & Touche, supported by Professor Stephen Davies of the University of East Anglia, was commissioned by the CC and the OFT, along with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), to assess the analysis & decision-making in 8 merger cases between 2004 and 2006.
The study aimed to review these decisions in the light of subsequent market developments and to comment on the approaches taken by the OFT and the CC.  The focus was to examine the two bodies' assessment of the mergers' likely effect on competition, but not to examine the effectiveness of any subsequent remedies.
Press release ~ Review of Merger Decisions under the Enterprise Act 2002 (2009) ~ Understanding past merger remedies: report on case study research (Updated August 2008)

Legislation / Legal

Land Registry: Two new events will be added to the current legal triggers for compulsory first registration of title when the Land Registration Act 2002 (Amendment) Order 2008 comes into force on 6 April 2009. They are:
* The appointment of a new trustee of unregistered land held in trust
* The partitioning of unregistered land held in trust amongst the beneficiaries of the trust
Trustees of unregistered land can still apply for voluntary first registration and receive the 25% discount on the normal fee until they appoint a new trustee, which would then trigger compulsory first registration. Land Registry publications, Practice Guide 1 - First Registrations, Practice Guide - 14 Charities and Practice Guide - 24 Private trusts of land are being updated for 6 April 2009.
HoLAC: The House of Lords Appointments Commission (HoLAC) has published revised selection criteria for non-party-political peers.  The Commission, chaired by Lord Jay of Ewelme, recommends individuals of experience & expertise to contribute to the workings of the Upper House and also vets nominations for life peerages for propriety.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Commission Chairman Lord Jay said HoLAC wanted to ensure that:
* future nominees are willing to commit the time necessary to make an effective contribution to the House of Lords, rather than, as now, merely ‘having the time available’ to do so
* the existing requirement that a nominee should be resident in the UK for tax purposes, and be willing to confirm his or her acceptance of the requirement to remain so, be strengthened
* the current requirement for nominees to be independent of any political party, be strengthened with a confirmation of intent to remain so
MoJ: New laws to help the UK fight bribery have been proposed by Justice Secretary Jack Straw. The draft Bribery Bill intends to transform the criminal law on bribery, modernising & simplifying existing legislation to allow prosecutors and the courts to deal with bribery more effectively.
It is also intended to promote & support ethical practice by encouraging businesses to put in place anti-bribery safeguards that ensure all employees are aware of the risks surrounding bribery and that adequate systems exist to manage these.
The proposed Bill will:
* Make it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad.  The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official
* Increase the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to 10 years' imprisonment, with an unlimited fine
* Introduce a corporate offence of negligent failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business.  A business can avoid conviction if it can show that it generally has good systems in place to prevent bribery
* Ensure evidence from proceedings in Parliament can be considered by the Courts in bribery cases by removing Parliamentary Privilege in the prosecution of an MP or Peer.
TfLTransport for London (TfL) has successfully prosecuted Southern Gas Networks (SGN) for operating unsafe street works when a footpath was closed off in Bromley last year.  The closure forced pedestrians into the road and restricted access for local residents.

SGN was fined a total of £9,000, plus £2,452.50 in court costs after pleading guilty recently to four charges of badly managing their street works.  During a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court the presiding judge said SGN had failed to demonstrate concern for public safety in the course of these works, thereby placing road users at risk.
In an effort to better coordinate street works and ensure they are undertaken quickly & with consideration to the local community, TfL and 18 London boroughs have begun a 3-month consultation (closes on 5 June 2009) on the proposed new London Permit Scheme.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Defra: Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has called for tougher European laws to tackle illegal logging and to make it an offence to import illegally produced timber into the European Union.
Mr Benn said that the UK, as the world's 4th largest importer of timber, should lead by example when it comes to the timber Government buys.  So, from 1 April 2009, under the government's timber procurement policy (introduced in 2000) government departments, agencies & other bodies will only be able to buy wood & timber products originating from independently verified legal & sustainable sources, or from a licensed country.
BERR: The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has issued a Direction to local authorities to recall & withdraw products containing an unauthorised biocide called DMF. The European Commission has issued legislation requiring all EU member states to ensure no products containing DMF - Dimethylfumarate - are placed or made available on the market.  This is under Article 13 of Directive 2001/95/EC (General Product Safety Directive).
Local authorities will be required to ensure that products containing DMF already placed or made available on the market are withdrawn.  The Decision becomes effective from 1 May 2009.

Business and Other Briefings

BERR: Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, has claimed that the Government' Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme is processing more than 1,300 eligible loans, worth almost £145m. The EFG is a £1bn loan guarantee scheme delivered through banks & other lenders that will hopefully enable an additional £1.3bn of lending to business up to the end of March 2010.
The EFG provides a 75% government guarantee on individual loans of up to £1m to viable businesses with an annual turnover of up to £25m. The guarantee can be used to support new loans, refinance existing loans or to convert part or all of an existing overdraft into a loan to release capacity to meet working capital requirements.
WAG: Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones last week started a series of face to face meetings with business leaders in every region of Wales, to listen to their views and to discuss their needs.  More than 20 senior managers from a wide range of business & social enterprise sectors attended the first session in the series at the QED Centre in Treforest last Thursday.  Further meetings will follow in West Wales on April 6, Mid Wales on May 21 and North Wales on June 11.  
This week sees the start of a series of free seminars designed to ‘help Welsh businesses get through the recession and emerge in stronger & more competitive shape’. The ‘Weathering the Storm’ series is organised by WAG, but brings together private as well as public sector organisations to present a comprehensive package of business support services - taking in both UK-wide schemes as well as measures available only in Wales.  The series will kick off in Llandudno on 30 March - and later sessions will take place in Aberystwyth, Newtown,
HMRC: Small employers are being urged to file their 2008/09 Employer Annual Return online this year and get a £75 tax-free payment in the process. Employers with fewer than 50 employees can file on paper or online, but only those filing a valid online return will qualify for the £75 payment.
Those employers with 50 or more employees must file their 2008/09 return online, or face a penalty.  To file online, employers must first register with HMRC's ‘PAYE Online for Employers’ service. It can take up to a week to get the Activation PIN after registering, so employers should not leave it until the last minute.
BERR: More than 10m people will have the right to request flexible working from 6 April 2009 and government support is helping businesses get ready for the change. 6m parents & carers already have the right to request flexible working from their employers, with another 4.5m now gaining the right with its extension to parents of children aged 16 & under.
Flexible working embraces a wide variety of working practices, including compressed hours, working from home, or any pattern of hours other than the standard one in an organisation. Websites Business Link and give firms & individuals all the information they need to comply with the law, including online forms to deal with requests - helping save time & money.
This brief explains the guidance available regarding the way HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) deal with residence, domicile and the remittance basis of taxation to reflect the 2008 Finance Act changes, other changes from other Finance Acts and recent court decisions in this area.
This brief gives details of HMRC's view of when it can abide by incorrect advice given to customers in VAT and IPT.

Forthcoming Event

NAO/NSG‘Changing Culture, Strengthening Delivery’ is a one-day event aimed at senior managers, directors & equivalent involved in implementing change and strengthening performance & capability in central and local government organisations.  It has been organised jointly by the National School of Government and the National Audit Office.

The Conference – held on 27 April 2009 at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London – will build on recent NAO reports and provide the delegates with the opportunity to debate the challenges & barriers they face in implementing change within their organisations and to propose solutions to strengthen their performance.

At the conference a variety of case studies from across the public sector will be showcased to highlight how departments & agencies can improve their capability to meet their challenging objectives.
SocitmLearning from Better connected 2009: towards a new strategic approach to local government websites  - Conference: Tuesday 19 May 2009 at the Studio, Cannon Street, Birmingham B2 5EP. This event will support thinking about the future development of council websites, with specific reference to learning from the Better connected 2009 survey.
The programme focuses on specific areas where the survey revealed that most councils ‘could do better’, including GIS and use of location, presentation of web content for mobile devices, deployment of web 2.0 facilities and accessibility.

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